By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Better than the original on most every level.
So I'm a little late to the Spidey 2 party, what can I say? Life gets in the way, and being out of my teens and twenties, I'm over the "stand in line the night before the big blockbuster movie premieres" syndrome.
Ok, so I even did that in my thirties, but The Phantom Menace cured me of that forever. On to the review....
If I were one to give movies ratings, which I generally don't, I'd have to give Spiderman 2 five stars out of a possible four. It was incredible, not just as a superhero movie, but against any action/adventure film. (No, it's not Citizen Kane, all right?)
I went in with high expectations due to all the positive buzz, and I was not disappointed. Spiderman 2 grabbed me right from the opening credits, where an overview of the first movie was shown via a combination of live action shots and Alex Ross renderings. It was a great refresher to prepare us for what was ahead.
In this film it's been a couple of years since Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has donned the red and blue tights. The responsibility of being Spiderman while also trying to pay the rent and do well in college is starting to take it's toll. He may be able to shoot webs from his wrists, but he's still gotta sleep.
Being the responsible person depicted in the first film, Peter has a tough time turning his back on crime and people otherwise in trouble. As you can imagine, living in NYC this would be a full time job on it's own. He's starting to fail in school, does not see his friends, and can't even hold down a job as a pizza delivery guy. He's extremely stressed, and it's even started affecting his web-slinging abilities.
His friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) is still harboring a hatred of Spiderman due to the death of his (Harry's) father which is bordering on obsession. Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter are still doing the "I love you but I can't tell you" dance, which handled differently, had the potential to be extremely annoying, but was done well here.
Otto Octavious (Alfred Molina) is a scientist on the verge of inventing fusion as a power source, using mechanical arms tied into his nervous system to manipulate the energy, when his demonstration goes horribly wrong. Just as in the first film, he's a villian who is essentially a good man who loses control of his mind.
As you've probably read elsewhere, this film far exceeds the first film, which I thought became rather weak once the blue and red tights showed up. Here the characters carry the film all the way through to the end. Good use was made of every main character, even Aunt May (Rosemary Harris). There is plenty of moviegoing satisfaction in the interactions between the characters, particularly centered around Parker/Spiderman.
The action scenes were breathtaking, and abundant enough to keep things hopping. The CGI was vastly improved from the first film, with only a couple of moments where it really stood out as such. There were also a few laughs, some of them inside jokes, others just plain funny even if you've never picked up a comic book.
It's PG-13, and there were parents in the audience with kids as young as four, but the violence got pretty rough in a couple of spots. In particular there was a scene in an operating room that I thought was very intense not just in content but in prolonged duration. But hey, if you want to desensitize your kid to violence, feel free. Also, for those of you who care, there was a scene reminiscent of the "upside down" kiss from the first film, but with a tighter close up and a longer duration.
This gets a very high recommendation from me, and those of you who know how picky I am, know that's saying a lot.
Go check it out, you won't be disappointed... unless you're like the guy behind me who turned to his friend and said it was boring. People really need to learn the difference between a movie and a video game.
I can't wait to go see it again.