Spider-Man 2

Directed By: Sam Raimi

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Daniel Gillies, and Dylan Baker

"Sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most, even our dreams."
-Aunt May (Rosemary Harris)

With the commercial and critical success of Spider-Man, a sequel was inevitable.  Hollywood was undoubtedly going to keep this cash cow alive.  The only problem was that they had to follow up one of the greatest comic book films of all time.  The sequel had to be just as great at the least.  It had to have all the heart, all the humor, and all the web-slinging action of the original.  Don't worry.  Sam Raimi brought his best to Spider-Man 2.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) struggles to juggle his life and that of his alter ego Spider-Man.  Being New York City's one and only superhero is a huge time commitment that takes a toll on his personal life as Peter Parker.  Because our hero is juggling dual lives, he drops the ball as a college student.  He has a paper on fusion that is overdue to his professor Dr. Curt Connors (Dylan Baker).  He's writing it on the work of esteemed scientist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina). 

Through Harry Osborn (James Franco) Peter gets a firsthand introduction to Octavius's work on creating a new energy source via a self-sustaining fusion reaction.  After meeting the respected researcher, Peter even gets to attend the event at Octavius's laboratory where he turns the reactor on for the first time.  Unfortunately, things go awry.  Octavius miscalculated.  Luckily, Spider-Man is there to save the day.  When Oscorp later pulls the plug on his failed experiment, Octavius decides to bring his dream to fruition and create a successful fusion reaction by any means necessary.  He begins terrorizing New York as Doctor Octopus.  Doc Ock just has one person in his way, Spider-Man.

Peter's friends and relatives struggle with their own issues as well.  Harry Osborn still struggles with the death of his father Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe).  Unaware of his father's alter ego the Green Goblin and the circumstances around his death, he continues to hatefully blame Spider-Man for his father's murder.  After waiting for Peter for years, Mary Jane Watson eventually decides to date astronaut John Jameson (Daniel Gillies).  When he proposes to MJ, she says yes as she can no longer wait on Peter to man up.  Finally, his Aunt May (Harris) is facing foreclosure and blames herself for her late husband Ben Parker's murder.  These issues all relate to Peter in some way and take a toll on our friendly neighborhood Spidey as well.  These troubles plague him to the point that his powers become unreliable.

If The Dark Knight had never come out, I would probably claim to this day that Spider-Man 2 is the best comic book film ever made.  Sam Raimi has crafted one of the only comic book movies where it doesn't feel like an adaptation of a comic book.  It feels like you're watching a comic book on the big screen, and that's the way it should be.  This phenomenon of making the film feel like the comics is a little difficult to describe, but the best example of this in Spider-Man 2 are the fight sequences between Spidey and Doc Ock.  Whether atop a subway train or in midair, the way Raimi shows the fights on screen resemble the comics.  A lot of this can be attributed to the outstanding camerawork and the usage of suspended shots.

Unlike most comic book movies, Spider-Man 2 is not about the villain.  While Alfred Molina gives a great performance as Doc Ock, the film centers on the growth of our hero Spider-Man both physically and emotionally.  With more advanced web-work and more impressive stunts, you can see how he's learned to use his powers more effectively.  His crime-fighting skills have improved, and it shows.  Emotionally, Spider-Man struggles to give up his dreams to be with Mary Jane and be the hero he was born to be.  This takes a toll on him as his powers become unreliable.  Love has essentially made him sick.

The cast does a phenomenal job in Spider-Man 2.  Once again, Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man to perfection.  As Peter's romantic interest Mary Jane Watson, Kirsten Dunst gives a performance that gives the old school romance that Raimi tries to build some real significance in the film.  As Peter’s best friend Harry Osborn, James Franco skillfully captures the bitterness and hatred that have taken hold of this young, slick executive.  As the supervillain Doc Ock, Alfred Molina brings his best and gives us one badass criminal.  It's great to have J.K. Simmons back as J. Jonah Jameson.  Once again, he's the most hilarious guy in the movie.  Bruce Campbell and Stan Lee are also welcome additions as they make their standard cameos.

As much as I love Spider-Man 2, I could go on forever about it, but I won’t.  Inevitably, I've left some things untouched (such as the awesome scene in the ER where Doc Ock kills all the doctors without even looking up), but I think you get the gist.  Spider-Man 2 is one of the best comic book films ever made.  If you've never seen this movie, you're missing something truly special.  Spider-Man 2 gets a sober rating.