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Movie Review: Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Alvin Sargent from a screen story by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and Michael Chabon from the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Sony, 2004

Two years after the original, Spider-Man 2 kicked off the summer of 2004 with a film that is still one of the best action pictures of the decade. Sam Raimi went unleashed with this, and we had yet another rich storyline.

In the sequel, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is having a hard time balancing his normal life and being Spider-Man. He’s getting fired from jobs, he can’t pay the rent, he’s having trouble keeping up with college, and even worse, he can’t seem to be there for the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), who really wants to be with him but has been frustrated by his inability to snap out of whatever is holding him back. And of course, Peter can’t tell her the truth.

His friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) is trying to follow in his now-dead father’s footsteps with Oscorp. He has a deal in the works, providing brilliant scientist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) with the radioactive isotope tritium, which is going to be used to make an energy source rivalling the sun. Octavius needs to attach an apparatus to his spine with four long arms, complete with artificial intelligence that will connect to his brain, in order to work with the dangerous substance. It has the great comic book invention of an “inhibitor chip” that will keep the contraption from taking over his mind.

Of course, things go wrong and the worst nightmare occurs: the tritium is too strong and dangerous, Otto becomes Dr. Octopus, being controlled by his machine and looking to find any way to make his lifelong dream a reality. He needs a new lab, and he needs more tritium. He goes to Harry, who agrees to give Doc Ock the tritium if he kills Spider-Man. Harry is still more than a little angry at Spidey for killing his father, which will come to a head in the next installment.

Parker starts losing his powers for reasons he can’t explain, but finds life a little easier to manage once he doesn’t need to fight crime. He’s even about to win Mary Jane’s trust back, and she’s ready to leave her fiance John (Daniel Gillies), son of Daily Bugle chief J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). But Parker begins to realize that his life, though easier to manage, isn’t satisfactory, and he’s back on the path to being Spider-Man again and is about to let Mary Jane down one more time until Doc Ock swoops in to kidnap her. Parker’s decision has been made. He has to use his power to save the world, regardless of the personal pain it causes.

Once again, a great story. And it’s got some incredible action sequences, including one on a train that is just amazing from start to finish. Raimi also returns to his old Evil Dead days when he shows Doc Ock come alive on an operating table: the rapid zooms, unusual camera angles, and editing are all classic Raimi. He even manages to put a chainsaw in the scene, which should satisfy most Evil Dead fans. He doesn’t really stop there, as the film is full of his own style.

Spider-Man 2 made my top 10 list in 2004, a year that remains a record for box office receipts, thanks in part to three films entering into the all-time domestic top 10 (those were #3 Shrek 2, Passion of the Christ (now #11), and this film, currently ranking #10). Spider-Man 2 made a little over $370 million and was the second-top grosser behind Shrek 2.

Follows: Spider-Man

Next: Spider-Man 3

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