a critiQal film review Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Plot: While Peter Parker (Maguire) begins to doubt the worthiness of being Spider-Man, which causes his powers to begin to fail, a new super-villain enters - Dr. Otto Octavius (Molina), complete with four powerful mechanical arms welded to his body. Will Peter Parker/Spider-Man be able to defeat this new threat, or will Peter give up being Spidey forever?

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  • ...despite Tobey Maguire's presence once again, this sequel at least tries to put on a better show than it's predecessor.

As you may have noticed, the hype machine is back in action this summer, thanks to the recent release of Spider-Man 2, once again starring Tobey Maguire (unfortunately) and Kirsten Dunst.

Since the first Spider-Man (2002) was so bad, we weren’t that hyped to see the sequel. The previews, however, made it look interesting enough, so we decided to check it out when we knew it wouldn’t be busy – July 4th.

Of course, as with the first movie, there are rave reviews all around, and it again is breaking box office records (40 million bucks it’s first day!). Since the first movie was so awful, we were pretty much assured that this one would actually live up to at least a little of the reviews. After all, lightning (or horrible movies) can’t strike twice in the same place, right?

True…but it’s a close call.

Tobey Maguire continues to unimpress in Spider-Man 2. He does have a bit more of a range of emotions than in the first film (the one tear over Ben’s death is still one of the low points of cinema history), but every time that idiotic grin creeps over his face (or the stupefied dumb expression), all his work goes right out the window, and he looks as idiotic as ever. Kirsten Dunst plays the same “help me, save me” heroine she did in the first, and doesn’t really do much else.

The chemistry between them seems to be improving, however, which is a great improvement over the first film (and yes, I know what you’re going to say: chemistry? How about the kiss from the first film? Sorry, but the heat in that scene couldn’t have lit dry paper soaked in gasoline). There seems to be too much time spent on the two of them goggling over each other and not saying what they want, but that’s more of a plot issue than a character one.

Alfred Molina wouldn’t have been my first choice for playing the villain Dr. Octopus, but he does a decent job with his character. He does falter occasionally, making the role a little less believable, but overall he does a good enough job.

The plot of Spider-Man 2 seems to have mixed in a few different stages of the Spider-Man comic lore, then thrown in a bit of it’s own to create a mixture of comic lore and Sam Raimi’s own inventiveness.

The best example of this is the occasional loss of Spidey’s powers. Correct me if I’m wrong fellow comic fans, but I can never remember an instance where Spidey lost his powers just because he was feeling a little insecure, do you? It’s a little ridiculous in the great scheme of things – the super hero whose self doubt is his biggest weakness.

Good thing he never doubted himself fighting any of the other powerful supervillians he faced, huh? He’d be long dead by now. A super hero who falls apart in the face of conflict – what is this, Spider-Baby? C’mon.

Other than that whole silliness, they do try to incorporate a lot of comic lore into Spider-Man 2. In fact, some of the scenes seem to be pulled straight from the comic books, just as many of the scenes in the first film were. They did mix them up a bit, combining them to fit into their version, but all in all, it was nice to see from a comic fan perspective. Now if they could just work on keeping their own fantasy plot points to themselves…

The special effects are very impressive, outdoing the first film by a long shot. But here again, they give away so many of the major scenes in the preview, it’s almost pointless to go see the film at all. Sure, you get the background to those scenes, but that’s so boring mostly that you could skip it and not miss more than I did (I don’t think I fell asleep, but my eyes were so glazed over at one point from the boredom I’m not sure if I did or not). But, back to special effects.

The best scenes, straight from the preview, are very impressive on the big screen (especially the car flying through the window at Peter and Mary Jane), but special effects do not a great movie make. They can make a good movie better, but they can’t single-handedly create a masterpiece – not that it hasn’t been tried before (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and Spider-Man (2002), as a matter of fact).

Spider-Man 2 is still a disappointment, but it does improve on the horridness of the first film. Sure, they could have cut out almost an hour of the film, but there are scenes that bring the movie out of the dredges it falls into, and end up leaving the viewer with not as much of a desire to get their money back.

These scenes, along with a decent performance by Alfred Molina do keep the movie from receiving as bad as a rating as it’s predecessor, and also gives one hope for the future. With the inevitable Spider-Man 3 (2007) coming to theaters in 2007, the world may finally get a Spidey movie that has a good chance of being worth watching.

I’m not holding my breath, though. After all, we have to pin our hopes on Tobey Maguire – and that’s not much to go on at all.

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