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Spider-Man 2 /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Produced by: Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad
Written by:
Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon
Columbia Pictures (Sony)


Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man 2

Kirsten Dunst in Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man 2
Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius in Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man 2

“There’s a hero in all of us, Peter.”

     In 2002, the young Peter Parker rose to the occasion with Spider-Man, which grossed over 400 million dollars, domestically. That picture was cheesy and corny, but more than anything else, fun. I enjoyed it immensely, and with the terrific business it did, was elated at the thought of a sequel. Now that it’s here, I can announce that Spider-Man 2, just like the first episode in the series, is something special. Unlike most throwaway, money-making “Part-Deux’s”, it is perhaps more artful than its predecessor.  In this outing, Spidey’s adventures are more thoughtful, clearer, well-paced, and better crafted than those of the original, resulting in a product that is more subdued and serious. Spider-Man 2 is just as satisfying as Spider-Man, albeit somewhat less entertaining.

     The main difference between the first and second movies is director Sam Raimi’s treatment of the action sequences. In Spider-Man, they were non-stop, and certainly more suspenseful, in terms of execution. The second chapter packages them in a more detailed wrapping-paper, concentrating on atmosphere and staging, in addition to the obvious “wow” factor. The audience actually knows exactly what’s going on in these sketches, and this is most definitely a welcome feature, to say the least. The only problem with such a method is that it inflicts a slower tempo upon the material, which occasionally detracts from viewers’ abilities to become engaged in select scenes.

     The only thing really tying the two Spider-Man films together is the cast of characters. Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker is now questioning his being a superhero. He finally decides to call it quits after being fired from his job as a pizza delivery boy, receiving warning of his failing grades in college, seeings an eviction notice lying on his Aunt May’s (Rosemary Harris’) dinner table, and misses a showing of Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst) performing in the play “The Importance of Being Earnest”. At first, his decision appears to be the right one; he is able to complete homework, socialize, and regularly eat meals. However, when a new villain named Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) hits the streets, after being possessed by evil powers via a dangerous invention of his, Peter has to put back on his Spidey suit and fight for what’s right, once again.

     There is no doubt that the special effects in Spider-Man 2 are nothing short of amazing. I was one of the few critics who had no complaints regarding the visuals in the first film, but those featured in this follow-up certainly serve as an honest improvement. Doc Ock, who is overpowered by the mechanical tentacles he creates for himself, is particularly striking. The movements of his four extra “arms” are surreal, but bear real weight relationships to Molina, himself. Personality-wise, the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) may have been a stronger villain, but Doc Ock is neater to look at. When he and Spider-Man face off in a given scene, it’s hard to deny that moviegoers are witnessing pure mastery at work. From the swooping camera to the marvelous CGI, Spider-Man 2 is a technical triumph, and should be up for multiple Academy Awards in related departments.

     Tobey Maguire has now become a real actor, as Spider-Man. It is evident here that he is no longer simply a guy in a suit in front of a green-screen, but, rather, an actual performer, No matter how many nutty stunts he may partake in, Maguire creates a sympathetic presence before the audience, making it impossible to not root for him. Opposite Spidey is Kirsten Dunst as Mary-Jane, who I’m still questioning in her role. Is she really putting on a genuine show here, or just effortlessly walking through her part? I think she may actually be trying to imitate the shallow blankness of the comic-book version of Mary-Jane onscreen, in the somewhat stark performance. But, that’s not to say I would bet even a penny on such.

     While it may not match up to last year’s superlative The Hulk, Spider-Man 2 is certainly much better than most comic-book drivel, and one of the best films of its kind, at that. It may not be as alive as its predecessor, but shows definite signs of a jumping pulse. The third entry in the series will have a lot to live up to; so far, the trilogy has served as a must-see experience for all filmgoers. Both pictures serve as wonderful representations of art in big-budget productions.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.1.2004)

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