Spider-Man 2 is once again directed by Sam Raimi and it takes place two years after the events of the first movie. Peter is having a ridiculously hard time balancing his double-life as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He eventually comes to a point where he has to choose between living a normal life or saving the city. However New York will depend on Spider-Man as new enemy Dock Ock plans to get his project up and going, even if it means blowing up half of New York with it. This movie stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco, J.K. Simmons and Rosemary Harris.
I remember before sitting down to watch the movie a couple years ago, I thought “I’m about to watch one of the best superhero movies of all time!”. Knowing the incredible reputation this movie has, I prepared myself mentally before watching it. The movie ended and I remember it feeling like an emotional journey and a satisfying one at that. When I revisited the movie, something felt odd. The first time I saw the movie I was younger and I didn’t care if a scene didn’t feel right, I just cared about being entertained all the way through which I was. This time, there were a couple of scenes and sub-plots which just felt unnecessary. That being said this is an amazing movie.
My favourite comic-book movies are the ones with an emotional journey, movies like Captain America: Civil War, Wonder Woman, and Into The Spider-Verse all feature the hero at one point in the movie and by the end, it’s as if they’ve transformed as a character. Spider-Man 2, I have to say does the best job with this as it’s a character piece more than anything else. This movie is about the duality of Peter Parker and Spider-Man and the cost of being a hero. No other movie has done this good a job because no other hero has to go through this in the same lengths as Peter, he’s just a kid underneath that mask. I love the fact that the movie makes Spider-Man a secondary character. In my opinion, if Peter Parker is written as he should be and we sympathize with him then Spider-Man is an easy win. He’s just a more confident and quippy version of himself.
This movie however puts Spider-Man on hold for a lot of the movie because Peter is going through hell as everything in his life is crumbling. This movie puts Peter in such a horrible, miserable state of being that it actually becomes annoying at a certain point. The movie makes it crystal clear that sometimes being Spidey and Peter at the same time is actually a living hell, it makes the audience understand so when he ditches the suit and there’s that satisfying montage of Peter getting his life together it actually feels somewhat rewarding for the audience even though the web-slinger is out of the picture. The most heartbreaking scenes in this movie occur when Peter is having this dilemma. I teared up when, with a heartbroken voice, Peter says ” I am Spider-Man, no more.” Nowadays we don’t see heroes giving up (safe for Endgame). The other scene is the one where Peter is looking at two guys beating up an other guy and he doesn’t do anything about it.
I don’t consider Spider-Man 2 a superhero movie as much as I do a drama. As I said, Spider-Man is put to the sidelines for a rather big portion for a superhero movie so the main focus is always Peter. The script does an excellent job of having consequences for the decisions Peter made in the first movie and in this movie they come back to haunt him. MJ has a boyfriend, Harry humiliates Peter because he doesn’t tell him where Spider-Man, Aunt May finds out about what really happened the night Uncle Ben died and it creates a brief drift between her and Peter. None of this would’ve had any effect if it weren’t for the amazing performances.
Tobey Maguire impressed me in the first movie with his performance and in this movie, even more so. Peter is continuously broken down and Maguire really shows how Peter tries to hide it until it breaks him. There are so many scenes in which he shines in. From the heartbreaking “I am Spider-Man no more.” scene to the happy montage that follows. Dunst as MJ is great, however I am confused as to why she kept “flirting” with Peter even though she was dating someone. J.K. Simmons was even more hilarious this time and he was given a lot more to do. Another character which got more to do was Aunt May which I was really happy with. Harris gives an emotional performance, she even brought me to tears with a scene early on. Alfred Molina as Doc Ock is obviously another great casting choice, I do wish that they focused more on the relationship between him and Peter so that the final battle would’ve had a more emotional effect. The horror-esque scene with the doctors and Doc Ock was eerie and it got the message across that this guy is incredibly dangerous in a stylish and shocking way.
As a sequel, Spider-Man 2 improves on basically every aspect of the first movie. The CGI and practical/visual effects are mind-numbingly great for a 2004 movie, it’s honestly seamless. The score, once again by Danny Elfman is just as heroic and dramatic as ever. I feel that even the acting improved, either that or the script gave the actors much better material to work with. That being said, this movie is also flawed. I would agree on the fact that the first movie was better paced. Another flaw is Harry Osborn, I hate this character with a passion. They could’ve made Harry be mad at Peter because Norman loved him like a son better than he did with his actual son. Instead he’s a pathetic, annoying character whose only role in this movie exists because Spider-Man didn’t tell Harry that Norman died by his own hand. Unnecessary sub-plot which could’ve been changed very easily.
Overall Spider-Man 2 is a great sequel which unlike most sequels, actually dials down the action and focuses more on character and emotion. It presents the duality of the superhero life in a way no other movie has done. The movie takes the audience on an emotional journey which ends in one of cinema’s most satisfying endings. While it does have a few flaws, the performances, visuals, score, script and emotional weight make this movie an instant classic, in the superhero genre and in cinema.