Film review: Spiderman 2


Spiderman 2

Spiderman was one of my favourite superheros as a child, and not just because we both had the same first name (though that counted for a lot). Peter Parker was a real person struggling to deal with a normal life and a super-one, long before Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns made super heroes synonymous with psychology.

So it’s a pleasure to see Sam Raimi giving us films as rich as the source material, along with a playful sense of humour, the visual flair that first blew us away in Evil Dead, and a bunch of actors proving you don’t have to ham it up just because you spend a lot of the movie running around in primary colors or with four mechanical tentacles attached to your back. In fact, though the action scenes are incredible, it’s the subtlety of Tobey Maguire’s performance that defines the movie.

With Spiderman 2 Raimi, freed from the need to tell his back story, throws himself with obvious pleasure into making a classic Spidey tale. The film is a joy to watch from start to finish, and it feels like they had as almost as much fun making it; take for example some classic horror B-movie homage shots, the hilarious elevator scene, and the delight taken hammering in the pathetic state of Peter Parker’s life. Amazingly, the laugh-out-loud scenes are perfectly balanced by beautifully acted and emotional ones, some of which revel in the rich symbolism possible in this genre.

Watching a superhero blockbuster done so well throws into sharp relief how badly done they usually are. Spiderman 2 is a rollercoaster ride with action, emotion, laughs and, surprisingly, depth.

4 and a half web-slingers out of 5.

I, Robot

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anaglyph
    Jul 16, 2004 @ 22:33:02

    Yep, I agree, Spidey2 is a rip roarer. Much better than the first, with Raimi at his unfettered best. Not only does he manage to capture the flavour of the Marvel strip Spiderman, he also throws in plenty of self-referential humour (tips o’ the hat to Darkman, and a cute appearance by Bruce Campbell as an imperious and implacable usher for instance). Best of all, the film is that rarest of things these days: actually filmic.

    Alfred Molina is suitably unhinged as Doc Ock, and Tobey Maguire hits his stride in this film, giving hope to geeks everywhere that they might, in a just world, get the girl after all.

    I was puzzled by one scene – the landlord’s daughter and the cake. I’m not at all sure why it’s in the film. Is he setting up a female villain for S3? I certainly hope they’re not intending to bring Harry back as the Green Goblin to avenge his father. That would be unutterably dull.

    A few ropey visual effects, counterbalanced by some extraordinarily impressive ones, so that was OK. And the sound crew did a nice weighty job, although I think Spidey’s yahooing as he swings across the city is egregious and ruins somewhat the dignity of the Webbed One.

    I’m giving it 7 tentacles out of the allowable 8. A film that hits its mark with sticky precision.

  2. Anonymous
    Jul 21, 2004 @ 10:06:59

    Spidey is also my favourite comic book hero, and I generally agree that Raimi has captured the spider-angst of Peter Parker nicely. The effects are generally donewell, and any movie that can throw in a cameo from Bruce “The Chin” Campbell has got to be good. However, I do have a complaint – one of the “best” bits about the comics is that Spidey is a complete smartass when fighting – always making lousy jokes when battling the baddies. He doesn’t do this in the film, even though there were a number of opportunities. A couple of times I was just aching for him to say something corny, but he never did.

  3. UniversalHead
    Jul 21, 2004 @ 10:48:07

    Good points. It’s been a while since I read a comic and your comment about his wisecracks brought back memories.

    I was a bit thrown by the landlord’s daughter sequence too, but then just put it down to the scene being an illustration of the moment when Parker ‘lets people in’. I love your idea that she becomes a villain though. I was very disturbed that the Green Goblin will be back again as well. The question is, who were the other classic Spidey villains? Man, I’ve got to get down to the comic shop and see if I can find a good hardcover compilation. If only I hadn’t thrown ’em away …

  4. anaglyph
    Jul 26, 2004 @ 18:41:20

    It would be odd if they brought back the Green Goblin. He wasn’t popular with the fans in the first film and it seems to me that it would represent a step backwards to resurrect him. The scenes with Harry in S2 can be read merely as him becoming aware that his father was a bad guy after all, and as a result, that Peter is actually OK. We don’t know from S2 because we never see Harry again after that scene. It could be just a red herring. Or a green herring, perhaps.

    I remember a few Spiderman villains: Jack O’ Lantern; The Sandman and Kangaroo (!). I vaguely recall that he ran foul of Magneto too at one stage (or am I hallucinating that?). I don’t remember any female villains but surely there must have been some.

    Hang on – here’s a site devoted to Spidey villains (of course!);

    Yes, Magneto’s there and lots of others who I have no remembrance of at all. There are some girls: Shathra (goes by the alias of ‘Sharon’ … you go girl); Scorpia; Calypso (who sounds cool – a black girl with voodoo powers. She gets my vote.)

    None of them seems a natural match with Cake Girl.


  5. UniversalHead
    Aug 02, 2004 @ 16:28:57

    My vote’s in for Sandman. I found an excellent book all about Spiderman the other day, and I’d forgotten all about the gruff, criminal Sandman. Not only a special effects challenge, but a great character. Notice how interesting the old Spidey villains were?

    A lot’s happened since I stopped reading the comic though, and it doesn’t all look good … for example Spiderman changing (for a while) to an all-black costume which turned out to be a symbiotic alien being that tried to take him over … hmmm. Well, it must be hard to keep coming up with good stories for 30+ years.