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
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.
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...