Nicolas Hammond and his breathtaking, voluminous hair returns in the second movie amalgamation of the 70’s TV series, (reconfigured to feature length in order to show theatrically in Europe and Australia) which jettisons even more of the first movie’s actual usage of the comic’s cast (no Robbie Robertson or Aunt May this time round but we DO get a recast and far superior and much more blustery J. Jonah Jameson as Robert F. Simon replaces the pilot episode’s David White).
This time Peter Parker has to square up to his most overwhelming foes yet: unruly university students!! When a trio of Peter Parker’s classmates become disgruntled at a science teacher bringing in components onto school ground that could be put together to make an atomic bomb; they band together to teach him a lesson in health and safety by – stealing the components and building an atomic bomb. They won’t be passing any class dealing with common sense any time soon, then…. While this gaggle of morons slowly succumb to radiation poisoning and Peter Parker runs around explaining to everyone what an atomic bomb actually is, full time criminal and part time creepy bikini enthusiast, Mr White and his henchmen – who look distractingly like a couple of members of The Moody Blues have turned to crime – aim to steal the device, arm it properly, and sell it to the highest bidder. It’s time for Parker to pull on those red and blue long johns and leap awkwardly into battle but on his tail is rival reporter Gale Hoffman who is out to find out Spider-Man’s secret identity and won’t leave Parker’s side until she does.
Spider-Man Strikes Back is somewhat of a minor step up from the sloth paced first movie as it can just get on with the story and not have to deal with Spidey’s origin on top of a decidedly odd plot concerning a guru hypnotizing people into trying to kill themselves for random money.
Once again Nicolas Hammond acquits himself as a perfectly fine Peter Parker despite his performance that’s basically an endless procession of agonisingly lame excuses punctuated with occasional bouts of intense whining, but you have to wonder if cramming that luxurious mane of hair into Spider-Man’s iconic mask would have generated enough static electricity to run New Jersey. Hammond’s Parker still isn’t too bright, though; witness as he goes out of his way to deny his arachnid-based secret identity to a suspicious Gale and then when he’s scott free, drops a casual yet cryptic “Spider-Man may be closer to you than you think.” at the end of the conversation… she’s a fucking reporter you vain dullard!
The action scenes are the usual, stiffly staged, unintentionally hilarious brawls that entertained so much the first time time round. His continued fisticuffs with the mountainous Angel and a thug proficient in karate (aptly named on Wikipedia as…. Karate Thug) are sweetly quaint, as is a scene where a poor stuntman – possibly loaded on amphetamines – dangles from an actual helicopter in a Spider-Man suit with what looks like precious little safety gear.
Despite recklessly endangering the lives of stuntmen who probably need a better union rep, the budget still struggles to replicate the web-head’s multitude of powers accurately, there’s still no real web-swinging happening here, in fact when Peter Parker has to pursue a car loaded with villians he’s more likely to steal a dirt bike and give chase than shoot a web of any size and catch those crooks but the primitive attempts to realise the impossible really do start to endear after a while; even if it totally looks like he’s blatantly shooting threads of rope out of those web shooters.
Because it’s two episodes cobbled together there’s an annoying trend of nothing really getting resolved and with all the villains getting away (obviously upper class pervert Mr White and his habit of getting women he’s kidnapped to don skimpy beach outfits was intended to be a reoccurring villain) and Spider-Man coming across as a bit shit. Defusing a bomb is all very well and good but if you don’t cross the i’s and dot the t’s and actually catch the guy responsible, you may not exactly be the crime fighter you think you are…