Spidey’s problems: love, Dr. Octopus“Spider-Man 2” is one of those rare sequels that manage to best the original. It builds on many subjects brought up in “Spider-Man,” seamlessly weaving parallel stories about love, friendship and, in particular, the great responsibility that comes with the gift of great power. With an introspective eye, and with Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and Sam Raimi directing, this movie is darker and funnier than the first, even delivering a touch of poignancy.
Parker’s struggles are what give this movie heart. He’s now a student at Columbia, studying physics. But he’s failing his classes. He’s trying to make ends meet delivering pizza, but even when he calls on his superhuman strength, he’s unable to make deliveries on time.
He’s still in love with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). But now, more then ever, he’s unable to show her his true feelings ― or true identity. His best friend, Harry Osbourne (James Franco), holds a grudge against him for stealing Mary Jane. Worst of all, his powers seem to be failing him.
As if these struggles aren’t enough, Spider-Man must deal with a new villain, Doctor Octopus, or “Doc Ock” (Alfred Molina). The first time the two meet, it’s almost a big brother-little brother relationship. The famous Dr. Otto Octavius is working on an experiment dealing with fusion energy, and Osbourne sets up an interview for Parker. The two immediately hit it off, talking about how love can become twisted if kept hidden, and about the potential for corruption that intelligence brings.
A few days later, Dr. Octavious unveils his experiment, which requires him to fuse four intelligent arms to his spine and brain. But a chip keeps the arms from controlling his brain. The experiment goes haywire, creating an eight-limbed (if you include his natural limbs) monster.
Visually, “Spider-Man 2” is a feast. It doesn’t change action filmmaking like “The Matrix” did, but it definitely ups the ante on what looks good. Fight scenes are spectacular, especially Doc Ock’s menacing tentacles and the suspenseful thuds that shake the streets before he arrives.
Incidentally, Molina ― who turned in a powerful performance as the artist and philanderer Diego Rivera in “Frida” ― seems a poor choice to play Doc Ock at first. But Molina adds human complexity and almost a sense of reality to a comic-book villain, as compared to Willem Dafoe’s over-the-top performance as the Green Goblin in the first film. Molina turns out to be perfect. J.K. Simmons is also brilliant as Jonah Jameson, editor of the Daily Bugle. One scene in which Jameson goes from vengeful to contrite back to vengeful is just an eye-blinking riot.
Dunst turns in another stellar performance as the damsel in distress, while Osbourne is the perfect poster boy of a spoiled kid desperately trying to fill his father’s shoes. Rosemary Harris, as Parker’s Aunt May, is another fine actor, but some of her dialogue, while inspirational, goes on too long.
The film has deftness and humor. There’s even a crazy cut to a scene set to the song “Raindrops Are Falling on My Head.” And a scene where Parker, holding up a falling wall with his back, comments about how heavy it is may be a sly reference to the back trouble that almost kept him out of the sequel. It’s good to have him back.
Action / English
by Joe Yong-hee