Once you have gotten past the origin story, established a character true to the comic books and pleased the die-hard fans with your initial interpretation of the character, you can let loose with your superhero movie sequel. That is exactly what Sam Raimi does with Spider-Man 2 and he packs the movie with ambition, story and some fantastic action sequences.
Not having to see the origin story (although it is retold well with a comic-book style intro) means that Raimi can get straight into Spider-Man action and it is quickly established that Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker struggles to balance life as Spidey and life as Parker. Maguire is great again as the hero and geek, perfect as the ass-kicking superhero but also sells the awkwardness of interactions with his angry boss, trying to get mops into an stubborn closets or meeting his scientific hero.
There is a confidence, not just to Maguire and his return to the starring role, but also the whole movie. This isn’t a simple story of villain versus hero but one which intertwines a love story, a plot about identity and questions the central theme of the movie and whether you can give up your responsibility and your power. It makes for a compelling plot that means that this has you so much more invested, particularly as it builds on the relationships and stories established in the first movie.
So Kirsten Dunst’s Mary-Jane Watson is back, still the love of Peter’s life but can’t figure out why he won’t let her get close while her relationship with the handsome astronaut throws a spanner in the works for their love story. James Franco feels like he has less to do here as Harry Osborne but his story of hatred for Spider-Man is central to the whole plot and he balances the rich playboy and obsessed mourning son well.
Superhero movies live or die on their villain though and Spider-Man 2 tops the first with a more complex villain but also a visually more interesting one. The best bad guys don’t know they’re bad and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus is the perfect example of that. From the tragic accident that spurns his descent into hatred and madness through to the robotic arms that both control his mind but also means he is a well-matched opponent for Spider-Man. You feel sorry for him as much as you want to see him get his eventual comeuppance.
The robotic arms also means that Spider-Man 2 tops the action and set-pieces from the first. From a fight on the side of a clock-tower, a daring rescue of someone close to Spider-Man and the finale in the sinking derelict building, the visuals and clever sparring of the two characters is well-staged. The stand-out sequence is the train battle, with a great resolution which shows that not only is Spider-Man a true hero but that the people of New York are such a key part to his character.
Unfortunately, even more so than the first movie, Spider-Man 2 relies on CGI for some of the big fight scenes and at times this ages the movie. It looks very fake at points which means you get taken out of the scene and are watching little more than a slightly better video game from fifteen years ago.
This is a small complaint when the movie, action and story are so good and as a sequel to the great first movie, Spider-Man 2 delivers. Add to that the fact it ends on such a great high, with well-teased moments for the third movie, and you are left wanting more as the credits begin.
Overall, Spider-Man 2 is a great sequel to the first, building on what was developed with a more complex story, a better villain and more elaborate set-pieces. The returning characters all deliver what they started in the first movie and you are left clamouring for a third.
Rating – 4.5
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