RETRO REVIEW: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Theatrical Release Poster - Columbia Pictures

Theatrical Release Poster – Columbia Pictures

The following is a spoiler-filled retro review of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. It was written in 2016.

I vividly remember watching this film with my mom when it was first released. We both loved the film, and I just remember talking about it for hours. Talking about it when we were walking to the car, talking about it inside the car on the way home, and talking about it when we got home.

It’s not that Spider-Man 2 blew my mind. It isn’t one of those films that changed everything, not like I think the first Raimi Spider-Man did, or like The Dark Knight or Iron Man did. But it was just so much fun. It was everything a Spider-Man movie could and should be. It did what you want a superhero movie to do. It entertained people of all ages, and, in my opinion, it has aged really well over the years.

Spider-Man 2 continues the story of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, as Peter Parker (played by Tobey Maguire) is trying to keep up his ‘double life.’ He’s losing his job, his friends, and Mary Jane (played by Kirsten Dunst). The troubles of a double life are getting into his head, and right when he’s losing faith in himself, a brilliant villain (played by Alfred Molina) rises up to finish a project that may lay New York City to waste.

“He stole that guy’s pizzas!” – Random bystander.

2013’s Iron Man 3 got a lot of criticism for being a movie about Tony Stark, but one of the reasons why Spider-Man 2 succeeds, and is so memorable, is because this really is a movie about Peter Parker. And you do care about Parker a lot. So much so that when Peter is about to lose his job if he doesn’t deliver pizzas in time, it is as tense and exciting as if Spider-Man was fighting a random villain. You want him to keep his job.

“Am I not supposed to have what I want? What I need? What am I supposed to do?” – Peter Parker.

I mean, think about it. In Spider-Man 2, pretty much everyone in his life finds out who Spider-Man is. His double life pretty much ends here. There are a lot of reaction shots here, but none better than the train scene reveal. Spider-Man is a man of the people.

“I’m not an empty seat anymore. I’m different. Punch me, I bleed.” – Peter Parker.

But after the ‘Spider-Man no more’ scene, there are a lot of really memorable scenes where Peter is just himself. I can never get tired of the excellent Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head-sequence, for example. And, honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever liked Tobey Maguire more than I do in Spider-Man 2.

Spider-Man 2 is also elevated by the fact that Alfred Molina is just perfect as Doc Ock. He’s a smart villain who you feel for. His motivations make sense, and Raimi manages to make him really scary. I mean, just look at the terrifying and surprisingly violent operation scene. Doc Ock – the villain – is dangerous, but Otto – the character – is also just really likable.

But even though I really love Spider-Man 2, it isn’t perfect. I liked the daughter of the landlord, but that entire subplot doesn’t really work for me. I don’t think this film needed the Peter Parker-Aunt May conflict over Uncle Ben’s killer. Also, while I really liked Franco in the first film, I don’t think he is as good as he should’ve been in this sequel.

But that is it. Those were my only issues with the film, and they aren’t major issues for me. Spider-Man 2 is definitely a comic book movie classic, and I do think it is one of the best superhero films of all-time. I can watch this film any time of the week. It never gets old, and it is so much better than the first film.

9.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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4 comments

  1. I’m going to politely disagree with you on this one – Spider-Man 2 is not only better than Spider-Man, it’s the best superhero film ever made. (As Tarantino might say, that’s a bold statement.) I think this film does the best job of showing what being a superhero means. Spider-Man does it against Doc Oc, but Peter Parker does it too. He’s forced to choose between being Spider-Man and living his own life, he has to admit his culpability in Uncle Ben’s murder to Aunt May, and he has to decide how he really feels about MJ. I agree with you that this one’s about Peter, and also that Maguire really hit his stride in this installment (the less said about Spider-Man 3 the better). But I think the movie’s tagline – Choice/Sacrifice/Destiny – sums it up. When does Peter stop and Spider-Man start? Is Peter being selfish if he doesn’t use his power to save everyone he can, or is he depriving himself of a real life if he keeps leading a double one? This is the movie Man of Steel wanted to be.

    1. Oh no, I agree. Spider-Man 2 is better than the first Raimi film. I’m guessing you thought I thought otherwise after reading the following: “It isn’t one of those films that changed everything, not like I think the first Raimi Spider-Man did […].”

      I think Spider-Man was a game-changer for the superhero movie genre, I don’t think Spider-Man 2 was as game-changing – but I definitely think it’s a better film than Spider-Man. As I mentioned in the Spider-Man retro review, Spider-Man isn’t the best film in the franchise.

      1. Ha – I did totally bite off on that (and forget your comment about Spider-Man not being the best – clearly you didn’t mean Spider-Man 3 ha ha). Yeah, I just feel this captured the dilemma the superhero finds himself in – am I a bad person if I don’t help everyone I can? – better than any other. Too bad the franchise took such a nosedive after this one.

      2. It really did. Spider-Man 2 is magnificent, and one of my favorite films of all-time. Too bad about Spider-Man 3, I’ll review that one soon. Thanks for the likes and comments!

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