Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Macguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, J.K Simmons, Rosemary Harris
Plot: Peter Parker (Macguire) struggles between protecting the world as Spiderman and earning enough money to keep his apartment. Meanwhile, an experiment goes wrong…
There is something so honest about the original Spiderman trilogies. Of course, it was a lot easier to be an honest superhero movie back then. In 2004, when this sequel came out, there was little superhero competition out there and whatever rivals Raimi had, were never in the league of a certain web-slinging vigilante. Just seeing Spidey on the big screen was enough to guarantee a packed cinema. These days, with Marvel branching out years into the future, your superhero flick needs more than a hero vs bad guy narrative, otherwise it will turn into a pointless piece of CGI fluff. Spiderman 2, on the other hand, never needs to be anything more than another adventure with Spiderman, so Raimi ups the ante slightly (as is the unwritten law with a movie sequel), yet never goes in too over his head, making Spiderman 2 a very pleasant picture.
It does a lot of things better than modern superhero movies too, especially when it comes to the villain of the piece. What did every superhero movie this year have in common: a cut and paste bad guy? Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask barely featured in his own movie, the Winter Soldier and Ronan the Accuser were your next in line of pantomime baddies devoid of any memorable qualities and even the Amazing Spiderman 2 has too many villains to give one the focus it needs. Sam Raimi’s first goal, or so it seems, with Spiderman 2 was to bring Doc Ock, one of the more formidable opponents Spidey has ever faced off against in the comics, to the big screen in a realistic yet satisfying way. Sure, they are times when Doctor Octopus feels a little like a watered down Green Goblin. A good scientist pushes his experiments too far and ends up getting manipulated and corrupted by his own creation. However, while Defoe had to force a performance through a mask, Alfred Molina is able to subtly get across his character arc. Oh sure, sometimes subtle is abandoned for a scene-chewing monologue or heroic shot for cinematic purposes, but when Molina is given a moment of himself, it is the dark expression in his eyes, the internal struggle as machine defeats humanity. Defoe was incredible was Norman Osborn, but depending on what side of the Spiderman canon you fall on, Doc Ock could be your new favourite baddie.
Spiderman 2 also doesn’t have to share Ock’s origin story with Peter’s. Spiderman is in full flow as the infamous vigilante, public opinion divided on whether he is a hero or a villain. Thankfully, that side of things is kept to background noise, rather than the main arc as it was last time. Raimi decides that the more interesting character to dissect is not the masked man, but the alter-ego, Peter Parker. There is something so accessible about Tobey Macguire, as he captures the invisible guy on the street who can never catch a break. It doesn’t matter that he is now has superhuman strength and reflexes, he is still a normal bloke who can’t hold down a job, pay his rent or move on from his ex-girlfriend (Kristen Dunst might not have the acting range of Emma Stone, but she does nail the image of that girl every fan-boy has a crush on). Raimi feels more free to do what he wants with the character of Peter Parker. The first movie was a straight-forward tale of man to hero, with some awesome fight scenes thrown in. Now, we have the space to break Peter Parker apart, throw some supporting characters into his life and try to see what it would be like to be the world’s biggest celebrity, yet nobody knows who you are.
Then why does Spiderman 2 feel so slow? It worked with the original Spiderman, because it was an origin story and that is a necessary evil to make it work. I want the story of Spidey told thoroughly, rather than having a Michael Bay explosive punch-up every two minutes. However, now we have freedom with creativity, you cannot help but be less forgiving on Raimi’s slow middle act. As we spend more time with Peter Parker and Harry Osborn, Spiderman ends up being pushed out of his own movie. Scenes where nothing happens stretch out longer than you would like. Raimi saves it for the ending, when he begins showing us what he is made of (Spiderman and Doc Ock look great together in their titanic fights), but when you look at the movie as a whole, you might be tempted to go for the more complicated Marvel movies. Guardians of the Galaxy might not have as developed characters, but at least something was always happening.
Final Verdict: Sam Raimi is able to properly explore Spiderman with this sequel, although this does mean he trips up on the story’s pacing.