Back in that shaky period of superhero movie history known as the 00’s, you got what you were given. Yes, this was a period of time that gave us cinematic bullseyes like X-Men 2, The Dark Knight and Iron Man but it also liberally doled out sloppy dreck like Fantastic 4, Blade: Trinity and Elektra too.
But slap bang in the middle, before Christopher Nolan and Kevin Feige got their houses in order, came Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, a funny, thoughtful and vibrant superhero sequel that could very well be the most comic booky comic book movie ever made.
Peter Parker has settled into his life as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man quite nicely, righting wrongs and saving folk daily despite the upheaval going on in his personal life. His crush, Mary Jane Watson, is moving on with her life and career, best friend Harry is pissed about Spider-Man being implicated in the death of his father Norman Osborn (who, unbeknownst to Harry, was the villainous Green Goblin), kindly old Aunt May is short of cash and Pete can’t nail good grades at college or hold down a job due to his spectacular double life. However when a kindly scientist’s experiment goes out of control, he loses his mind and gains four lethal, metal tentacles grafted to his torso (win some, lose some; right?) and becomes the formidable Doctor Octopus. The timing of this is especially shit as Peter’s spider abilities seem to be on the blink and he’s starting to consider that maybe he should be Spider-Man, no more.
Two things propel this flick to CBM greatness and the first is the script’s obvious understanding of what makes a great Spidey story tick. Adapting the tone of the run of Spider-Man comics from the 60’s and 70’s, Spider-Man 2 nimbly bounces from soap opera relationship issues to barnstorming action sequences and back again in a way that utter honours the spirit of the original material. In essence: you’ve come for Spider-Man, you’ll stay for Peter Parker. The second is cult director Sam Raimi let off the leash to batter the audience (and his actors) with that impish style of his. Never is this more evident in the magnificent scene where Doc Ock rises to villainy by dispatching a roomful of screaming surgeons by essentially turning it into a mini Evil Dead remake, complete with buzzing saws and whirling POV cams. Raimi let loose with this size of budget is a giddily wondrous thing, relentlessly torturing lead Tobey Maguire with odd slapstick routines (“rent!”), a super snide Bruce Campbell cameo and literally every bit of blustering genius that comes out of J. Jonah Jameson’s mouth.
Raimi’s action is superlative too with quite possibly the greatest train fight/rescue ever committed to film with Spidey and Ock – a tremendously versatile foe -scrapping on, in, under and around the speeding carriages and ending in one of the most powerful scenes in the wall crawler’s lengthy career.
So are there ANY downsides? Some minor issues of the middle third being a little doughy and some scenes from the original being revisited too much (building on fire, scientist goes supervillain after accident, lots of roof jumping, Mary Jane kidnapped), but despite these minor niggles the movie builds and expands on it’s predecessor beautifully.
All in all Spider-Man 2 is a gold standard comic book movie and maybe one of the best of all time. The comic adjectives are all relevant. Amazing. Spectacular. Astonishing. Superior. Web Of…
Maybe not that last one…