Sam Raimi must have decided that having developed an almost perfect formula for Spider-Man that there would be little sense in changing it for Spider-Man 2. Subsequently the plotline is almost a blueprint of the original; once again a disgruntled Spidey eschews his powers, a local super-scientist turns super-villain and Spidey gets his ass kicked several times.
But perhaps that is the curse of the comic book; all superheroes are school nerds, downtrodden by day, superhero, to the same people who reject him, by night. And all super-villains are Nobel Prize winning standard scientists driven power-crazy by their amazing intellect or alternatively gain super powers as a result of a laboratory experiment that they trailed too soon, more often than not, on themselves.
It’s also of course a comic book staple that not all super-villains are actually evil. And this is the case with Dr Octopus who is only temporarily controlled by a malevolent force. In today’s climate of truly evil people, on screen and off, I thought it a genuinely poignant touch that he ultimately gained redemption.
The performances from Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are as close to perfect for this type of film as is necessary. The support from James Franco is, once again, very impressive. This is a guy who can really act and I look forward to seeing more of him in Spider-Man 3.
Alfred Molina more than does himself justice as Dr Octopus engendering the perfect balance of evilness and pathos. And J.K. Simmons as Jonah Jameson Editor of the Daily Bugle literally steals every scene that he’s in. The embodiment of a comic book character, from pulp to celluloid, the transition appears as though seamless.
Sam Raimi’s direction is confident and stylish especially in the imaginative fight scenes that I feel rival anything we’ve seen before. And cinematography wise special mention must go to the ‘spider-man no more’ segment where Peter Parker walks, almost struts, down the street, superhero-burden-free, to the strains of Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”. Delightfully conceived and beautifully shot; the camera pushing in closely with soft focus and colours a-blur it captures Peter’s carefree frame of mind perfectly. It leads onto an extended scene where Peter’s normal life begins to come together, until of course the inevitable re-call to his superhero duties.
At the end of the film I had enjoyed myself even more than when I saw the original which was an impressive film, in a year where many other comic book big screen adaptations were severely below par. Spider-Man 2’s budget really has taken this film to places where it’s predecessor couldn’t and the CGI is slicker too. Simply it’s another major triumph for Raimi and his team. If only they could all be this good.
4.5 stars out of 5