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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 Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

A sequel that is better than the original is quite unusual in the world of motion pictures. Sure, there is the occasional bad movie whose sequel manages to be decent, with THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and its sequel 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS being recent such examples. People tend to give THE GODFATHER and its sequel THE GODFATHER: PART II as one of the examples of a wonderful movie whose sequel was even better, but I've never been quite sure if I agree. They are both so brilliant that it's hard to believe that the second is somehow superior.

On Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN, however, I am quite positive that its sequel, SPIDER-MAN 2, far surpasses its predecessor. The original was a thoroughly enjoyable but uneven film. The first half was spectacular, full of imagination and wit, but the second half dissolved into a typical action picture in which the stunts and the special effects took center stage, relegating the story to an almost hidden side stage.

There are no such problems with SPIDER-MAN 2, which is magical and captivating from start to finish. Although there is plenty of action for even the most restless viewers, what makes this version special is Alvin Sargent's terrific script, which is romantic and touching. It's definitely the best date movie of the year. Ok, at least so far.

Tobey Maguire is back as Spider-Man, a.k.a. Peter Parker. In another charming and compelling performance, Maguire makes a superhero for everyone to love and care about. His Spider-Man suffers sporadic performance problems -- he can't get his web up. And when Spider-Man has to stop a speeding train, Maguire makes this impossible task seem difficult, dangerous and painful, something that most actors playing action heroes never quite pull off convincingly.

Peter is in a real quandary. He is head-over-heels in love with Mary Jane Watson but doesn't dare reveal his emotional attachment, lest his love for her cause her to be harmed by his long list of enemies. Still, he thinks strongly about quitting his secret job so that he can be with the girl he loves, especially after she starts dating a hunk of a moon-walking astronaut, John Jameson (Daniel Gillies), the son of Peter's editor, Jonah (J.K. Simmons), the movie's funniest character. As before, a fetching Kirsten Dunst plays Mary Jane, a vulnerable woman who can't have Peter, the man she loves, for reasons she doesn't understand.

As one of the best screen villains in some time, Alfred Molina plays Dr. Otto Octavius, a good scientist whose own invention turns him evil, earning him the moniker of Doc Ock by Jonah's tabloid. With four long mechanical arms that look something like snakes, Doc Ock can climb buildings and can throw punches that really pack wallops. Unless Spider-Man can stop him, he may destroy New York City, and, probably even worse in Spider-Man's eyes, kill Mary Jane.

The movie is quite funny with some great visuals, including the time that Peter learns not to wash his white sox along with his Spider-Man costume. We see Peter's disappointment at the Laundromat when he realizes that his colorful uniform has bled onto his sox. The opening, too, is really cute as Peter has less than ten minutes to deliver pizzas or he will lose his job and his employer won't be paid for the pizzas. Think Spider-Man will be able to get them there on time?

SPIDER-MAN 2 is great entertainment and a movie so good that you hope jaded Academy members will consider it for an Oscar nomination, even if it's "just" a movie based on a comic strip.

SPIDER-MAN 2 runs 2:07. It is rated PG-13 for "stylized action violence" and would be acceptable for kids around 8 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 15, who loved the first SPIDER-MAN, liked this one even better. He said that there was much more emotional power to the sequel, which he thought built nicely on the previous one. He said it was an edge-of-the-seat film in which there was better action, even if there was less of it.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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