Like most comic book characters nowadays, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is no stranger to the silver screen. This year marks the solo debut of the third cinematic interpretation of the web-slinger, with Tom Holland stepping into the famous red and blue suit for Spider-Man: Homecoming. However, the question still remains: will it be any good? Well, if Civil War‘s introduction to the character is anything to go by, our spider senses are telling us that we won’t be disappointed. For all we know, Homecoming might be the best Spidey flick ever made, but as of now, it will have to surpass the enormously high bar set 13 years ago by Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
Building on the impressive scope of the first entry, Raimi’s sequel is still the best received Spidey film to date. It was a massive hit with audiences, pulling in an impressive box office haul as well as an overwhelmingly positive response from critics (Roger Ebert called it the “best superhero movie since the modern genre was launched with Superman.”) Rarely does a film come along with a perfect blend of action, character, and romance. Even all these years later, most fans will tell you that it’s the best Spider-Man film to date, and we definitely have to agree.
Don’t believe us? Here are 15 Reasons Spider-Man 2 Is Still The Best Spider-Man Movie.
15. The Subway Fight
Thrilling action scenes have become a staple when it comes to the comic book genre. Whether it’s the team-up at the climax of the Avengers, the car chase in The Dark Knight, or the long tracking shot of Wolverine going full-on berserker in Logan, a rousing action sequence is just the type of thing that can send a superhero movie over the top, and Spider-Man 2 has perhaps the greatest one of all.
After Doctor Octopus kidnaps Mary Jane, Spider-Man has no choice but to engage the super-villain in a climactic showdown. What starts as a brawl on a clock tower quickly becomes a fistfight on top of a subway train as Spidey and Doc Ock trade blows while leaping across train cars and surface streets.
For being more than a decade old, the subway fight in Spider-Man 2 holds up amazingly well. Most of the credit can be attributed to director Sam Raimi’s incredible eye for action. Raimi knows how to construct a fight using the environment as an advantage. Spider-Man must swing across the metal bars inside the carts, avoid oncoming trains, slide along the surface of the highway, and even avoid (and save) unsuspecting passengers as Doc Ock hurls them at our hero. It’s not only one of the best fights in the franchise, but in any superhero movie ever.
14. …And All the Other Action Scenes
That’s not to say that the rest of the action of Spider-Man 2 pales in comparison, however. Almost every sequence has something visually striking to look at, and again, that’s because Raimi understands how to perfectly capture action in a captivating way.
For instance, there’s Spider-Man and Doc Ock’s first exciting confrontation inside a bank, with the supervillain lobbing huge bags of cash at a partly powerless Spidey. There’s also the film’s montage of Peter thwarting a couple of crooks while trying to make a mad dash to catch Mary Jane’s play. But for all of its intense action, we have to mention the hair-raising, almost frightening sequence at the hospital where Doc Ock’s limbs brutally murder an entire group of nurses and surgeons. While there might have been more explosions and fistfights in the first Spider-Man, the sequences in Spider-Man 2 are still some of the best the franchise has ever seen.
13. The Musical Score
When the first Spider-Man movie was announced, fans everywhere speculated who would compose the iconic theme for one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes. After all, a great superhero theme can embody a character like nothing else; just look at John Williams’ majestic score for Superman, or Hans Zimmer’s pounding soundtrack to The Dark Knight. Though several names were considered, Sam Raimi finally landed on Danny Elfman.
One of the most versatile composers in the business, Danny Elfman seemed like the perfect candidate to give his treatment to Raimi’s take on Marvel’s web-slinger, especially since he already composed one of the best superhero scores ever with Tim Burton’s Batman. It also didn’t hurt that Elfman had previously worked with Raimi on the scores for Darkman, Army of Darkness, and A Simple Plan.
Playful, majestic, and dynamic, Elfman’s score for Spider-Man 2 manages to capture the essence of both Peter Parker and his alter ego. It builds on the themes of the first movie while providing a sense of gravitas to the action and emotional scenes that has Elfman’s signature style all over it.
12. The Soundtrack
On top of Danny Elfman’s iconic themes, Spider-Man 2 had one of the best soundtracks of the early 2000s, reaching the top 10 of the U.S. album charts and the top 40 of the Australian charts. Although it contained portions of Elfman’s score, the soundtrack was primarily made up of a collection of songs featured and inspired by the movie by some of the biggest acts at the time.
Featured on the soundtrack are Train, Dashboard Confessional, Hoobastank, Jet, Yellowcard, Maroon 5, Taking Back Sunday, Ana Johnsson, Lostprophets, and Midtown. Dashboard Confessional’s “Vindicated,” which played over the film’s end credits, was a massive single when it was released. The music video featured the band performing the song inside Doc Ock’s hideout intercut with other scenes from the film. Other hits on the soundtrack included “We Are” by Ana Johnsson, “Ordinary” by Train, and “I Am” by Killing Heidi, which each hit the top 40 singles charts in both America or Australia. There’s even a cover of the classic “Spider-Man Theme” by crooner Michael Bublé. What more could you ask for?
