Pictures Classics presents a film directed by Sam Raimi.
Produced by Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin. Written by Michael
Chabon, Miles Millar, Alfred Gough and Alvin Sargent.
Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Running
time: 125 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for stylized action violence).
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred
Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy.
the first Spider-Man, Peter Parker's uncle spoke the
words made famous in the comics: "With great power comes
great responsibility." In the first film, Parker learned
this, often the hard way, leading up to the touching finalé,
in which he gave up true love in exchange for keeping his
red suit. In Spider-Man 2, the true extent of a hero's
responsibility becomes painfully clear. The film is not about
mindless action or pleasing the masses (although the action
will certainly do that), it is about the emotional turmoil
it's characters go through. It's a personal drama disguised
as an action movie.
that's what makes Spider-Man 2 one of the best movies
I've seen so far this year. Director Sam Raimi understands
that the appeal of the comics comes from the inner conflict
of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and the rest of the major
characters. These people have to make tough decisions and
take actions that may affect the rest of their lives.
Peter realizes what being Spider-Man means; that no matter
what he does, he will always have enemies, he will always
have responsibilities that take precedence over his personal
desires - "Am I not supposed to have what I want?"
he asks. "What I need?" So he gives up, he tosses
his costume into the dumpster; of course we know that he'll
eventually come back, but his emotions are real, and we feel
them. When he is forced to hide his emotions from Mary-Jane
(Kirsten Dunst), the woman he loves, the anguish this causes
him is palpable.
most extraordinary achievement is combining these emotions
with the action sequences of the film. His success makes the
action more than just thrilling set pieces; we care about
these characters, and the fights have distinct effects on
their lives. This gives the action multiple layers that make
these sequences far more compelling than those in the typical
summer blockbuster. The thrilling climax, a fight between
Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) on a speeding
subway has an unexpected conclusion with possibly deep ramifications.
villain is more compelling than in Spider-Man, too.
While Willem Dafoe's conflicted Green Goblin from the first
film was fairly chilling, Doctor Octopus is far more human.
Dafoe was a sleazeball who just happened to go nuts, Otto
Octavius is a great man, a scientist working for the good
of mankind. He is being controlled by the four arms attached
to his back, not some ingrained evil. His final moments on
screen are painted in the broad emotions and over-the-top
dialogue of superhero films, but they are still genuine in
a way that is all too rare.
Spider-Man 2, the genius of casting Tobey Maguire as
Peter Parker becomes ever clearer. The heart of the whole
film is Peter Parker, not his alter-ego, and Maguire is as
compelling a Parker as could possibly be imagined. Kirsten
Dunst's role has increased in importance to the story arc,
and her performance is one of subtle emotions and facial expressions.
The only major addition to the cast, Alfred Molina, proves
perfectly capable of playing both the good Dr. Octavius, as
well as the imposing Doc Ock. James Franco, as Harry Osbourne,
is constantly simmering with anger. The rest of the cast,
including Rosemary Harris as Peter's Aunt May, is effective.
final scene of Spider-Man 2 is just about perfect,
a culmination of events that is at once touching, thrilling,
and bittersweet. It satisfies the desire to see Peter finally
happy, yet there is also a deeply felt sadness that lingers
far after the film is over. As Spider-Man swings off into
the night, and Mary-Jane looks off (in an amazing final shot),
consider this: who is the real hero?
2004 Matt Noller