Tobey Maguire - Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Kirsten Dunst - Mary Jane Watson
James Franco - Harry Osborn
Alfred Molina - Dr. Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus
J.K. Simmons - J. Jonah Jameson
Rosemary Harris - May Parker
Daniel Gillies - John Jameson
Dylan Baker - Dr. Curt Connors
Year - 2004
Score - 4 Howls Outta 4
After the worldwide success of the first Spider-Man film, you knew a sequel was inevitable. Not that I (or anyone else) complained since Spider-Man was one of the best superhero movies ever put to film. The hype became greater when Doctor Octopus was named the villain of the film, as well as rumors of Harry Osborn learning about his father's role as the Green Goblin in the previous film, eventually leading to his try as the Goblin [probably what I was most excited about]. The film was done in short notice [a little under 2 years] and the dates for released kept being moved time and time again. Massive hype and expectations were on hand. Was Spidey 2 going to continue the greatness of the original? Not only did it continue it, it topped it.
Two years after the first film, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) struggles with his decision to sacrifice his love for Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) to take on the responsibility to be Spider-Man. He's getting fired from jobs, lives in a crappy one room apartment, fails to do his homework or make it to class on time -- it also doesn't help when he finds out that MJ is engaged to J. Jonah Jameson's (J.K. Simmons) son, astronaut John (Daniel Gilles)...as well as his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) taking out his bitterness and anger out on him because Peter's allegiance to Spider-Man, the man Harry believes murdered his father. All of this begins to take its toll on Peter, as the stress of these burdens affects negatively on his powers. Wanting to live a normal life again, Peter decides to hang up his Spider-Man duds and quits the superhero game.
While this is happening, one of Peter's idols, scientist Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), has a science experiment go awry that fuses his 4 artificial metal arms to his mind and body. This creates Peter's new nemesis, Doctor Octopus, who wants to create a bigger version of the past experiment to satisfy his hunger for power. Peter becomes Spider-Man again to save the lives of his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and MJ from Doc Ock, not realizing that Ock and Harry have formed a loose partnership to destroy Spider-Man.
Spider-Man 2 is to Spider-Man what The Empire Strikes Back is to Star Wars - a sequel that surpasses the original in ways one could never deem possible. Everything's bigger, badder, and more intense in Spider-Man 2. The characters from the first one begin to evolve as they struggle with living double lives, while Spidey has a doppelganger in Doc Ock, who doesn't seem to understand that "Great Power Comes With Great Responsibility" until it's too late. Plus the love story is on full display here, as Peter and MJ make big decisions about their relationship as their secrets soon come to the surface. Sam Raimi directs Spider-Man 2 in a way that makes the movie seem epic and majestic, while mixing it with his unique style of visual storytelling. The direction of Spider-Man's web-slinging, the bigger action sequences, and the interaction between all the major players is more impressive than it was in the first film. I loved how some scenes seemed to come out of The Evil Dead so to speak, like the hospital scene with Doc Ock murdering the operating staff [was that a chainsaw I saw? Ash, we miss you!] and random women screaming at the camera like they're in a horror film. And who can forget that "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" montage after Peter stops being Spider-Man? Funny stuff. Raimi is definitely more comfortable in his abilities than he was in the last film, moving the story along with suspense, drama, and his own humor as well. I personally believe this is Sam Raimi's finest directorial work, and he's done alot of fantastic stuff over the years. Can't give enough kudos to the man.
The acting is also better here than it was in the original, as the principal cast seem more comfortable in their roles. Tobey Maguire was made to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He continues to give the character a sympathetic feel to the audience, making us care when he struggles with the life he has no choice but to lead. His chemistry with Kirsten Dunst and Rosemary Harris is wonderful here, as you get a great sense of the love and family they share with each other. Maguire also has great chemistry with James Franco too, as you believe the strain of their friendship over Peter's secret as Spider-Man. And when Harry does find out, you feel a sense of betrayal that makes you wanna know what's gonna happen next. Maguire carries this film gracefully and is the heart and soul of the movie. Kirsten Dunst plays a great MJ here [wish I could say the same for part 3 but I'll get to that in the next review] and you sympathize with her as well when she struggles over her feelings for Peter. Every scene with the two together is magical and you want nothing but to see the two together. Plus I love her face at the end of the film when she decides to be with Peter, knowing he's Spider-Man. You get a sense of unsureness from her that comes across well on screen. Alfred Molina was a pleasure as Doc Ock. He didn't play the egotistical and evil Doc Ock from the comics, but for the film, a more human Doc Ock was necessary to show the opposite of what Peter was dealing with as Spider-Man. Peter didn't want the power, but Octopus did - and it showed the consequences of both. Molina is a fine actor and was a great Doctor Octopus. He wasn't in the film much unfortunately but when he was, he was fantastic. I'm sure we'll see him again [I refuse to believe his ending was final - it's assumed]. James Franco gets more to do in this film and does it well. He can brood with the best of them and his bitterness towards Peter is believable. I also think he had great reaction shots when he discovers Spider-Man's identity, as well as his father's Green Goblin stash. He definitely deserved a bigger role in part 3 [where I think he was the best actor of the bunch]. Rosemary Harris is the perfect Aunt May, being overprotective yet motherly at the same time. Every film needs someone to play the conscience, and she does it well. And J.K. Simmons still cracks me up as Jameson. The man was made to play the role and I'm very happy he got a bigger role compared to the original.
The CGI was also a lot more believable here compared to the original. Yes, there were some cartoonish parts somewhat, but I think it fit the feel of the film because it didn't really take itself seriously most of the time. Spider-Man swinging over New York City never looked better and his fights with Doc Ock [especially that train sequence] were amazing to watch. I also loved the tentacles of Doc Ock, as they each had a mind of their own. Great special effects work there and pretty much all around.
THE FINAL HOWL
Here's a sequel that is better than the original. Everyone seems to have stepped up their game and provide the audience with a story we can all relate to and love. Great plot, great villain, great set-up for part 3, great CGI and action - Spider-Man 2 is the perfect comic book sequel and, in my opinion, the best superhero film ever made. This one has a lot of heart. Definitely recommended if you haven't seen it for whatever reason if you like Spider-Man or just a great film in general. Spider-Man 2 is definitely hard to top, as part 3 would show...