"I'm Spider-Man no more, no more"
Two years after his transformation into Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to balance the demands of being a super hero with a job and studying while these all impact on his personal life. His secret love Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is now a big hit on Broadway but after the open ended conclusion to their relationship at the end of Spider-Man, the two have since drifted apart. Peter is writing a paper about the scientist Dr. Octavius (Alfred Molina) and goes to the unveiling of his latest experiment. Things go wrong though and Octavius becomes attached to four tentacle like instruments and becomes Dr. Octopus, a villain hell bent on completing his experiments, even if they destroy the whole city.
If you read my review of Spider-Man then you’ll be aware of how bitterly disappointed I was with it. Thankfully Spider-Man 2 lived up to my memory and if anything exceeded it. The story is focussed on Peter Parker’s split lives and how he manages to cope with the responsibility of being Spider-Man. His relationship with Mary Jane is also at the centre and the will they/wont they or will they/can they nature of their relationship is played out in full. Peter’s relationship with other characters including his Aunt and friend Harry are also featured with the later continuing an obvious thread which leads to a third film.
The CGI is much better and more consistent than in the first film. It’s still a little patchy in places, namely when web slinging but the wonderful ‘spidey-cam’ makes up for that. There are some fantastic shots of Spider-Man in full swing as the camera moves all around him to give a great sense of space and movement. The effects still look a bit video game like in places but overall stand up well after eight years. Another area in which this film is an improvement over the first is in its tone. It manages to remain child friendly but is much darker and much, much funnier. The whole film feels much more relaxed and at ease with itself and the cast look more comfortable in their roles.
The action is also more intense and exciting than before. The subway ride scene still looks stunning and is a highlight. Another highlight is Alfred Molina’s performance as Dr. Octopus. He makes a tremendous villain and is a massive improvement on The Green Goblin. Tobey Maguire is still great as Spider-Man and as I said before, seems to be having more fun with the role while adding greater depth to the personal side of the hero. Kirsten Dunst gives another good performance and James Franco is more intense as Harry Osborn. Also improving is Rosemary Harris as Aunt May. I felt she was a bit off in the first film but is brilliant here, remaining deadpan in extraordinary situations.
The weakest part of the film for me is something that really bugged me during Spider-Man and that is the constant plot explanation. This isn’t exactly a difficult film to follow but there were constantly people shouting off camera things like “Spider-Man is going to drop her” or “The train is going to fast”. I thought it was unnecessary and made the dialogue feel clunky. Another problem was main characters talking to themselves, explaining the plot. It really isn’t needed.
Overall Spider-Man 2 is a marked improvement on Spider-Man, improving on that film in almost every way. It’s funnier and the action is improved while the CGI still looks fresh today.