Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man/Peter Parker
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson
James Franco as Harry Osborn
Alfred Molina as Doc Ock/Dr. Otto Octavius
Rosemary Harris as May Parker
J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
Donna Murphy as Rosalie Octavius
Daniel Gillies as John Jameson
Dylan Baker as Dr. Curt Connors
Bill Nunn as Joseph ‘Robbie’ Robertson
Vanessa Ferlito as Louise
Aasif Mandvi as Mr. Aziz
Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin/Norman Osborn
Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker
Ted Raimi as Hoffman
Elizabeth Banks as Miss Brant
Bruce Campbell as Snooty Usher
A couple of years after the first film, Peter Parker continues to struggle to balance his regular life with his life as Spider-Man. He loses his job as a pizza delivery boy. He almost loses his job as a Daily Bugle photographer. He misses class and is chewed out by his professor, Dr. Curt Connors. Peter has even alienated his friends Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson. But worse of all, he is about to forever lose the love of his life, Mary Jane. She is engaged to marry John Jameson despite the fact that she still has feelings for Peter.
Just as Peter is at his lowest point, his powers start to sputter on and off. Peter takes it as a sign that he should quit being Spider-Man, so he does just that. But despite the crime rate going up, everything else in his life starts looking brighter.
Unfortunately, a new menace is unleashed on New York City. After a horrible accident involving a nuclear fusion test at Oscorp, Dr. Otto Octavius is permanently bonded to mechanical arms that he uses as tools for his experiments. The accident also kills his wife and ruins any funding he had from Harry and Oscorp. Despite the tragedy, the now mad Doc Ock is determined to restart his experiment even though it could destroy the city. Can Spider-Man stop him? And what will happen when Harry Osborn recruits Octavius to capture Spider-Man?
“Spider-Man 2” is rated PG-13 for stylized action violence.
If you liked Spider-Man, you’re going to love Spider-Man 2. It’s a better movie in almost every way and it builds on everything that made the first film great while fixing all of its weaknesses. Spidey 2 ends up being a really fun movie that delivers on every front. There’s action, adventure, comedy, romance, drama, and more. It’s everything you could hope for in a summer movie.
First off, there’s plenty here for the comic fan. Spidey continues to strike his classic poses. Raimi also continues to recreate some of the classic covers, mainly the landmark “Spider-Man, No More!” issue. Look for Dr. Curt Connors (who later becomes the Lizard), John Jameson (who is Man Wolf in the comics), and even a passing reference to Doctor Strange. There are also key moments borrowed from various Spider-Man issues. If you’re a die-hard Spider-Man reader, you’ll know them when you see them.
The film also continues to display a great sense of humor that lets you know it never takes itself too seriously. Peter Parker continues to be the everyday-loser and he is the butt of many jokes. He is ignored, abused, and generally picked on to the great amusement of the audience. But Peter isn’t the only one generating comedy. There’s another scene where Hal Sparks, in a cameo role, gets in an elevator with Spider-Man. The awkward conversation that follows is hilarious and unique for a superhero film. After all, you never heard Batman talking about how his costume was itchy, and how the crotch rode up. Peter Parker also makes the laundry mistake of washing his whites with his reds and blues. The result, of course, isn’t pretty for his boxers and shirts. Another subtle joke takes place when Peter Parker falls on a car in a nasty spill, then gets up saying, “My back! Ow, my back!” Anybody following Spider-Man 2 for any length of time knows what this refers to. Another funny moment comes when Aunt May tells Peter that she threw out his old comic collection. (If it weren’t for moms throwing out comic collections, comics would have no value today.) Jokes are spread through the rest of the film as well which you’ll love.
Tobey Maguire continues to be great as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He’s excellent as either the hapless Parker or in action as Spidey. Peter is involved in a lot of physical humor this time around and Maguire handles it well. But we also see Spider-Man with his mask off.. a lot. It’s during these moments that you see it’s not a stuntman but Maguire himself in the middle of the action, and he shows he’s more than up to the challenge. Tobey also continues to have great chemistry with Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. Their longing for each other picks up right where they left off from the previous one and it carries on all through the sequel. To keep that romance and forbidden love going and interesting for so long is quite a challenge and they pull it off nicely.
The rest of the returning supporting cast is also great. J.K. Simmons continues to steal every scene as J. Jonah Jameson. James Franco also gets more to do as Harry Osborn. He’s a tortured soul that is thirsty for revenge against Spider-Man. The drama between Harry and Peter promises to be fully paid off in Spider-Man 3. Rosemary Harris gets to really shine here as May Parker. She has some great moments with Peer and those quiet scenes are some of the emotional highlights of the story. Also look for cameos by Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker, Ted Raimi as Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks as Miss Brant, and Bruce Campbell as the Snooty Usher.
But the big new addition to the cast is Alfred Molina as Doc Ock or Dr. Otto Octavius. Molina has always been a fantastic actor that blends into the background (did you see him in Raiders of the Lost Ark?), but here he gets to take center stage and really shine. Molina makes Octavius both believably evil and sympathetic at the same time. This is probably the best portrayal of the character in either the comics or the films. He’s shown to be an arrogant genius, but passionately in love with his wife. Octavius is driven and occasionally rude, but he’s working for the betterment of mankind. But besides being very human, he also becomes incredibly lethal when he’s bonded with his mechanical arms. They are portrayed kind of like snakes, each with a bit of personality of its own. They end up making him a visually stunning character and more than a match for Spider-Man.
The effects in this film seemed better to me than they did in the first film. Back then I griped that that camera zoomed in too closely to Spider-Man and all you ever saw were blue and red blurs. This time it seemed that the camera pulled back a lot more and you get a greater sense of Spidey’s motions and actions. His acrobatics seem much more impressive and realistic this time around. Doc Ock’s arms are also an impressive mix of CG and animatronics. The blend helps make the arms seem more realistic and you buy the big, dynamic motions of them because you’ve become used to seeing the more delicate motions from them. (Like lighting a cigar, removing a blindfold, etc.) The effects houses should all pat themselves on their webheads for this one.
The action in this sequel is also turned up to 11. There are three really big battles between Ock and Spidey, the most impressive of which takes place on a clock tower and on an elevated train. Their battle is bloody, brutal, and intense. It outdoes the battle scenes in the previous film. But some of the smaller scale scenes are also cool. Sam Raimi manages to make even Spider-Man delivering pizzas at the beginning of the film a moment to hold your breath. Another cool scene in the film features a powerless Peter Parker (say that three times fast) rushing into a burning building to save a child. Knowing he’s doing it without super powers makes it all the more suspenseful. You’re fearful for the guy having to jump 10 feet despite that fact that he jumped 100 feet just 15 minutes earlier in the story.
As for the rest of the film, look for artwork from comic artist Alex Ross at the beginning during the credits. They brilliantly recap the first film for audiences so that they are brought up to speed for the sequel. I’d love to see that work published somewhere later. The music from Danny Elfman is also pretty good. I wasn’t impressed with it the first time around, but it grew on me in the sequel.
What Didn’t Work:
It also seems that everybody and their dog discovers that Peter Parker is Spider-Man in this film. In the comics, it was always a big deal when Peter’s secret identity was compromised. Here, tons of people find out who he is in short order. It seems to take away from the impact of the moment each time he is unmasked.
On another note, one scene in the film is an homage to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Peter Parker walks down the street to the tune of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. While it’s funny if you know it’s an homage, it is still kind of weird, and I don’t think most audiences are going to get the joke (especially when Parker is frozen in mid-stride, just like in the “Kid” movie).
Other than these minor gripes, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
The Bottom Line: