Published Jul 01, 2004"Watch out, here comes the Spider-Man," and everyone better watch out, as Spider-Man 2 is set to pick up where the original left off and dominate the competition and box office records. Some are calling SM2 the perfect "comic book" movie, and all hyperbole aside, while it may not be perfect, it is the best comic book adaptation made yet, and beyond that stands strong against any movie outside of the comic realm, be it action or drama.
With the origin story and character establishing now mainly out of the way, two is free of the constraints of exposition and able to dive right into the continuing plot. Picking up two years after the ending of the first, we find Peter Parker barely keeping up with the demands of "with great power and great responsibility," unable to keep jobs, appointments or attend class on time, and weary of being a hero. Mary Jane is now a famous, well, everything (actress, model, etc.) who despite her love for Peter, is tired of waiting and is now engaged. And Peter's best friend Harry has grown bitter and distant over his father's death and Spider-Man's role in it. While Aunt May is struggling with the financial difficulties and grief of carrying on without her husband.
In terms of the big bad, veteran actor Alfred Molina plays Spidey's next nemesis, Doctor Octopus, and he's excellent, both as the originally good scientist then as the insane Doc Ock (after a failed experiment, naturally), but the story revolves around Parker's personal problems, his struggle with whether to continue being Spider-Man or not, his decaying relationships and his guilt over the death of his uncle as much, if not more, than any fight with a villain. Although the fights, when they do happen, are frenetic, and the CGI effects have been kicked up a notch to match both Spidey's abilities and render the four extra mechanical limbs of Doc Ock.
Those familiar with Raimi's work with Bruce Campbell (who gets a nice cameo here as the "snooty usher") knows he loves to abuse his leading men, and he delights in both emotionally and physically tormenting Parker (and, by extension, Maguire), gaining our sympathies as it seems the entire world is against him and Spider-Man, and exploring the difficulties that most comics and movies about superheroes once ignored. That is, how being a superhero affects the day to day existence of the person behind the mask, which, in this case, is badly.
But Raimi isn't just about the torment, he's about the payoff at the end of the punishment, and while one left much unresolved, two deals with confrontations and revelations. Of course, the sub-plot where Spidey's powers come and go based on his dedication to being Spider-Man is annoying (he's either bit by the mutated spider or not) and there seems to be long stretches with little action and too much soul-searching, threatening the pacing of the film. But, unquestionably, Spider-Man 2 succeeds at nearly every level - as a comic book movie, as a drama, as an action movie - and is the series all other comic book movies should be measured against. (Columbia TriStar)