In anticipation of the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2, I will be reviewing the films that started it all. It’s time for:
Spider-Man 2 is the best of the Sam Raimi Spidey films, but that is small consolation. It is oftentimes praised by critics and fanboys alike and was at one point considered one of the greatest Marvel Comics movies of all time. I’d say these were bleak times.
Tobey Maguire, for reasons I’m sure are beyond my wisdom, is still Peter Parker – geeky photographer/part-time pizza delivery man by day; web-slinging superhero by other parts of the day. He’s a busy guy who starts to feel that his Spider-Man persona doesn’t make his life all that much better.
His best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), for one, seeks revenge on Spider-Man for killing his father Norman (Willem Dafoe) in the first film, having somehow not yet learned that Spider-Man is technically innocent or that he and Peter are the same person. And then there’s Peter’s ever so red-headed love interest Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), whom Peter intends to keep safe by, well, leaving her out of his dangerous life as much as possible. It also turns out that, uh-oh, she’s getting married another man, namely the son of Peter’s motor mouth boss J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). His name is John (Daniel Gillies) and he’s one of the most pointless characters to ever inhabit this franchise. And that’s saying something.
Harry, being the new head of Oscorp after his father’s death, sponsors the research of a scientist named Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) who has revolutionary nuclear experiments planned. But he also possesses a set of robotic, octopus-like tendrils which he has somehow connected to his brain, meaning they gain control over his actions after his experiment ends in an accident that kills his wife (Donna Murphy) and turns him insane. Or something. Either way, he becomes Dr. Octopus and thus he’s the villain Spider-Man has to fight this time around. That is, before Parker loses all his Spidey-powers which is what appears to be happening in a side-story that, spoiler alert, doesn’t lead to much of anything. ‘Kay.
Despite ultimately not liking the movie, I will give props were they’re due and say that Alfred Molina’s Dr. Octopus is the most entertaining villain in any of these movies and one of at least two characters from the Raimi series in general that actually recalls fond memories. The other, I’m sure some of you have already guessed, is J. Jonah Jameson as played by J.K. Simmons. He still has the best lines, the funniest scenes and the most spot-on performance in the whole movie. The rest are either pointless, underdeveloped throwaways or just not very likable and/or not as skillful in making the incompetent dialogue sound tolerable.
I believe one of the bigger faults of Spider-Man 2 is that it wastes what could have been an interesting character arc. Doug Walker pointed out, in his Nostalgia Critic episode about these films, that he initially thought that the character of John Jameson was going to turn out to be Venom. Not only would he already be an enemy of Peter Parker, who after all ends up stealing his fiance Mary-Jane from him in the end (I honestly don’t think I’m spoiling anything to anyone when giving this away), but he’s also an astronaut, so it would make perfect sense for him to get in contact with the meteorite that contains The Symbiote during his next voyage into space. I agree with Walker. That would be a pretty cool plot. Instead of any of this we get a tacked on Topher Grace for the third movie as the fanboys shriek with disappointment. Not a good move, Raimi.
Speaking of love stories, can anyone honestly say they’re interested in the upside-down and inside-out relationship of Peter and Mary-Jane? It’s a mess that doesn’t tug on your heartstrings so much as it makes you disoriented and bored. It doesn’t help that Kirsten Dunst has this weird ability to make a scene feel like something out of a rom-com whenever she enters the room. Is it just me?
The special effects and dialogue might be a notch above the special effects and dialogue of the first Spider-Man, but the acting is more bizarrely bad than ever (especially from certain extras), the comedy is mostly awkward, the subtext is downright non-existent, Peter’s relentless whining about his late uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) is starting to get old, the additional moping is equally insufferable, and the pointless subplots practically foreshadow that which is to come in the third and final entry in this series of Spidey flicks. I will deal with that as it comes.