It’s been two years since the original Spiderman hit the silver screen , breaking box-office records and going on to become one of the most successful comic book adaptations of all time. Almost all the cast are back (even the dead ones – albeit in flashbacks and dreams) and with Sam Raimi back in the director’s chair the story continues with the same flavour of the first.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is not having a good time. On one hand he’s Spiderman, loved and loathed by the public and media respectively, with super abilities and skills that help him fight crime whilst swinging from the skyline. On the other hand his ‘real’ life is falling apart – Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is still the love of his life, shame she’s with someone else now; he is constantly tired and missing classes;, his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) is on the verge of bankruptcy; his best friend Harry (James Franco) despises the fact that Peter is ‘friends’ with Spiderman (who he still blames for killing his father); he’s also lost his job and more worrying his Spider abilities are starting to fail at the most inopportune moment.
All this pressure and stress forces Peter to question which he’d rather be – Peter Parker or Spiderman?
Despite his problems Peter meets and befriends someone who he has admired; the famous Dr Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina). Dr Octavius invites Peter to a demonstration of his experiment to replicate the power of the sun – an experiment that the good Dr hopes to prove that fusion can work as a cheap source of energy thus ending the global energy crisis.
Due to the extreme inherent dangers of such an experiment, Dr Octavius devises four powerful tentacles that are fused to his spine and have advanced artificial intelligence of their own. A microchip inhibitor prevents them from overriding his direct order from his brain and as a result Dr Octavius can control them as if they were his own limbs. This then allows him to handle the ‘power of the sun’ in the palm of his hand (or rather tentacles).
Unfortunately, during the dangerous experiment, the fusion fails and the resulting shockwave that course through the gentle Doctor destroy the inhibitor chip transforming the mild mannered scientist into Doc Ock, a fearsome fusion of man and machine who loses his sense of rationality and sanity. With his life’s work destroyed along side his reputation Doc Ock decides that he will rebuild the experiment on a greater scale.
There are a few complications in his plans such as the key ingredient is owned by Harry who only agrees to hand it over in trade for something he wants – Spiderman, alive, so that he Harry Osbourne can finally kill his fathers’ murderer.
The only way Dr Ock can find Spiderman is to seek out the one person who Harry believes has befriended the Web Slinger – Peter Parker, and the only way to get to Peter Parker is through the ones he loves.
Spiderman 2 is a much more complete film than the first which spent far too long setting the characters up. The first of most comic adaptations films are forced to introduce the main characters background and development into superheroes, but then these films are cut loose on the second outing to concentrate on developing more diverse storylines (examples of such films are Superman 2, X-Men2, and err….Death of the Incredible Hulk which are better than their predecessors).
Spiderman 2 does parallel some of the same characteristics of Superman 2 such as the hero turning away from his calling to have a life of his own. The question of what is it really like to be a superhero and is it all it’s cracked out to be is pivotal. Spiderman could have easily been fighting three intergalactic prisoners banished from the planet Krypton as opposed to Doc Ock as far as the story is concerned.
Tobey Maguire seems much more comfortable this time round as Spiderman (and more believable). The best bits of his performance are the smaller poignant scenes such as revealing his part in his uncle’s death to the still grieving Aunt May and his internal dilemma to either be Spiderman or have a life of his own. Kirsten Dunst is still annoying as Mary Jane Watson and what Peter Parker sees in her is a mystery. Her character comes across as a selfish chore who’d rather concern herself with Peters attendance to her plays than his feelings when announcing her engagement. Outstanding, however, is Alfred Molina as the maniacal Doc Ock and it was a wise casting choice to have a versatile actor such as Molina playing the role rather than a bigger named star (a lesson that the casting people of Batman And Robin should have realised before casting Schwarzenegger). Molina brings panache to the villainous role and yet still have a touch of warmth when required. He is after all a good man who becomes evil, yet never lets go of his own humanity.
The special effects are much better this time round for the most part. Raimi has even managed to get rid of the annoying non-moving mask that Spiderman was plagued with in the first film making it look like he was speaking without moving his jaw. The metal tentacles of Doc Ock are just too damn cool and react as if alive, doing double takes, responding with violence one minute before almost lovingly removing bandages from their host the next and as a result they become characters in their own right. There are a few ropey moments such as the awful last tracking shot with two of the worst ever CGI helicopters stuck into the shot – why even bother? Luckily the battle on top of the train makes up for it with the tentacled one going mano-e-mano against the web slinger with no holds barred.
Overall Spiderman 2 manages to take the franchise to the next step and even though there are a few too many in-jokes and winks at the fan boy geeks, it looks like the next one will have much more to live up against. This film has set up perfectly a number of potential villains including Peter’s teacher Dr Connor (The Lizard), MJ’s fiancé who is an astronaut (Venom) and Harry Osborn (who might either understand why Spiderman killed his father or he might take his father’s place as the next Goblin). It waits to be seen.
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