Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.

Release Date: June 30th, 2004 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Sam Raimi Actors: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, Vanessa Ferlito

 


 

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n the undeniably superior second installment to the highly successful “Spider-Man” trilogy, audiences find Peter Parker still chaotically struggling to balance his normal life with that of his crime-fighting alter ego. Now, however, since origins have been explained and set-ups situated, director Sam Raimi can run rampant with the action and delve deeper into the complex superhero’s mythos. He also balances a moving story full of love, revenge, and redemption with the trademark skyscraper-swinging adventure – while admirably correcting one of the main faults of the 2002 original by introducing a fantastic new villain.

As a plain, distracted student, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) seems destined for failure in both his schoolwork and his social life. But as Spider-Man, he is the celebrated hero of New York City, a protector of the peace capable of defending the defenseless and bringing justice to those daring enough to disrupt it. But as Parker quickly realizes, being a superhero doesn’t pay the bills.

Peter’s relationships steadily become more unstable as tensions run high with his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), his love for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) can’t be fulfilled, and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) seems ridden with guilt and regret. Determining that his life is being torn apart by his masked alter ego, Parker decides to give up his days as Spider-Man and focus on rebuilding his crumbling human connections. In an effort to improve his college studies, Parker meets with Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), an unequalled scientist in fusion and its theories. But when an experiment goes awry and Octavius is transformed into an eight-armed monstrosity, Parker must once again don the red and blue garb of the web-slinging crusader to restore order, rescue his loved ones, and save his city from annihilation.

With Spider-Man’s origins out of the way, Raimi is free to focus on spectacular action sequences to best the memorable set pieces designed in the prior feature. In between, the screenwriters opt to explore an intricate love triangle and Peter’s downward-spiraling confidence as the media starts to negatively spin his vigilante successes. Torn between his desire to reveal his identity to MJ and his reluctance to leave his post as a super-powered Good Samaritan, Parker’s life grows increasingly more stressful – compounded further by Harry’s accruing hatred for Spider-Man and the plotting of “Doctor Octopus.” Since the first film laid the groundwork for potential, this follow-up smartly takes the opportunity to zero in on entertainment value through storytelling, character designs, and action sequences – devoid of the standard, longwinded exposition of an introductory chapter.

Raimi also sneaks in an ample amount of humor, homages, and cameos. From the subtle mirth of Octavius’ lessons in love to superhero pizza delivery to the laugh-out-loud funny appearance by Bruce Campbell, “Spider-Man 2” contains all sorts of clever imagery and inspired quips. A nod to Raimi’s own “The Evil Dead” appears in the form of a chainsaw-wielding doctor being attacked by a mechanical appendage. But it’s the intensity of the action choreography that remains most inspiring; the high point – a runaway monorail sequence – boasts not only stunning cinematography but also a masterful integration of state-of-the-art computer animation, which retains just enough believability to win over those who dislike gravity-defying stunts augmented with cinematic fakery.

Action aside, Doc Ock’s four steel-plated tentacles, which move with a mind of their own, steal the spotlight for their singular display of realism amidst a sea of effects. In its modernized way, the animation possesses the charm of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion efforts – famed for multi-headed, multi-armed movements. It’s this carefully refined look, paired with Molina’s acting talent and the scripting of a darker, multilayered nemesis, that invigorates Spider-Man’s lore to create a powerhouse blockbuster to defy the stigma of sequels – especially comic book adaptation sequels.

– Joel Massie

  • 9/10


The Spider-Man Franchise


Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)