Back in 2002, director Sam Raimi pushed the envelope with what a superhero film could be when he unleashed his mega-blockbuster “Spider-Man”. After the smoke cleared and I had a chance to see the film again another successful superhero franchise comparison emerged. And after seeing “Spider-Man 2” it is quite evident that this mega-franchise does emulate another hero’s adventures on the big screen.
“Spider-Man 2” opens with a montage to the first film and eventually drops the audience back into the life of struggling 20-something Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) who is having a rough time trying to balance work and his night patrols as Spider-Man.
Desperate to not fail one of his pivotal university courses, Peter takes up his old friend Harry Osborn’s (James Franco) offer to meet brilliant scientist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) who is on the verge of a breakthrough in harnessing the power of fusion.
Octavius is charismatic, a loyal husband to his beautiful wife Rosalie (Donna Murphy) and devoted to his craft. Parker is envious in some respects as he has dinner with the Dr. Octavius and his wife.
After Peter suffers a glitch in his “spider-powers”, he has a second encounter with Octavius as he finally witnesses Octavius and the full-power of his experiment. The experiment is controlled by 4 metallic arms which help Octavius control the many calculations.
Like all superhero films, the scientist’s experiment goes horribly wrong and Octavius watches as his whole world comes apart thus giving birth to the sinister Doctor Octopus.
With his glitchy powers, his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) all but over and the rest of his life coming apart at the seams, does Peter want to maintain his superhero identity and eventually stop the evil Doc Ock?
As I watched Sam Raimi’s continuation of his superhero epic I couldn’t help but see that Raimi seems to be throwing back to the “Superman” franchise of the early 1980s. There are so many obvious comparisons but it was never fully fleshed out until I saw star Tobey Maguire wore a pair of glasses after one his “power-glitches”.
In both the sequels to “Superman” and “Spider-Man”, the hero relinquishes his responsibility of being a superhero for the woman he loves. Both have problems getting their powers back when they decide they were foolish. Both heroes also have troubles stopping a train. Then there is the obvious homage to the “Superman” films when Parker drops his glasses on the pavement and we see one of the lens break from the frames.
Even though Raimi has framed his franchise in the same way as “Superman” he still seems to have improved on the concept.
Raimi has injected a lot of humor, zaniness in Parker’s life and a wonderful dynamic between him and the people around him. Raimi knows how to get us involved in these people’s lives. The humor is done with such delicacy that it doesn’t poke fun at the character but instead enhances our relationship with this struggling hero. It is the brilliant aspect of this sequel.
I loved how the film didn’t forget the man behind the mask as we are introduced to yet another villain. The filmmakers remember that the film is called “Spider-Man” and not “Dr. Octopus”.
The performance from Tobey Maguire was utterly brilliant especially during the forever classic train-stopping sequence. Raimi allowed Tobey to be just a young man with extraordinary abilities and with that it became pure magic.
Probably the most noticeable improvement from this film to the last was that Raimi was able to maintain his tone throughout. That alone makes “Spider-Man 2” superior to its predecessor.
The flaw in this sequel is that the middle does tend to drag some as Raimi focuses more on the relationships between the characters than the action of being a superhero. The relationships are heartwarming, deep and interesting but dwelling so much on them takes away from the flow of the film. We are here to see the hero not the drama between.
“Spider-Man 2” is a giant leap forward for the franchise and the evolution of “Spider-Man” but I have to say I still think “X2: X-Men United” is still the best modern superhero film thus far. The reason being is that it maintained the humanity, passion, action and flow that makes superheroes and their world so much fun.
4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.