Spider Man 2 by Sam Raimi
Sony Pictures Media: Release Date: 06/30/04
Review by Drew Bittner
IMBD Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0316654/
It sure is hard to be a hero.
A couple of years ago, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) thought it was a pretty sweet deal. Instantly buff, no more need for glasses, fast as a whip and able to climb walls, getting bitten by a genetically altered spider may have been the best thing that ever happened to him. Okay, so he lost his Uncle Ben, got the stuffing kicked out of him by the Green Goblin, got smeared as a “criminal menace” in the newspaper, made a lifelong enemy of his best buddy and gave up the girl, but hey… he gets to swing across town on webs!
Now it’s not going so well. Peter’s failing at everything except being a superhero. His work life is in a shambles, he’s failing his classes and he’s lonely and miserable. What’s a guy to do but… go to a science exhibition! (Hey, it worked wonders for him last time.) Harry Osborn (James Franco), Peter’s best friend and Spider-Man’s worst enemy, invites Peter to a demonstration of fusion technology by Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), one of Peter’s science heroes. Octavius has built a fusion generator, but more than that, he’s constructed a harness with four mechanical tentacles imbued with artificial intelligence. These plug directly into his nervous system and need an inhibitor chip to prevent the AI from scrambling his brains.
Naturally, the experiment goes wrong. Octavius’ wife is killed and Otto himself is electrocuted, shorting out the inhibitor chip. Spider-Man saves the day, just barely, but Harry is convinced Spider-Man has once again ruined his life.When Octavius is taken to the hospital, they find that the harness is fused to his nervous system. An attempt to remove it goes horribly wrong (in a scene reminiscent of director Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead highly kinetic movie madness), and Dr. Octavius is reborn as the criminal “Doctor Octopus.” Convinced he hasn’t made a mistake, he sets out to rebuild his fusion generator, not caring that the runaway first experiment could have incinerated New York City. No, this new model will be twice as big. That’s gotta be good, right?
In the meantime, the pressure of living a secret life has reached the breaking point. Peter blows a final “date” with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and has finally had enough. Spider-Man is wrecking his life, too, so… he dumps the costume in a burst of frustration and anguish, declaring he is “Spider-Man… no more!” Needless to say, it wouldn’t be much of a movie if it left off there. Peter, although happier in his private life, realizes that New York City needs him—and not only that, but Dr. Octopus and Harry Osborn conspire to bring him down. The remainder of the movie exposes secrets and uncorks some of the most energetic action scenes on film, as Doc Ock and Spider-Man battle it out on the side of a building, a subway train and the doctor’s secret lab, with Mary Jane once again in the hands of a madman.
If the first movie was about gaining power, with the freedom and responsibility that come with it, this one is about the burdens that come with making the tough choices. Peter has sacrificed everything to be Spider-Man and this movie shows the anguish of “what might have been” over and over, as Mary Jane approaches marriage to the son of self-important Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, in another hilarious performance). Jameson even begins to realize how important Spider-Man is to the city… even though he (briefly) mounts Spider-Man’s discarded costume on his wall as a trophy of bringing him down.
Maguire conveys the addiction to excitement and the building stresses tearing Peter in two with greater skill and subtlety than in the first movie; his skill as an actor, already very high, has only increased in the past two years. Kirsten Dunst gets more to do this time out, playing a young woman whose desires are frustrated for reasons she cannot begin to understand. Her devotion to Peter is almost obsessive, but these two seem made for each other.
Molina steals the movie as Doc Ock, handling the task of working with mechanical arms as if they were actors themselves. Considering they were CGI about half the time, that’s quite a feat. His transformation from the serious, cerebral Octavius to the fanatical Doc Ock is well played, illustrating the tragedy of this man of science’s hubris and fall from grace. Finally, Franco gives it his all as a troubled young man still living in the shadow of a father he loved and hated, who he believes was killed by Spider-Man. His obsession with getting even leads him to two fateful discoveries, which can only play out fully in the next installment.
Superhero action, young angst, romance and go-get-‘em enthusiasm all in one package? Raimi’s done even better this time out. Of course, by now you’ve probably already seen the movie—so go out and see it again!