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SPIDER-MAN 2 (PG-13) (2004)

Sony Pictures

Official Site

Director: Sam Raimi

Producers: Avi Arad, Laura Ziskin

Written by: Michael Chabon and Alfred Gough & Miles Millar, Alvin Sargent

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce Campbell, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Vanessa Ferlito

 Rating:


You know once upon a time heroes just saved the day and that was it. Superman, Dick Tracy, Rin Tin Tin-these heroes acted out of an instinctive nobility, and were admired for it. What they did at the end of the day, while almost certainly wholesome, was usually none of our concern. Nowadays your average hero is pretty much a basket case, the vast majority of them suffering from some sort of unreconciled psychological trauma. Of course it was Batman who set the neurotic standard for today's hero. While the original comic book character was little more than Zorro with a bat logo, writers like Frank Miller and director Tim Burton crafted him into a haunted figure. Driven by personal demons, he sublimates his grief into masked vigilantism. He was truly a hero for the modern age, in that he was more fucked up than the audience. Since Batman we've seen a whole slew of fucked up heroes (Blade, Wolverine, The Punisher). In the movies, I'd say the self-conscious superhero trend reached its apex with Ang Lee's ponderous, overlong adaptation of the Hulk.

Of course Spider-Man (Maguire) isn't as grim as some masked crime fighters, but Peter Parker certainly does have his fair share of issues, and it seems he hasn't made much progress on them since the first film. He's exhausted by his double life as Spider-Man and Peter Parker and still weighing dead Uncle Ben's dictum "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" against the desire for normalcy. And bear in mind that normalcy entails finding perfect love with the girl next door/model Mary Jane (Dunst). Of course comicdom rarely operates on existential principles, so as you might expect Peter doesn't really have much of a choice when it comes to whether or not to be Spider-Man. Actually it would seem that With Great Power Comes Really Terrible Luck, as circumstances have a way of putting Peter Parker's loved ones in the way of criminally insane scientists, in this case, one with giant metal tentacles.

In fact Dr. Otto Octavius (Molina) is one of the most recommendable things in the film. Every hero needs a good villain, and even Spider-Man's most ardent fans, if pressed, will admit that Spider-Man's classic Rogue's Gallery is not really so classic (a few examples: The Vulture, an old man with a flying Vulture costume; Mysterio, a magician with a crystal ball on his head; and of course Paste Pot Pete, a loser with a souped-up caulking gun). So here's where the magic of CGI really does the job and turns another nerdy one-dimensional Spider-Man villain into one the most impressive-looking movie villains in quite some time. And no doubt it will be the fantastic action scenes that you come away from Spider-Man 2 remembering. They come closer than any I've seen before to capturing the exciting visuals of the comic books.

As for the rest of the film, well you've seen it before. Peter's pines for MJ and feels guilty about Uncle Ben. The insufferable Aunt May (Harris), the squishy moral core of the Spider-Man universe, spews forth advice. MJ is torn between Peter and another man. MJ is yet again captured by another villain. Like the first one, Spider Man 2 has a threadbare, perfunctory plot that offers hardly any surprises. So for the third Spider-Man-and yes, we're left quite sure that there'll be a third installment-I do hope they concentrate more on plot and less on character development. I think I've had about as much superhero angst as I can take. Still it's a superior genre film, well acted (particularly good is J.K. Simmons' comic turn as J. Jonah Jameson) and Raimi's has done a superb job adapting the visual style of the comic book. Probably the popcorn film of the summer.

-Edward Rholes

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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