Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2 (2004) – There is no more ridiculous blanket statement that permeates the world of film snobbery than “sequels suck.” If you say that, you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about. Yeah, many series have a case of diminishing returns as they go on and on, but there are sequels that have equaled or surpassed their predecessors: The Godfather Part II, Aliens, The Silence of the Lambs (yes it’s a sequel since 1986’s Manhunter was based on the previous novel Red Dragon), Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and The Dark Knight. Spider-Man 2 is the best of the Spider-Man films. (I have not yet seen The Amazing Spider-Man. I am seeing it tonight, but Spider-Man 2 sets the bar pretty high.) It takes everything that was great about Raimi’s 2002 introduction to the character and escalates it but without having to bother with all the exposition that tends to bog down any first film in a superhero franchise.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is having a tough time. Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) declared her love for him, but he had to reject her advances to protect her from the enemies he accumulates as Spider-Man. Plus his superhero career is interfering with his school work and his job. Plus Harry (James Franco) has been bugging Peter about his connection to Spider-Man (though he doesn’t know the half of it) since he believes that Spider-Man killed his father Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) who unbeknownst to Harry was the supervillain the Green Goblin. To make matters worse, Peter Parker’s myriad of problems is causing him to have… performance issues as Spider-Man. Furthermore, a horrible experiment gone awry has caused genius physicist (and Peter’s idol) Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) to have his four A.I.-controlled helper arms fused to his spine, turning him into the eight-limbed madman Dr. Octopus. Not to mention Mary Jane just got engaged to John Jameson (Daniel Gillies), the son of Peter’s boss J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). It sure as hell is not an easy time to be your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man…

Spider-Man 2 ramps up the energy with some fantastic action scenes, such as Dr. Octopus’s bank heist or a runaway train that Spider-Man has to stop. The humor is there in full-force too (featuring small cameos by the likes of Joel McHale, Aasif Mandvi, and Hal Sparks). Furthermore, the movie really explores that great responsibility that comes with Peter’s great power. It does it without resorting to the super-seriousness that rules movies like The Dark Knight. (I am NOT knocking The Dark Knight. I love that movie. The seriousness works for IT, but would feel out of place in a Spider-Man film.) The Sam Raimi Spider-Man films stay faithful to the comics in broad strokes, but tend to veer off wildly when it comes to specifics. The Dr. Octopus that has been appearing in the comic books in the past several decades is a remorseless bastard. The film’s version though contain a sympathetic performance by Molina and even lets him have a shred of redemption at the end. Also I love the way this movie ends on the whole Peter/Mary Jane love story. Peter’s been making a choice for someone else this whole time, and in the end of the movie she gets to make her OWN choice. Anyway, I have high hopes for The Amazing Spider-Man, but Spider-Man 2 sets a gold standard that I do not expect to be beat anytime soon.

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