Sam Raimi has once again raised the bar for superhero films and summer blockbusters, this time to the top of a skyscraper where only spider-men dare to crawl.
It’s been two years since Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) was bitten by a radioactive spider and became the spectacular Spider-Man, but it isn’t just J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) and the Daily Bugle’s newspaper coming down on Spidey this time. Being a superhero and ready for action has started to take its toll on Peter’s real life: his grades are slipping, he can’t hold a part time job, and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is starting to move on with her life. If all the day-to-day tribulations weren’t enough, a new supervillain is on the loose in New York, but is the city really in enough danger to keep Spidey swinging from the skyscrapers and Peter Parker away from the life he’s always dreamed of?
If the above synopsis sounds a bit heavy in the plot, good! It is, and that’s before all the twists and turns. The hallmark of Marvel Comics characters, especially Spider-Man, has been portraying them as human first; being a superhero was something they did, not completely who they were. On the flip side, DC Comics (a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Bros.) have always been about the hero we all see in costume, such as Batman and Superman. While the first outing for Spider-Man spent equal time with the Green Goblin, this sequel does the Wallcrawler right and delves more into why Spider-Man keeps doing the hero thing and what he’s really willing to give up to do it.
As a feature filmmaker, Spider-Man 2 is the culmination of director Sam Raimi’s previous work to date; a superhero film that touches on multiple levels and genres. Like X2, this sequel could not exist without the previous groundwork already set down in the original film, but it has already become unimaginable that any other director could make Spidey work this well and look this good. Personal moments of revelation between characters are honestly balanced with epic sequences of superpowered beings locked in combat, and the transition is seamless. The sequel exceeds the original while building up all aspects of the story.
Tobey Maguire has become Peter Parker (and his alter-ego) in his portrayal so effortlessly that he sells it completely; Tobey is Spider-Man like Arnold Schwarzenegger is Conan the Barbarian, totally and completely. Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius is dead on and yet manages to bring a human factor to a megalomaniac villain; this Doc Ock is interesting, motivated, and yet still sympathetic. Rosemary Harris as Peter’s Aunt May is not only perfectly cast in her performance but also adds an overdue spunk to her character. While I have no problem with Kirsten Dunst as an actress, she just isn’t a very interesting Mary Jane Watson; the sequel makes it obvious to ‘true believers’ just how miscast she really was to begin with, but the average audience member likely won’t notice.
Toward the end, the running time seems a bit stretched as the film slips a little into the future, but fans of Raimi’s work will see this as a return to form, giving the audience a small glimpse into where he’d like to go with everything. One thing is certain: when Sony fits the bill for a third Spider-Man film, they’d better give Raimi whatever he wants to do it, because the kind of money this film is going to make will ensure the next film will have people lined up around the block to see it first.
(a four skull recommendation out of four)
[…] As the sixth movie that started with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002, there have been three incarnations of arguably the world’s most popular superhero. Tobey Maguire nailed milksop Parker but in an older way… plus we got the origin story we all know. After three films, Andrew Garfield took over the hero role in the not-so-soft reboot The Amazing Spider-Man; Parker seemed older than ever yet more athletic as well, but Sony’s rush to jump-start their franchise into multiple films fell flat (are you paying attention, Universal?) With relative-newcomer Tom Holland’s high-schooler take on the Wallcrawler and superhero veteran Michael Keaton trading his batsuit in for an actual flying rig, can the MCU breathe new life into an beaten-down and bloated spider? Short answer: hells yes, true believers! There are three things most critics already agree upon responsible for making Homecoming as amazing as it is: Tom Holland is Spider-Man, Michael Keaton is The Vulture, and the story draws continuity from everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the casting is pitch perfect, it’s the latter that makes it all work. Fans be warned: liberties have been taken, and all is not as you remember it as Spidey’s world melds back into Marvel, but it does make sense on how key points are re-worked — and thank the Guardians of the Galaxy it’s not another origin story. Minor changes aside, this is the best Spidey movie to date — yeah, including the one with Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. […]
[…] elements from two of Sony’s earlier Spidey series, especially since the villain from arguably best entry of all eight films is front and center as an immediate reminder of treading over the same […]