On a Swing And a Prayer (Spider-Man 2, 2004)

spider-man-2-posterSeriously…not the Amazing Spider-Man?  Not Spectacular Spider-Man?!  Despite the blandly titled Spider-Man 2…I sensed a trend for Marvel Movies.

The nice thing for the creative team was that they were not saddled with telling the origin story.  Instead, they were free to jump right in to start a new story.  And jump in they do-to Peter struggling to make ends meet with a job delivering pizzas by scooter.  Realizing he is running out of time for the delivery, he switches into his spider-duds and swings through the city.  He still fails to make the delivery on time…resulting in a chewing out from his boss.  We find out that while he still pines for MJ, she is engaged to J. Jonah Jameson’s son (an Astronaut).  Aunt May has fallen on hard times.  Peter and Harry’s friendship is strained, as Harry has become a vocal anti-Spider-Man type after seeing Spider-Man deliver his dead father to their penthouse.  His friendship with Mary Jane is stretched because he seems unreliable and unsupportive of her dreams.

On the other hand, Peter is thrilled when he is sent to take pictures at a press event for scientific hero of Parker’s- Dr. Otto Octavious (Alfred Molina).  He is showing his new potential energy source.  He also is showing off his “assistants”-a set of mechanical arms.  The experiment goes awry (as scientific experiments are want to do) and Spider-Man jumps into the fray.  Unfortunately, Otto is hospitalized and his wife killed in the turmoil.

The doctors find the arms fused to the Doctor’s body.  The arms wake up and attack the hospital staff and taking the Doctor with them.  Meanwhile, Peter is starting to have trouble with his powers, and is wanting to be done with Spider-Man.  Understandably, he is tired about how much that aspect of his life interferes with the rest of his life.  The arms apparently are driving Doc Ock a bit…crazy…he becomes obsessed with perfecting his experiment-not understanding that it is actually a destructive force.

The plot takes twists and turns, with Harry Osborne seeking Doctor Octopus’ help in catching Spider-Man, so he can take his revenge for his father’s death.Peter’s attempts at a regular life when his spider powers seem to be failing is handled nicely.

Sam Raimi really hit it out of the park here.  Spider-Man 2 has everything a good comic book movie requires.  It is exciting, funny, dramatic…when they announced the villain was Doctor Octopus, fans worried.  I am unsure why.  Spider-Man has a solid rogues gallery, second to Batman.  And Doctor Octopus is a classic villain.  And Spider-Man 2 beat all complaints into the ground.  The casting of Alfred Molina was perfect.  He manages to capture a wide range of character traits.  In the beginning he is a funny, genial.  Yet He becomes ominous and frightening.

Raimi reaches into his horror routes-especially in the hospital scene where Doc Ock’s arms violently come to life.  It is intense and pretty scary sequence that definitely sets a tone for the film for the danger Spider-Man will face.

Maguire turns in a pretty nice performance as Parker again.  And Kirsten Dunst does okay…but still lacks the real fire and spunk of the MJ in the comics.  MJ is to depressed and beaten down by life to feel like the character comics fans know.  Rosemary Harris’s performance as Aunt May is wonderful.  The costuming department deserves credit for making sure actors looked like they sprung from the pages.  Franco turns in a nice dark performance as Harry.

The writing for this film is much stronger than it’s predecessor.  There is a “New Yorkers Unite” moment that is so very well done.  After Spider-Man narrowly saves a train, the passengers save him.

Clearly, Raimi has a true love of the early Spider-Man books, and he shines with his choices in this installment.  He modernizes the characters without sacrificing why they work.  I was so pleased with this one that I could not wait for the third film.   If you are doing a second installment of a super-hero franchise?  You should watch this and X2.  If you just like super-heroes?  You should watch this and X2.

Of course, the most important aspect of the film is the presence of Community’s Joel McHale as “Bank Guy”.

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