Spider-Man 2 (2004)
(Release Date: 6/30/04)

4 Stars... A true Comic Book Movie4 Stars... A true Comic Book Movie4 Stars... A true Comic Book Movie4 Stars... A true Comic Book Movie

Not quite perfect, but I wouldn't sweep this web out!

The Web's Greatest Critic!!!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

His Jeckyll doesn't Hide!
Peter Parker
The Spectacular Spider-Man!

Every once in a while, many of us face moments of self-doubt. During those moments when faced with the external or internal demon which says "there should be more" we usually throw ourselves into work (and write a few hundred reviews), talk it up with a friend and get normal again... or as normal as one gets during the Summer Movie Season.

If you're Peter Parker, though, what happens is you run out of Web-Fluid over the streets of NYC causing you to fall past more storeys than Grimm's Fairy Tales and land (some would say "appropriately") into a dumpster in a back alley. Such is the core of Sam Raimi's very good Spider-Man 2! Tobey Maguire's pained performance of Peter Parker reaches new heights as he wonders just exactly who he is and why. Is he Spider-Man or Peter Parker? Does there have to be a difference? Meanwhile Mary-Jane Watson, no longer the "Girl Next Door", but an off-Broadway actress and model, is doubting whether waiting for Peter to notice that she's as hot as Kirsten Dunst is even worth it and if there's something better out there (a werewolf perhaps?). And then there's smilin' Harry Osborn (James Franco) doubting just about everything but what money can buy, and continuing his booze-addled revenge quest against old Spidey with the obliviousness of Lois Lane.

Yep, "Spidey 2" is all about doubt, but director Sam Raimi seems more confident than ever (and I'm a big The Evil Dead fan). Sam balances a much, much bigger and more "over-the-top-heavy" script (by Alvin Sargent) with even more special effects, action, romance, strife and drama than Spider-Man. In many ways, Spider-Man 2 is a better movie, but "perfect" it's not! While on one hand this is a pure Comic-Book Movie (a compliment coming from me) with all the pretense, self-righteous and loveably sanctimonious dialogue and Earth-shattering action, on the other, with as much money as they used here the Special Effects should have been seamless in their transitions between live-action and Animation. As it is now, I felt like I kept hitting LCV between Cartoon Network and A&E! It's a mixed bag, but it's stacked a lot more on the good side than the reprobate moments usually omnipresent in even the best of the "Summer Movies!"

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Other Comic Book-(ish) reviews:

  The Hulk (2003)
  Hellboy (2004)
  X-Men (2000)
  X-Men 2 (2003)
  Spawn Season 2 (1998)
  Teen Titans (2003)
  Smallville (2003)
  Road To Perdition (1998)
  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
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One of the things that makes Spider-Man 2 actually work is the villain. Not that Alfred Molina brings anything close to his Frida performance to his portrayal of Dr. Otto Octavius (AKA Dr. Octopus). On the contrary, he's {almost} as melodramatic as Ah-nuld in Batman and Robin! Somehow, though, through the lens of the director of Army of Darkness, this actually fits pretty well and allows for a unique mix of the menacing and the silly. Smack-Dab in the middle of the human arachnid's doubt-o-rama, the venerable scientist Octavius becomes fused with his A.I.-controlled robotic limbs during yet another scientific demonstration (this time on harnessing the power of the sun). The now insane (and 8-Limbed) "Doc Ock" acquires one of those traditional Super Villain Lairs (like the Joker's Ha-Hacienda) and starts his work anew, all the while stealing cash (because you have to buy this James Bond stuff) and clashing with Spidey during his need for the super-hero equivalent of Viagra! So, what does the boy in red do when the newest villain begins to take over the city? Well, isn't it obvious? He retires! What would you do?

What follows is Peter's attempts to be Peter amid Doc Ock's flashing of his flabby and jiggling chest as he attempts to be some weird, bastardized combination of Garrison Keillor and Lex Luthor. Does Spider-Man stay retired? Is the Pope a Methodist? Oh, he waffles like John Kerry and gains a rather casual relationship with his mask (Spidey spends a great deal of his time as exposed as Janet Jackson at the Superbowl), but, as Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) said... "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility", psychosomatic impotence be damned!

The plot here is muddled and shows in the multiple endings this film has. A lesser director than Raimi might have turned in a much lower-level film. The fight scenes here are some of the best super-battles since Superman II (The Matrix Revolutions notwithstanding). Aside from the lack of SFX Seamlessness (Spidey and Ock look a lot like Cartoons quite often) these scenes are surprising and fun to watch. The acting is also above average, even including Molina's melodrama. Franco and Dunst are both good, and fit their limited frames well, and J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, and Ted Raimi (how'd he get hired?) add a lot of comedy as The Daily Bugle's staff of J. Jonah Jameson, 'Robbie' Robertson and Hoffman, respectively. Some surprising cameos (including Bruce Campbell among others) help out the funny, as well as the dramatic moments.

Somehow it's still Tobey Maguire who manages to steal the show. After the will-he/ won't-he discussion (after which he might have been replaced by Jake Gyllenhaal), it would be easy to see him as some ego-driven star. Peter maintains his Humility and that's a credit to Maguire.

It's easy to get caught up in the "ride" of this film and forget the flaws, but the plot and convoluted elements of the story might not stand up to repeated viewings. It will continue to be a lot of fun at the movies, though, and it's great to see Raimi on the top of his well-built game allowing for comic-book dialogue never to sound like the 1966 Batman. Like in Evil Dead II, one almost forgets the camp, and eats it all up anyway. It might be a flawed piece, but it's a great one, especially when Raimi takes the time to pause and enjoy the world that he's created with effects supervisor John Dykstra, and, of course, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko!

Four Stars out of Five for Spider-Man 2! While it's a great action film, and better (and quicker) than the first film, it's hard not to think that Sargent could have done well to cull some of the multitude of ideas from Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Michael Chabon's Screen Story. After all, they are the kids who keep giving Superman a bad name on Smallville each week!

Stay till the end... one of the (four) endings actually sets up what could be one hell of a Spider-Man 3! I'll geek up for that one too, Kemosabe! See you in the next reel!

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Spider-Man 2 (2004) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
who is responsible for the content of this review
and for his interest in the Return of the Lizard!
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Kirsten Dunst has a fantastic body, no?
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The SFX were somewhat superior to this!