11. The Visuals and Effects
There are two major reasons that Spider-Man 2 has stood the test of time as well as it has. One is of course the storytelling (we’ll get to that later), and the other is the sheer visual splendor. It’s almost flabbergasting how good the movie looks 13 years after its debut in theaters. Sam Raimi’s decision to create a genuine mixture of computer generated imagery with old-school practical effects proved to be a wise choice, and one that still looks good if you pop a copy in the blu-ray player today.
There are some movies that use so much CGI that you’d swear you’re watching a cartoon, but Raimi’s sequel looks and feels like a genuine theatrical experience. Whether it’s Peter’s webs as he slings across the New York skyline or Doc Ock’s mechanical arms tearing apart city streets, Spider-Man 2 is visually absorbing in every sense of the word. That’s not to say that there aren’t wonky spots amidst all the action, but on a whole, the film still holds up tremendously well for being over a decade old.
10. J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
You know a performance is special when it appears as if the character from the source material has seamlessly leaped off the pages and onto the big screen. For fans of Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, that character is J. Jonah Jameson, played so convincingly by J.K. Simmons.
Larger than life, bullheaded, and an absolute tyrant, Simmons perfectly channels his inner arrogance and flawlessly brings Jameson to life. The editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle will stop at nothing to ensure eyes on his paper’s front page, and that includes buying up all of Peter’s photos of Spider-Man so that he can smear the hero’s name by labeling him a “menace to society.” He’s the jerk boss that audiences loved to hate, and most of the credit can be given to Simmons’ impeccable performance.
Simmons was so good and so convincing in the role that when Marvel’s Homecoming was first announced, fans practically demanded that the actor return as Jameson. Though he won’t be back to portray the Daily Bugle’s smug commander-and-chief, Simmons will be returning to the comic book realm this year as Commissioner Gordon in Justice League.
9. Peter and Harry’s Relationship
Considering he’s your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Peter Parker doesn’t have a whole lot of friends in Spider-Man 2. Mary Jane has all but given up on him, his latest mentor figure Doctor Octavius has turned into a brainwashed tyrant, and even Aunt May gives Peter the cold shoulder after his tear-jerking confession concerning Uncle Ben. While there are relationships breaking down left and right, none of them sting deeper that the fractured bond between Peter and Harry.
Say what you will about the actor, but James Franco absolutely captures the resentment Harry feels towards his former buddy. There is one particularly heart-breaking moment where a drunken Harry continually slaps his former best friend for taking Spider-Man’s side over his. Unbeknownst to Harry, of course, Peter actually is the wall-crawler, and their conflict finally reaches a breaking point when Osborn unmasks the hero in the third act. The scene is short, but the tension and weight of the situation can be felt thanks to James Franco and Tobey Maguire’s commanding performances.
8. Peter and MJ’s Romance
So often in comic book movies are the romances an afterthought when compared to the high-octane action scenes and supervillains. That’s not the case in Spider-Man 2, however, which takes its time exploring the hot and cold relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.
As opposed to other movies, Peter’s relationship with MJ plays a vital role in many of his decisions. It’s the main motivation of him giving up the mantle of Spider-Man halfway through the movie. And every time MJ accuses Peter of not caring, we genuinely feel distraught because we know Peter wants nothing more than to tell her how he really feels.
There’s an emotional weight every moment Peter and MJ are in the room together, and most of that can be chalked up to Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst’s fantastic chemistry. The two actors make the audience desperately desire that they end up together, making it that much more satisfying at the end of the movie when they finally do.
7. The Spidey Suit
Every hero has their own signature look; Batman has his cowl, Superman has his red cape, and Spider-Man has his red and blue webbed costume with huge white eyes. It’s one of the most iconic getups in superhero history, and fans couldn’t have been more pleased with the amount of detail and work that went into bringing this iconic suit from the comic pages to the big screen in the 2004 sequel.
Carrying over the design from the first film, the one-piece costume in Spider-Man 2 combines a real-life suit with CGI effects. The result is a fantastic looking pair of Spidey tights that is as sleek as it is awesome looking. The giant mirrored eyes are a great effect, and the intricate web designs throughout are a nice touch that really makes the costume come alive onscreen. By comparison, The Amazing-Spiderman’s suit looked more like a deflated basketball, and while Homecoming’s costume looks great (thank you, Tony Stark), sometimes, there’s just no beating the classics.
6. The Sequel Setup
The only thing movie studios love more than a superhero blockbuster is a superhero blockbuster that sets up ten more down the road. Unfortunately, studios can get so preoccupied with setting up a future franchise that it forgets to make one good movie to begin with.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is one of the biggest offenders, cramming so many Easter eggs into an already bloated sequel that audiences didn’t really care if the story continued. On the other hand, Spider-Man 2 strikes a perfect harmony between providing a narrative the audience can get invested in while wetting our appetites for a continuation later on.
