Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Alvin Sargent
Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy, Daniel Gillies, Dylan Baker
Running Time: 2 hrs 7 mins
The Empire Strikes Back of Spider-Man.
One week closer to Captain America: Civil War so we’ve got another Spider-Man review for ya! After the success of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man (it had the highest grossing opening weekend of all time on its release) we got a sequel with a much higher budget and, against the usual, a better film. Spider-Man 2 follows a Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) who’s breaking under the weight of being Spider-Man. He turned down Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) at the end of the previous film because he’s afraid he’ll bring danger to her. His fears are the absolute heart of this film. It’s a darker movie than the first, much like The Empire Strikes Back, and it adds plenty of depth to an already impressive world. This time he goes up against Doctor Otto Octavias (Alfred Molina) or ‘Doc Oc’. Much like Norman Osborn in the first film, this villain is a tragedy. At first he’s a lovable scientist with a kind heart but after his experiment goes wrong, killing his wife (Donna Murphy) and destroying his ability to control his four robotic AI arms, he goes insane with inner conflict as the arms start controlling him. Obsessed with recreating the experiment but getting it right (and using it to destroy the city), Spider-Man has to stop him.
While the first film was more of a Sam Raimi film than a Summer blockbuster, this outing gives us the best of both. Sam Raimi’s fun horror sensibilities come in to play wonderfully here as, while it doesn’t get as brutal as the final fight of the last film, this film isn’t afraid to get dark and surprisingly merges it with the fun even better than previously. The budget is higher and Spidey swinging through the city finally looks as magical as it should and the violence Doc Oc’s arms create is powerful. They create a bigger opportunity for creativity in the action sequences and Sam Raimi does it perfectly. He’s a powerful adversary and you feel the tension when he goes up against Spidey. There’s also plenty of large scale sequences with Doc Oc and Spider-Man fighting through the city and up buildings. It’s exciting and looks so very real. But it’s the tragedy that makes him work as a villain. You feel so bad for Octavias because you know it’s not his fault. He’s a good man without the arms. This film not only introduces us with a fantastic villain with depth, but it also continues the important character threads from the previous film.
The romance between Peter and MJ is even more of a struggle and creates the division that causes Parker’s mental breakdown. His lack of focus is causing him to lose his powers in the film and it teaches him an important lesson in the end. It puts the odds against Peter Parker and the relationship between him and MJ is impressively strong in this film. There’s plenty going on and it never feels forced for a moment. There is a scene later in the film at a coffee shop that feels like it’s about to create a forced issue with their relationship but it doesn’t and that’s what I love about this film. It knows perfectly what to do at every moment. Also a major arc throughout the trilogy is Harry Osborn’s relationship with Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Because Peter takes pictures of Spidey, Harry struggles to keep up the friendship. He believes Spider-Man killed his father and he’s out for revenge. It’s a dark aspect of the film I think really works. It’s another layer on this cake that tastes oh so good.
The film also takes some really interesting stylistic choices. The “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” scene is a little jarring but it’s something I love as it perfectly shows how free Peter is after hanging up the costume. This film also features some of the most creative cuts of all time, and I really mean that without hyperbole. This is a beautiful movie which is ever so impressive when it’s coming from a director who’s made a career out of entertaining b-movie style films. Raimi is able to balance so much here and gives us incredible scene after incredible scene without letting up. The train sequence is one of the most impressive scenes in any superhero movie and Tobey Maguire pulls it off wonderfully. Screw all of you who say he looks like he’s constipated. The way the character of Spider-Man inspires hope and good in this film is something we haven’t seen since the Christopher Reeve Superman films and we haven’t gotten it again since. The people seeing Spider-Man’s true identity on the train and realising he’s just a kid is magical. Their promise to keep his secret is one of the greatest moments in superhero film history. While I’m excited to see what Marvel Studios will do with this character, I highly doubt they’ll ever do better than this film.
And Bruce Campbell’s cameo in this film is the best cameo of all time. Maybe. Don’t quote me on that okay.
Summary: Spider-Man 2 is absolutely one of the best superhero films ever made with Sam Raimi’s unique and creative direction meshing perfectly with the franchise plot threads and the tragic villain in Doctor Octavias.
Best Performance: Tobey Maguire
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%