A sequel that is better than the original is quite unusual in the world of
motion pictures. Sure, there is the occasional bad movie whose sequel manages
to be decent, with THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and its sequel 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS
being recent such examples. People tend to give THE GODFATHER and its sequel
THE GODFATHER: PART II as one of the examples of a wonderful movie whose sequel
was even better, but I've never been quite sure if I agree. They are both so
brilliant that it's hard to believe that the second is somehow superior.
On Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN, however, I am quite positive that its sequel,
SPIDER-MAN 2, far surpasses its predecessor. The original was a thoroughly
enjoyable but uneven film. The first half was spectacular, full of imagination
and wit, but the second half dissolved into a typical action picture in which
the stunts and the special effects took center stage, relegating the story to
an almost hidden side stage.
There are no such problems with SPIDER-MAN 2, which is magical and captivating
from start to finish. Although there is plenty of action for even the most
restless viewers, what makes this version special is Alvin Sargent's terrific
script, which is romantic and touching. It's definitely the best date movie of
the year. Ok, at least so far.
Tobey Maguire is back as Spider-Man, a.k.a. Peter Parker. In another charming
and compelling performance, Maguire makes a superhero for everyone to love and
care about. His Spider-Man suffers sporadic performance problems -- he can't
get his web up. And when Spider-Man has to stop a speeding train, Maguire
makes this impossible task seem difficult, dangerous and painful, something
that most actors playing action heroes never quite pull off convincingly.
Peter is in a real quandary. He is head-over-heels in love with Mary Jane
Watson but doesn't dare reveal his emotional attachment, lest his love for her
cause her to be harmed by his long list of enemies. Still, he thinks strongly
about quitting his secret job so that he can be with the girl he loves,
especially after she starts dating a hunk of a moon-walking astronaut, John
Jameson (Daniel Gillies), the son of Peter's editor, Jonah (J.K. Simmons), the
movie's funniest character. As before, a fetching Kirsten Dunst plays Mary
Jane, a vulnerable woman who can't have Peter, the man she loves, for reasons
she doesn't understand.
As one of the best screen villains in some time, Alfred Molina plays Dr. Otto
Octavius, a good scientist whose own invention turns him evil, earning him the
moniker of Doc Ock by Jonah's tabloid. With four long mechanical arms that
look something like snakes, Doc Ock can climb buildings and can throw punches
that really pack wallops. Unless Spider-Man can stop him, he may destroy New
York City, and, probably even worse in Spider-Man's eyes, kill Mary Jane.
The movie is quite funny with some great visuals, including the time that Peter
learns not to wash his white sox along with his Spider-Man costume. We see
Peter's disappointment at the Laundromat when he realizes that his colorful
uniform has bled onto his sox. The opening, too, is really cute as Peter has
less than ten minutes to deliver pizzas or he will lose his job and his
employer won't be paid for the pizzas. Think Spider-Man will be able to get
them there on time?
SPIDER-MAN 2 is great entertainment and a movie so good that you hope jaded
Academy members will consider it for an Oscar nomination, even if it's "just" a
movie based on a comic strip.
SPIDER-MAN 2 runs 2:07. It is rated PG-13 for "stylized action violence" and
would be acceptable for kids around 8 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 15, who loved the first SPIDER-MAN, liked this one even
better. He said that there was much more emotional power to the sequel, which
he thought built nicely on the previous one. He said it was an
edge-of-the-seat film in which there was better action, even if there was less
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes