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Spider-Man 2

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Spider-Man 2

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst
Director: Sam Raimi
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action

*Also starring: Alfred Molina, Bruce Campbell, James Franco, Elizabeth Banks, J.K. Simmons, Joanne Baron, Dylan Baker, Rosemary Harris, Ted Raimi, Daniel Dae Kim

Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

"Spider-Man 2," though a box-office blockbuster if ever there was one, has taken on the favorite theme of the indies: coming- of-age/identity crisis. The title character's big question is: would I rather marry the love of my life, get better grades in college and be on time for my job as pizza delivery man, or fly through the air with the greatest of ease whenever I hear police sirens and remain an anonymous super hero? What's missing in the conflict is an understanding of just why New York's finest cannot do their jobs without Spidey's help. Strangely enough, crime shoots up 75% when the hero throws in his costume for what he considers the last time, starts answering questions in his Columbia University physics class, and begins to turn around his girl friend who, despite being engaged to a rich, handsome lad has second and third thoughts about going through with the ceremony.

It helps quite a bit that the girlfriend in question is the ubiquitous Kirsten Dunst, here in the role of off-Broadway actress and perfume poster model Mary Jane Watson and the love of her life is Tobey Maguire in the dual role of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. No-one has the slightest idea that Parker is in reality a super-hero but all his deeds of derring-do have become compulsive. Couldn't he have a happier life if he hung up his costume and became a normal guy with good grades and best friend of his aging Aunt May (Rosemary Harris)?

What makes the sequel better than the original is that we in the audience are more aware of how limited Peter Parker really is. We can identity with a guy who is failing his courses, who is fired for consistent lateness, and who is too shy to declare how he feels about the woman who considers him her best friend, and he can't even do a wash in the laundromat without ruining his clothes. His reversion to just plain Peter is frustrated when a physicist about whom he is writing a paper botches an experiment in the production of cheap energy. Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) becomes a reluctant villain when four tentacles he has fused to his spine have taken on lives of their own, beyond his control. Like Spider-Man, Doc Ock is able to scale skyscrapers, but while Spidey uses his power instantly to weave powerful webs, Doc Ock drives his tentacles into brick walls. In addition to fighting off this villain, Peter must also deal with the hostility of his rich friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), who blames Spider-Man for the death of his father.

If there's one quality that makes this somewhat overlong pic soar above other CGI productions, it's the ability of director Sam Raimi to interest the audience equally in the down-to-earth dialogues perhaps even more than in the scaling of buildings and the tossing of police cars about the city. The rapt audience at the SRO screening I attended appeared riveted even to such adult matters as Aunt May's problems with her mortgage. The talk family conferences between May and Peter and the romantic interludes between Peter and Mary Jane came across as involving as the aerial exhibitions. Happily we do not have to say goodbye yet to Spidey as the ending virtually calls out for another sequel.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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