One of the very first cartoon shows I ever watched regularly as a kid was the 90’s Spider-Man series. However, while I enjoyed watching the show back then, I never called myself a fan of Spider-Man. I never read the comics, I didn’t really know any of the characters, and I didn’t even see the first theatrical “Spider-Man” movie when it premiered way back in 2002. Then everything changed in 2004, when I went with my friends to see “Spider-Man 2”.
The movie begins with a gorgeous opening credit sequence, featuring hand drawn paintings that recap all the events of the first movie. Now I personally saw this movie before the first film, and this opening helped clue me in on everything I needed to know. A year has passed sense Spider-Man defeated the sinister Green Goblin in the first movie, and now the city is safer than ever. Unfortunately, while the city prospers, Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker get’s noting for it in return.
The first Spider-Man movie was all about building the superpowers, but the sequel is all about the struggle of a regular, every day guy with those powers. The arching theme of “Spider-Man 2” is sacrifice, it’s about giving up what matters to us in-order to accomplish something meaningful to the world at large. There’s a beautiful scene in which Aunt May gives this heartfelt speech on what characterizes regular everyday people as hero’s, and it really gets to me every time I hear it. While the themes and morals of the movie are all very inspiring, and the film also boasts a great deal of drama that makes me feel for the characters.
Now even though “Spider-Man 2” feels less like a typical superhero movie and more like a drama, it’s still not without some great-A comic book material. Case in point, the villain Doctor Octopus is one of my all time favorite super villains I’ve ever seen in a movie. Granted he was already my favorite of Spider-Man’s foes, and it was great to see him brought to life on screen, but the movie makes all the right decisions with how to make an interesting character.
I really admire the filmmakers for taking a step back from all the special effects, and giving us a more character focused film. Both the action and special effects are used sparingly, but when they are on film, it’s some of the best the superhero genera has to offer. This movie even won the Academy Award for best special effects, and it’s always a treat when a film of this sort gets Oscar recognition.
Now for all my praising the morals, drama and fleshed out characters, this is still a comic book movie, and it still has that cheesy, silly charm you typically get from Spider-Man. There’s some really odd moments with the supporting cast, where they deliver these over the top reactions, and it almost takes me out of the film. The montage set to the song “Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head”, shows just how silly the film can be, but it’s also quiet enjoyable if you can accept it as a directors style.
On that note, let’s talk about the climax, which personally is my favorite finale of the whole series. Doctor Octopuses machine goes into meltdown, causing serious damage to the city, and our hero swings in for one final showdown with the villain. While the fight itself is riveting, I love that Spider-Man doesn’t defeat the bad guy though physical force. Instead he takes off his mask, revealing his identity and has a very deep back and forth talk with his enemy, even relaying the very same morals of sacrifice that his aunt May previously told him. This helps the Doc to regain control of his arms, and in one final move, he sacrifices both his dream and his very life to destroy the machine. It’s awesome to see Doctor Octopuses, one of Spider-Mans most lethal foes make a full reformation, and I love how just before he sacrifices his life he exchanges one silent look with our hero. With zero dialogue, every “I’m sorry for what I’ve done”, and “Thank you for bringing me back” is captured perfectly in that one look, and it’s just brilliant film-making.
Even when all the action is said and done the movie continues to thrill as Harry gets a ghostly visit from his late father, and discovers the Green Goblins lair of weapons. It’s a great scene that upon my first viewing got me thrilled for a sequel, even though I still hadn’t seen the first film yet. Now days, cliff hangers like this only exist for the sake of setting up more sequels, but this was a natural progression of the story, and didn’t feel like added fluff. Once we get to the epilogue, it leads into the first, and only happy ending of the Spider-Man series thus far. Mary Jane refuses to go through with her marriage and chooses Peter Parker, and it's just so satisfying. Spider-Man then has one last epic swing through the city, and just before we cut to black, we get one last knowing look from Marry Jane that things aren’t going to be easy for them, which is a perfect book end to how the movie started with a close up of her face on the billboard.
Much like its predecessor, “Spider-Man 2” has a soundtrack that’s very much a product, with the main selling song being “Ordinary” performed by Train. Its average, but I do genuinely love the song “Vindicated” performed by Dashboard Confessional. Something about this song captures a feeling of tragedy and heroism, which fits right along with the films tone.
It goes without saying that I think “Spider-Man 2” is the best film in the web-heads theatrical film series by far, but I’d go further to call it one of the all time greatest super hero movies. It’s one of those rare comic book adaption’s that doesn’t feel like a typical superhero flick, in fact it actually feels like, well ... a real movie, one that just happens to have a superhero in it.
I give 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” ... a perfect 5 stars out of 5.