Movie Review: Spider-Man 2

Posted by Arlo on Jul 8, 2004 under Movie Reviews

Spider-man 2 Movie PosterFor the most part, I enjoyed Spider-Man (the first movie.) Toby Maguire, who I didn’t know before he was cast in it, played a great Peter Parker, Sam Raimi turned in a restrained performance as director, and while I didn’t thrill to the Green Goblin’s character, William Dafoe did a decent job playing him. My only real complaint had to do with the special effects. Once scene in particular (Pajama-man climbing his first wall) almost ruined the movie for me.

My biggest hope for the second movie was for them to make the effects more believable. I’d heard somewhere that Raimi liked the original’s “comic bookish” quality of effects, but that just doesn’t hold water with me. If you’re going to make a live-action movie out of a comic book character, do what you can to make it look realistic – if you want it to look like a cartoon, animate it. Sounds to me like they just ran out of money/time/talent.

I went into Spider-Man 2 having already heard some critical praise which bordered on hype. Normally, that’s a bad sign – when my expectations are high, movies have an annoying tendency of falling short of the mark. And it didn’t help any that I read my fair share of Spider-man comic books back in high school… If anything, they just made me harder to please.

Even so, I didn’t come away from the theater disappointed! In fact, I’ll say that Spider-man 2 is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Without giving away any spoilers (not already seen in the trailer), here’s why:

• The fight scenes were absolutely amazing. Frenetic, fluid, and very believable (as much as a radioactive-spider-infected man fighting a neuro-interfaced-man-robot-thing can be believable, anyway.) The visual effects were much improved.
• Tobey Maguire is Peter Parker. Even behind the mask, his voice comes across as that of a nerdy college kid (contrast this with the way actors typically voice Bruce Wayne differently than his alter ego, Batman.)
• Alfred Molina was perfectly cast as Doc Ock (awesome villain!), J.K. Simmons completely nails the role of J. Jonah Jamison, and James Franco is quite believable in his intentions as Harry Osborn.
• Aunt May being on Spider-man’s side was a nice twist on the comic book’s portrayal of her character. Peter Parker had enough to worry about in this movie without her unintentional guilt trip added in.
• Now that Sam Raimi has an honest-to-God blockbuster under his belt, it’s nice to see the big studios’ rein on him loosen up a bit. Witness the Evil Dead homage in the operating room!
• Raimi fans (like me) also have fun looking for cameos in his films. It was great to see Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, and even his… car in Spider-man 2 (not to mention Stan Lee!)

Despite all the good stuff, there were a few things that bothered me:

• I don’t know how the comic book versions went down, but Doc Ock’s and the Green Goblins’ origin stories were far too similar. Someone should really crack down on Oscorp.
• Kristen Dunst didn’t sell me on the Mary Jane character. She didn’t do a bad job, but she definitely wasn’t as perfectly matched to the roll as Tobey Maguire was to Peter Parker.
• Is it just me, or is Spider-man much more resilient in this movie? The subway scene in particular portrayed his human body as practically indestructible. Judging from my experience, spiders are not especially invulnerable – where did he gain those powers?
• Must every villain in the Spider-man movie franchise communicate their motivations through insane ramblings with themselves? I think it’s time we had a villain that’s not certifiably crazy, just, you know, motivated by evil!
• J. Jonah Jamison’s son was completely unnecessary. Boooooring.

All the bad things I listed above are just nit-picking. For what it’s worth, I only came up with most of them after the movie was over – they certainly didn’t detract from the film. Because I’ve already decided that I want to see it again (at $9 a pop!) Spider-man 2 is definitely going to the top of my list for summer movies.

Trivial Thought: One of the reasons I want to go back and see Spider-man 2 again was because I saw it the first time from the 3rd row. Maybe those special effects weren’t as good as I thought…
What did I find worthwhile about the movie? It’s another great sequel that continues the all-important character development right where it left off (see Shrek 2). We all know how easy it is for Hollywood to cash in and screw up movie franchises – fortunately, this movie is probably even better than the first one!
Would I recommend the movie? Even to people that have never owned over 4000 comic books!
Will I buy it on DVD? Yes, first day it’s out.

Overall Summer Movie Ranking
Spider-man 2
Shrek 2
The Day After Tomorrow
The Terminal
The Chronicles of Riddick
Van Helsing
The Stepford Wives