Spider-Man 2 2004
If anyone else is thinking about rewatching all three of the Spider-Man movies before going out to see the new one, I would really recommend watching them in reverse order. Going from Spider-Man 3 to Spider-Man 2, it’s hard to believe that they were made by all the same people. They feel like such completely different types of movies. Where Spider-Man 3 was filled with action setpieces, fan service villains, and bland love triangles, yet feels empty and lifeless. Spider-Man 2 however still has a fan service villain, but only one of them, a love triangle, but only one of them, and still manages to come up with exciting action sequences. Overall, Spider-Man 2 has the heart that Spider-Man 3 is completely missing, even though the third movie tries to replicate it with the Sandman, but fails due to not enough screen time. Aside from a few minor moments, I enjoyed this movie from start to finish. It’s one of the superhero movies done right.
The basic concept centered around the entire movie is the quote at the heart of Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility”. And in this movie, Peter Parker questions that responsibility and doubts his powers. Being Spider-Man takes its toll on his personal life, his grades are dropping, his personal life is suffering, and to top it all off, he’s struggling financially. Because of all the stress, his super powers start failing him. And as his powers start failing, he decides that he’s better off without them. But, as things tend to happen, circumstances get in the way and force him to retake his mantle as New York’s protector.
One of the first things that I like so much about this movie is how much it digs into Peter Parker’s problems leading a double life. His life is falling apart, and he looks like he hasn’t slept in weeks. Then there’s the issue of the financial hardships both he and his Aunt May are facing. She’s worried about foreclosure on her house, and he’s… ok, Parker’s financial difficulties aren’t really shown to be real hardships, they’re mostly played off as jokes between his landlord chasing him for his rent money and J Jonah Jameson’s secretary mentioning that his pay doesn’t even cover the advance she already gave him. But Aunt May’s difficulties feel much more real, especially the scene at Peter’s birthday party where she forces him to take the twenty dollars that she really can’t afford to give him. But it’s not just her financial hardships that make her a big part of the heart of this movie, but there’s also a really emotional scene where Peter tells her most of the truth of what happened when his Uncle Ben died. You would expect her to comfort him and tell him that it wasn’t his fault, but instead she pulls away from him. I hate to bring up number three once again, but it felt so forced and unsympathetic when the Sandman was revealed to be Uncle Ben’s true killer, but when this movie rehashes that moment it feels much more real and heartfelt.
The other big thing this movie has going for it is a much stronger love story. Even though there is a love triangle, it’s not really set up that way. Mary Jane’s other man in this movie never really feels like Peter Parker’s rival, he’s more of an obstacle, an excuse for Mary Jane to not be with Peter. He’s not given much personality, but I don’t think the movie really suffers for it, he serves his purpose as being the one that’s there for MJ when Peter isn’t. It’s tough to see the moments they have when essentially Spider-Man is the only thing that’s coming between them. The only moment that I really thought was unnecessary was the scene with MJ in her wedding dress. But aside from that one moment, I thought they had the best chemistry together in this movie.
Even the villain in this movie has a lot of sympathy. Doctor Otto Octavius, or Doc Ock, who was probably the most popular Spider-Man villain next to Venom, and in this movie he’s very similar to Peter and Doctor Conners. He’s genius level smart, and very friendly to Parker the first time they meet. But as with many Spider-Man villains, a tragic scientific experiment gone wrong turns him into a supervillain. Alfred Molina does a wonderful job playing both the amicable Dr. Octavius and the unstable Doc Ock. I especially thought it was nice to see director Sam Raimi’s horror side come out a little bit in the hospital scene, even if it was toned down for a PG audience. The only thing I didn’t really care for too much was the whole artificial intelligence of the robotic arms fighting for control against Octavius’s human intelligence. I thought it could have just as easily been handled by the fact that he just snapped when he lost his wife during the experiment.
The other pseudo-villain in this movie is Harry Osborne, which I thought was really the weakest part of the movie. Though it could partly be because the way it ends in the third movie sours me on the entire arc. Throughout this movie he spends most of his time sulking over the loss of his father and the fact that he believes that Spider-Man is the one responsible, all the while not realizing that Peter is in fact the same person. He supposedly goes through a downward spiral beginning with the heavy financial loss suffered at the hands of Dr. Octavius’s massive failure. But he mostly just mopes around and drinks. The whole arc just feels too long and drawn out, it would have made more sense if he had stumbled onto his father’s lab much earlier in the movie even though I am glad that they didn’t try to tack on a second villain in this movie.
The only other thing I thought was somewhat lacking in this movie is that some of the special effects in the action scenes don’t hold up as well as they used to. But that’s a pretty minor complaint in a very solid movie, and I didn’t even mention the amazing train sequence. I’m also glad that they never had a single fight scene with a mask torn to pieces, they just find excuses to remove the mask completely. I’m ready to go back to the beginning and see Sam Raimi’s version of the origin story before moving onto Marc Webb’s version. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.