Towards the final moments of the film, Harry Osborn inadvertently finds his father’s secret cache of Green Goblin weapons in a hidden room. The setup feels earned because it’s a natural progression for Harry to become the next major antagonist of the series. Although things exactly didn’t end up that way in Spider-Man 3, it’s still an organic tease that naturally progresses the story; more so then let’s say another superhero randomly appearing in a time vortex with a warning about an apocalyptic future. That would just feel out of place.
5. The Timing
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming is the 16th film in the MCU franchise, and for those of you keeping track at home, it will mark the second major reboot of the character in just under 15 years. That’s no small feat, even for one of Marvel’s most popular heroes. Homecoming now has the burden of giving audiences a Spidey story that is fresh, engaging, and destinct — while still providing a familiarity that doesn’t alienate fans.
That’s one thing that Spider-Man 2 didn’t have to worry about. Following its predecessor just two years earlier, there was no pressure for the sequel to avoid certain tropes or clichés to fall into. This was a time when the golden age of comic book movies had only just begun. There were so many possibilities as to where to take the franchise, and it was exciting for moviegoers to enter the theater not knowing what to expect next.
Spider-Man 2 didn’t have the pressure to start over or even the enormous responsibility to follow the rules of an already established universe. It merely set out to be a thrilling, entertaining ride, and in that regard, it certainly succeeded.
4. Doc Ock
Every great hero needs a great villain, and Spider-Man 2 has one of the best with Doctor Octopus, aka Doc Ock. A once noble and brilliant scientist, Doctor Octavius is transformed into a supervillain after a fusion experiment goes horribly wrong. His wife dies in the accident, and as a result, the doctor’s personality is taken over by the artificial intelligence of the mechanical arms that have been implanted on his back.
Sure, that might sound like a generic supervillain origin story, but actor Alfred Molina takes the character to new heights by making him surprisingly relatable with his complex performance. Like Norman Osborn, Otto Octavius’ undoing is his one tragic character flaw: he cares too much about his work. His transition from a friendly mentor to Peter to a deranged criminal is about as dynamic as they come. As a character, we understand Doc Ock’s motivations, which makes his self-sacrifice at the end of the movie feel earned rather than like just a cheap gimmick.
3. A Smaller, More Personal Story
In the world of Hollywood blockbusters, bigger is not always better. Comic book films have an uncanny desire to fall into this trap, with convoluted plots and an overabundance of characters included just to kill time (we think you know which movies we’re talking about). While action extravaganzas like these can be visually appealing, most of them fail to capture the heart and emotion that is so well represented in Spider-Man 2.
Though its story is smaller and more contained, Spider-Man 2 carries a great deal of emotion weight because we care so much about Peter Parker. We watch him go through his daily routines as a pizza boy/college student, pining after Mary Jane, and still trying to juggle his duties as Spider-Man. The movie doesn’t overload our senses, but rather gives us an average hero that the viewer can easily root for.
As this year’s Logan has shown us, it’s okay to tone down the scale of your movie for the sake of narrative flow. Audiences don’t always need to see crumbling cities and gigantic invading spaceships. Sometimes, a smaller story means better characterization, and we’d take that over mindless action any day.
2. Sam Raimi’s Direction
With films under his belt like Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, and Darkman, Sam Raimi has solidified a directorial style all his own. His films blend a B-movie aesthetic with tongue-and-cheek humor that is satirical, campy, and endlessly entertaining. It’s the perfect kind of tone for a Spider-Man adaptation, and it’s in this second installment that the director really hit his stride.
From the opening credits onwards, Raimi’s signature style oozes out of every scene in Spider-Man 2, from moments like Peter web-shooting across the city to deliver pizzas, to the almost horrifying hospital massacre reminiscent of Evil Dead. And we’d kick ourselves if we didn’t mention that refreshingly campy montage sequence set to “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” You know, the one where Peter takes a humongous bite out of a hotdog instead of chasing after cop cars. Classic Raimi.
When you’re watching Spider-Man 2, you can just tell that it’s a Sam Raimi production. Let’s hope that Jon Watts takes a page out of Raimi’s book and allows his own unique style to shine through with Spider-Man: Homecoming.
1. Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker
What makes Peter Parker a great character? Is it his super-strength, his ability to climb up walls, his web shooters? Those are things that make him a great superhero, but what makes Peter so empathetic is his undying self-sacrifice, and in our eyes, no one has quite captured that nobility better than Tobey Maguire.
Maguire absolutely nails Peter in his performance, portraying him as a lovable outcast who genuinely wants to help others at the cost of his own happiness. Despite his best intentions in Spider-Man 2, Peter just can’t seem to balance his double life, and Maguire’s performance reminds us just how genuine this guy is when it comes to helping others.
Andrew Garfield did a fine job at playing Spider-Man in a performance more faithful to the comics, but many would say that his Peter Parker came off as unlikable at times. From what we’ve seen so far, Tom Holland looks fantastic as the new Spidey on the block, but to a whole crop of millennials that grew up in the early 2000s, Tobey Maguire will always be the one true web-slinger.
Where do you think Spider-Man 2 ranks amongst the all-time great superhero movies? Does any other Spidey movie top it in your opinion? Let us know in the comments.