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The Vault: Entry 9 - 'Spider-Man 2' Review

By Jack Ransom June 30, 2024
Spider Man 2
“I believe there’s a hero in all of us that keeps us honest, noble and finally allows us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the things we want the most. Even our dreams.”

The follow up to the genre defining and pop culturally iconic first film. Spider-Man 2 sees Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is beset with a myriad of troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant but destructive scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina).

Taking the established tone, New York City personality and the several memorable and distinct characters from 2 years prior, elevating them to even higher levels. The narrative focuses so heavily on the phrase that defines the character - “With great power, comes great responsibility.” - that it still remains an emotional, thrilling and dramatic powerhouse 17 years later.

Spider Man 2

The three act structure is so perfectly executed here to match Peter’s journey throughout the film. The sheer amount of consequences and barrage of bad luck Peter faces really emphasise just how much damage holding all this responsibility has to his life. The ‘Spider-Man No More’ mid-point balances levity and the inevitable seamlessly, which makes the ‘HE’S BACK’ even more satisfying and triumphant. Not only does Peter get a substantial arc, the film is paced so well that nearly all the main supporting players have significant character journeys and events that impact them and have repercussions on Peter himself.

It’s the small intimate moments that accentuate the bombastic action spectacle. Taking time with Peter interacting with his greedy landlord’s shy daughter, visiting his Aunt May, the Daily Bugle, a montage of his day to day life. All of these aspects help flesh out this version of New York and provide emotional weight, drama and comedy to the proceedings.

The CGI may have very noticeably aged in certain shots, but the film still looks spectacular. The swinging choreography accompanied with that Danny Elfman score never fails to give me chills and Doc Ock’s arms are still a seamless blend of practical and CGI work. The action sequences showcase Raimi’s direction in all its energetic glory. Ock’s multi-limbed operating table massacre is still a nightmarishly thrilling sequence with genius editing as Raimi gives his Evil Dead days a nod. The bank set piece following into Aunt May’s rescue is a stellar first meeting between hero and villain and obviously - “You have a train to catch.” is still a perfectly executed brawl that encompasses speed and slick choreography, before ending with a character defining save.

Spider Man 2

Casting is essentially perfect all around. Obviously there is nostalgia talking here as well, but Tobey Maguire will always be the best version of this character. His awkwardness, courage, wit and dedication perfectly sum up Peter Parker. Alfred Molina balances suave and sadistic as Doc Ock, as well as cutting a likeable and sympathetic figure prior to his transformation. Kirsten Dunst is given more to do here than being the ‘girl next door’ and her tangled web of love with Peter has maturity and consequences for them both. James

Franco ups the bitterness of Harry Osborn and Rosemary Harris’ line delivery and facial expressions as Aunt May can be both devastating and heart-warming. J.K. Simmons still might be the most perfect page to screen translation of a character and newcomers Mr. “Rent!” Ditkovich (Elya Baskin) and his daughter Ursula are welcome additions.

Spider-Man 2 is not only a perfect sequel and comic book film, it is simply a perfect film overall. Taking the groundwork laid by its predecessor and improving and building upon it in every way. The personal and dramatic stakes are higher and the consequences more severe. The action is intense, creative and fun. Raimi’s signature style and influences bleed through and the heart and spirit of the film beats so loudly.

Star Rating

Rating When Evil Lurks

Spider-Man 2 released in cinemas 20 years ago today


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