After the monster success of the first film, the idea of making a sequel was a no-brainer. Everyone was back on board for the next chapter to continue on with the story of Peter Parker and his balancing act being Spider-Man. Yet, the stakes seem higher in Spider-Man 2 with a new villain in the form of Doc Ock wrecking havoc on Manhattan and Harry Osborn growing more in anger finding the spider who “killed” his father.
Did I mention Peter also loses his powers at one point? This movie did not hold back.
Mild-mannered Peter Parker, once again played by Tobey McGuire, is trying to get through his life with a job. Of course, he is constantly getting fired, being late to class and restless due to his hero work. Parker is still fawning over Mary Jane Watson aka MJ, played by Kirsten Dunst, who has actually achieved her goal of being a model and actress.
Parker promises to make up for his lack of schoolwork by doing his report for Dr. Curt Connors’ class, played by Dylan Baker in a ‘wink and nudge’ role, on a nuclear fusion experiment by Dr. Otto Octavius, played by Alfred Molina. Through Harry Osborn, played by James Franco, Parker is able to met with Dr. Octavius in a meeting. In this meeting, Parker learns not just about the dynamic force of romance through Octavius and his wife, but of his own brilliance and laziness.
Meanwhile, Parker tries to make MJ’s performances in The Importance of Being Ernest. MJ does not accept Peter’s shortcomings and moves on to J. Jonah Jameson’s kid John Jameson, played by Daniel Gillies. By moving on, MJ means the two are engaged to be married.
Parker witnesses Octavius perform his experiment with ease and four tentacle-like mechanisms attached to his brain to harness a solar nuclear fusion ball. The ball becomes unbalanced to cause destruction, kill Octavius’ wife and make the tentacles become one with him. Parker rapidly changes to Spidey mode to face off Doc Ock and save the day…somewhat. Doc Ock escapes and proceeds to start a life of crime to build a replication of his equipment and his dream project.
As Parker goes about his routine, his mind starts to be drowned in over thinking that it clouds the strength of his powers. Parker sees this as a sign to give up the game as a hero and go about a life of normalcy. Parker sees Aunt May, played by Rosemary Harris, and blames the death of Uncle Ben on himself. Aunt May forgive Parker and gives Peter the strength to become Spider-Man.
Meanwhile, Doc Ock is ready to make a deal with Osborn in order to acquire Tritium. The deal includes getting the item, but in return giving him the life of Spider-Man. This builds into a fight on a train against Spider-Man and Doc Ock in which, despite giving his best effort, Parker does get his ass laid out to be delivered to Osborn. Osborn is ready for the kill and takes off the mask to see Parker’s face. Osborn is stunned even though Parker ensures him that he did not kill his father. Osborn gives up the location of Octavius after Parker convinces him that Doc Ock is going to cause more harm than good.
Parker heads over to Octavius’ location where he has taken a hold of MJ hostage. Parker tries to reason with Octavius in a bitter fight and shows him who really is behind the mask. This allows Octavius to give up on his vision and drown into the Hudson River with it. Parker and MJ escape as Doc Ock drowns. MJ knows that Parker is Spider-Man and ditches John at the alter to run toward him the next day. MJ tells Parker to “Go get ’em, tiger” and Parker swings in the skies.
Spider-Man 2 stills holds up as a top notch superhero film with amazing performances, spectacular action and superior storytelling.
Molina as Doc Ock impresses with a heart of gold and intelligence in his performance. He is a man obsessed with his own dream unrealized and it shows in the weight of his role. Mcguire becomes a stronger performer under the mask and really hones in being Spider-Man. He shows his strength in being both the hero and the everyman. Everyone else is just a notch above their original performances.
The action ups the original by giving a bigger and broader spectrum. The train scene alone combines martial arts, wire fu and pure action in a set piece that rivals others. Another highlight is the fight on the side of a building with Raimi showing the audience the scale of the battle by following the action as it goes up and down the building.
The story is excellent with Parker struggling tobw grrater than what he is and dealing with the possibility of failure and hatred by others. It gives the film humanity and grounds it in reality, despite the “powers gone” part not really making a whole lot of sense.
Spider-Man 2 is a grand sequel and, arguably, the best film of the trilogy. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the next film in the trilogy.