Peter Parker’s complicated life goes on in Spider-Man 2. Juggling web slinging against his studies and his love life he finds himself confronted by a brilliant scientist who has had four super strong mechanical arms fused to his body in an accident which also manages to send him insane. Parker’s best friend’s attitude is also growing increasingly dark and hostile and he wants nothing more than to see Spider-Man dead.
Raimi and Spidey’s second outing benefits from hitting the ground running, leaving all that exposition origin stuff to the stylish comic book opening credits. The main characters have all moved on, Harry is now running the family business and has allowed his hatred of Spider-Man to consume him. Mary Jane has achieved success as an actress and gained the respect she always wanted whilst Aunt May has come to terms with losing her husband and has decided to move house. Peter, however, seems trapped in his dual identity, longing to share his secret with his unrequited love.
Such character development had been unusual in this type of film, preferring the derring-do to the everyday drama. This is the key to the film’s success. Taking its cue from part one, Spider-Man 2 expands on all the elements that worked so well and improves on them. None more so than its resident villain.
Alfred Molina is an inspired choice for the role of Dr. Otto Octavious. A character actor of note, Molina raises the level of the movie above the normal action fare with a performance filled with pathos and grit. After the terrible tragedy of his failed experiment, Octavious becomes vengeful and insane. He represents a real conundrum to our hero who idolises Octavious and genuinely wants to help him.
In amidst all of the drama are some breathtaking encounters between hero and villain. Improved special effects do full justice to the web slinging heroics and a fight on a speeding train lays claim to being one of the best action set pieces of the decade.
There is still not enough humour from the main man to satisfy the fan boys and Maguire seems to get a little too maudlin as the film plays out, but the final cliffhanger is tremendous and sets up the next part of the saga with aplomb.
Best performance: J. K. Simmons is still great as Jonah Jameson but Molina edges it.
Best scene: The train battle; thrills, dramas and real emotion all combined.
After injuring his back in training for the role, Maguire was at real risk of pulling out. Jake Gyllenhaall was waiting in the wings.