Alex Tamosius

Spiderman 2

6th August 2004
reviewer: Alex Tamosius
rating: 5 out of 5
directed by: Sam Raimi
written by: Stan Lee and Alvin Sargent
starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina
genre: Action Fantasy Sci-Fi Thriller
released: 15th July 2004

Spiderman 2, as you may have guessed, is the sequel to the record breaking 2002 blockbuster “Spiderman”. Two years have passed since the events of the first film, and our unwilling superhero Peter Parker (Maguire) is struggling with the delicate juggling act of Spiderman and the hassle of day to day life. Perhaps the premise of his struggle is best summed up in the first scene - turning up late for his pizza delivery job (again), he's told by his boss that if he doesn't make the next delivery in time he's fired. Donning the iconic costume, he glides effortlessly through Manhattan. He's making good time. Two small children run in front of fast moving traffic (Spiderman’s Manhattan is clearly very different to ours), and the “with great power comes great responsibility" clause kicks in. Arriving at his destination late; he loses his job. He can't pay the rent. His beloved Aunt May is having money trouble. Throw into the equation a crazed scientist in the shape of Dr. Otto Octavius ( Molina), inability to declare his love for apparent soul mate Mary Jane ( Dunst), falling behind in his previously brilliant school work and being blamed for just about everything by larger than life Daily Bugle editor J Jonah Jameson (Simmons) and it's enough for anyone to throw in the Spiderman game for good (assuming you've been bitten by a radioactive arachnid, of course). Which is what he does.

What follows could well turn out to be this year best summer blockbuster. And rightly so - after a summer of Harry Potter 3, Troy and Around the World in Eighty Days (yes, I went to see it) we deserve it. And of course we all know what we like for these popcorn fuelled no brainers - a fine balance between computer generated action and the story itself, subtlety and a witty, sharp script. Wait a minute, that's not right. But what a summer blockbuster that would be, eh? That's Spiderman 2.

Building on what can best be described as a "promising" start to the series, most suggestions for improvement have been followed through - we'll start with this instalment’s villain. Gone is the one dimensional, wooden costumed Green Goblin. In comes Dr. Octopus (played by Alfred Molina in a film stealing performance) rapidly developing from calm and considered Dr. Otto Octavius to the crazed schizophrenic that is the tentacled doctor himself. Proving more than a worthy match for Spiderman, the tentacles are stars in their own right - they bear more than a passing resemblance to Jurassic Park’s raptors in fact. Suddenly the pea Green Goblin seems rather puny.

The hapless duo of Maguire and Dunst return from the first, with debateable effect. Dunst’s portrayal of classic Spiderman leading woman Mary Jane is as unconventional as her beauty. If you’re familiar with the sexy femme fatale of the comic books, this innocent, softly spoken character will seem a little disappointing. If you haven’t, then she’ll be downright annoying - her pompous, very middle class attitude to scenes such as Peter turning up late to her play, and her generally pedantic attitude creates a very dislikeable character - something that I doubt was intended.

Playing opposite her is Maguire as a very geeky Peter Parker, a trait of his that has been accented to a much greater degree this time round - many parts of the film seem more like teenage boy wish fulfilment, rather than a love story. Having said that, Maguire’s performance is one of the highlights of the film - the subtle, yet brilliant touches to this film, such as the undercurrent between him and the Daily Bugle secretary, he handles perfectly.

When he gets into the costume though, everything changes – he’s suddenly very much a part of the vibrant, colourful world Raimi has created (so intricate that I’ve surely missed out something in this review). Suddenly he has the wit, charm and confidence that he so desperately needs when around Mary Jane. This of course forms the basis of Spiderman's plight, and as Peter's urge to tell the truth suddenly surfaces, a pleasing, if predictable "will he, won't he" element’s added, sadly lacking from the first film. What wasn't lacking from the first film certainly isn't here - great action scenes. This time round though, they've got a great villain to compliment your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman, and the difference is certainly noticeable – some classic battles and moments like him swinging through the gap between a moving lorry and it’s trailer are the pinnacle of cool.

And of course with the first film covering the necessary “getting to know you” bit out of the way, there’s of no need for barren patches of philosophy and sentimentality, right? Yes, there’s no need, but is there any? Oh yes. Coming so close to being perfect, this film fails at the oh so basic final hurdle of decent editing. While we can thank Raimi for a stylish action - story balance; we can also blame him for giving us a film that’s at least twenty minutes too long. This stodgy mush is usually found spouting from dear old Aunt May, whose actress Rosemary Harris seems to have confirmed her position as the new face of Senna Stairlifts.

Perhaps this can best be described as an excellent Summer Blockbuster that suffers because it's a summer blockbuster - the overly slowed pace won't win any acclaim from the film's main patronage of the "show us the akshun!" blazing brigade. Humour it though dear reader, and you'll enjoy one of the best films made in a long while, that sets the standard for superhero movies, summer blockbusters and in fact sequels in general.
Go get 'em Spiderman.