“… makes a few improvements from the last film, but since the last film was so good it’s better for me to say that Spider-Man 2 aimed to be different.”
Spider-Man 2 is the second instalment in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, and since all of the origin story stuff has already been taken care of it is able to go into the character of Spider-Man in more detail. Spider-Man 2 follows Peter Parker a while after he first became Spider-Man, and shows how he is now struggling with what was once a great blessing. Estranged from his family and friends, and occasionally losing his powers, Peter has to decide how he will continue his life as New York’s friendly vigilante. Meanwhile, scientist Dr. Otto Octavius lets his ego get the better of him and suffers great loss when an experiment goes awry. This causes one of his inventions, four sentient arms attached to his back, to take control of him and he becomes Dr. Octopus.
In my opinion Spider-Man 2 improves on a lot of the stuff introduced in the first film, but if you’ve read my review of the first film you’ll know that I liked most of what was included already; so let’s talk about what I mean specifically. First of all let’s discuss the story. Spider-Man (the first film) had the difficult job of introducing the character of Spider-Man to the audience. It did a good job of this, but as I mentioned in my other review this took a toll on the film’s pacing at times. Luckily Spider-Man 2 has the freedom to do what it wants with the character, and what it does is brilliant. Taking the character of Spider-Man and essentially having him confront the fact that being Spider-Man is hard as shit is a great path for the character to take. Peter Parker is still very young (about 20 in this movie) so to have him see his life flash before his eyes while he’s out swinging through New York was a very interesting decision in the movie. This is only made more interesting by Peter now having to decide if his life is more important than the lives of others, seeing as there is really only room for one or the other as Spider-Man. The conflict and then loss of faith (and powers) creates this really tragic character that you feel for throughout the entire film. It took a character that shouldn’t be relatable (a man with super powers) and made him so relatable you almost forget you’re watching a superhero film at times. This improvement on the story also fixes any and all pacing issues that the first film might have had, because Spider-Man 2 flies by like car that is being thrown by a crazy scientist with robot arms attached to his back. Speaking of story improvements from the first film, Sam Raimi added a hell of a lot more horror to Spider-Man 2. The first film had little glimpses of horror elements thrown in, but Spider-Man 2 has entire scenes that seem like they could be a part of a horror movie. Scenes like the one that takes place in the hospital show just how effective Sam Raimi is at directing horror, and they also bring Spider-Man 2 to a whole new level. Now Spider-Man 2 did keep some of the campy writing from the first film, but because of the increase in horror scenes the movie as a whole just felt a lot more serious.
Now the performances in Spider-Man 2 are about as good as the first film, but in different ways. Spider-Man 2, as I’ve mentioned, takes the story in a more mature direction. This means that the performances given have to be a bit more mature to match it; luckily they are. You have Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man who completely sells the unsure hero character. You can really feel the internal conflict that Peter is constantly having, and that is thanks to Maguire’s performance. But the character of Peter Parker isn’t all doom and gloom, because he still does have some of those awkward moments that we all know and love from the first film. Really Tobey Maguire does a great job of balancing these two sides in a way that feels like a natural progression for the character. You also have Kirsten Dunst who plays Mary Jane Watson as more than a love interest. We get to see MJ have a struggle of her own deciding whether or not Peter is the one for her. Sure I’m not a fan of how the character ends up, but that’s not to say that performance was bad. You also have James Franco who does an amazing job of playing mega-douche Harry Osborn, but also brings gravity to the character when the script calls for it. Once again the progression feels very natural, and you almost sympathize with him by the end of the film (despite what is being shown to you). And we then have newcomer Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius who does a great job as both the menacing villain and the caring scientist. The film is more about Peter Parker’s inner-struggle, but whenever Molina is on screen he makes sure that his presence is known. As for the CGI in Spider-Man 2 I would say that it is about on-par with the first film, which is kind of disappointing to me considering Spider-Man 2 came out later. Sure the effects aren’t terrible and they still hold up alright, but I’m less forgiving because like I said there was barely any improvement from the first film.
Overall Spider-Man 2 makes a few improvements from the last film, but since the last film was so good it’s better for me to say that Spider-Man 2 aimed to be different. Where Spider-Man offered a campy origin story that constantly payed homage to the comics, Spider-Man 2 offers a more mature story that also includes a lot of horror elements. Both films are good, but it’s just a matter of preference as to which one you like more. For me it’s Spider-Man 2.
I give Spider-Man 2 an A