Flashback Review: Spider-Man 2
In anticipation of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN's July 4th opening, here at JoBlo.com, we've decided to take a look back at the original SPIDER-MAN trilogy; a franchise that came to illustrate just how good a superhero film could be (SPIDER-MAN 2), and how badly a series could go awry (SPIDER-MAN 3).
After SPIDER-MAN hit theaters in the summer of 2002, and raked in over $800 million worldwide, a sequel was a no-brainer, and only two years later, SPIDER-MAN 2 hit theaters. At one point, it looked like Tobey Maguire, who already seemed to be tiring of the typecasting linked to the part, wasn’t going to return to play Spider-Man, and Jake Gyllenhaal was actually waiting in the wings in case he called it quits. Of course, a huge paycheck lured Tobey back to the part, and the result was a film that was universally acclaimed by audiences, fans, and critics alike.
Eight years later, how does SPIDER-MAN 2 hold up? Extremely well, and it stands as one of the top-tier superhero movies to ever hit the big-screen, comparing favorably with the later IRON-MAN, and even THE AVENGERS, although I’d put it a notch below BATMAN BEGINS/ THE DARK KNIGHT, and the great, unsung- X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (not to mention X2).
The reason the film works as well as it does is mostly due to director Sam Raimi’s continued focus on Peter Parker’s inner turmoil. Working from a great script by Alvin Sargent (among others), SPIDER-MAN 2 opens with Parker, now a few years into being SPIDER-MAN, having brushed off his best friend Harry (due to his lingering guilt over his part in his father Norman/Green Goblin’s death, and the fact that Harry flies into a near-homicidal rage every time he hears the name Spider-Man), and avoided Mary-Jane. Now, Peter’s living in a disgusting one-room flat, eking out a meager living as a pizza delivery boy, while continuing his studies. Once he learns Mary-Jane is now engaged to J. Jonah Jameson’s pretty boy son, he goes off the rails- eventually quitting his superhero duties altogether, to pursue Mary-Jane.
Of course, this is called SPIDER-MAN 2, and not PETER PARKER 2, so before long he dons his tights once again to fight the iconic Doc Ock, an unfortunate scientist who, after an accident, has metal arms molded to his back- and quickly goes nuts. Raimi balances the spectacle (with the climactic train sequence being a standout) and the darker, more emotional parts of the film beautifully, although- if one looks, the seeds of SPIDER-MAN 3’s idiocy are planted here, with a too jokey montage set to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” demonstrating Parker’s new-found freedom (complete with a freeze-frame we all thought was funny in 2004, but now suggests exactly the route we’d be going down a few years hence).
SPIDEY: Maguire, despite almost quitting the part, gives a solid performance, although I feel that his dedication to the part was already wearing thin by this, with his physique noticeably less impressive than it was in the first film, and the trend towards self-parody already taking hold. Still, he’s good enough that nobody who saw this in its initial release had any complaints.
VILLAIN: Following Willem Dafoe is no easy task, but Alfred Molina is up to it with his nuanced, tragic performance as Doc Ock. Even more sympathetic than Norman Osborn, Ock starts off as a nice-enough guy, but inadvertently causing his wife’s demise (not to mention getting giant robotic arms welded to his back) - he goes a little “funny in the head”. It all comes together in a nicely tragic conclusion.
MUSIC: No Chad Kroger this time, and the pop rock takes a back-seat to Danny Elfman’s score- which plays very much like a retread of the first film. That said, numerous reports suggest that Elfman and Raimi had a major falling out over the project, and Elfman, who used to be Raimi’s go-to guy has never worked with him again. Rumor has it large chunks of his score were dropped and replaced. A sad end to a great collaboration- as Elfman’s score to DARKMAN (not to mention his theme for ARMY OF DARKNESS) is brilliant.
RECEPTION : SPIDER-MAN 2 didn’t quite measure up to the first film financially, but it did almost as well, grossing $373 million domestically, and another $375 million internationally, for another mammoth worldwide total of $783 million. It also fared much better than the first film critically, and for a time was considered the finest superhero film ever made.