Movie Review by Neils Hesse
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina
Director: Sam Raimi
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) part college student, part all round hero returns to grapple with villains, family problems, college problems and that hardest problem of all, true love. The pre-credits sequence is fantastic, it gives a montage of the first outing for our web-slinging hero, reminding us of how he came to be and the drama that came about after his transformation. We meet up with our hero rushing to work on his little motorbike at his pizza delivery job, dodging traffic to meet the delivery deadline for the pizzas, but with unbeatable traffic in front of him he decides to put his powers to personal use and slip into his spider suit to speed up his delivery, saving two girls in the process in a magnificently staged set piece. He still fails to meet the deadline and so our hero loses his day job.
Peter heads on to see his beloved Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and finds his true love Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and his best friend but enemy of Spider-Man, Harry Osborn (James Franco) waiting to surprise him for his birthday. Mary Jane is now a big star acting in the theatre and her face now adorns many billboards. She has a lot of feelings for him but because she does not know how he feels, she opts instead to see someone else, much to Peter’s disappointment. She invites him to go and see her perform on the stage, which he agrees to do. Aunt May is still grieving her beloved Ben and Peter is still torn between telling her all the details of what actually happened or leaving it as it is. Harry is still seeking revenge for the death of his father from Spider-Man but meanwhile, with hopes of continuing his father’s dreams, he is backing a brilliant scientist, Dr Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), who is working on a new source of energy.
Peter is writing a paper on Dr Otto Octavius and so Harry arranges for him to meet the brilliant doctor. He gets along very well with the doctor and his wife and they invite him to the unveiling test of the new fusion based energy source. Dr Otto scoffs at Peter’s comments on the unstable nature of the energy source, convinced that he will have it under control. When Peter misses Mary Jane’s play as he is forced to pursue two violent criminals and save a crowd of people from a falling bus in a breathtaking CGI set piece, she does not forgive him for it and dismisses his friendship as being nothing more than an empty chair in a theatre to her. The moment of truth for Dr Otto comes to a disastrous end as he straps on a set of menacing mechanical arms to his very own spine to control the experiment but fails to do so resulting in an explosion, and the accidental death of his wife. His own life is spared thanks only to the valiant efforts of the hero of this tale, Spider-Man.
Dr Otto awakens in a hospital room wreaking havoc on the staff as they attempt to cut off the arms attached to his spine and promptly discovers that the arms are no longer wholly controlled by him, but also have an artificial mind of their own. Thus Dr Octopus aka Doc Ock is born filled with hate and a conviction to complete his experiment by any means possible. Doc Ock’s first battle with Spider-Man is beautifully CGI staged starting in a bank where Doc Ock is appropriating funds for his experiment the old fashioned way, to the top of a high storey building. Meanwhile Aunt May who is troubled by the loss of her husband and her failure to pay her mortgage fees, constantly stating how she was responsible for his death, Peter finally decides to do the right thing and tell her the whole story and how he was actually mainly responsible for the tragic death of His Uncle Ben. Spider-Man makes a hard decision and decides to give up his hero lifestyle and dumps his outfit in the bin, his whole life changes, his grades get better, and he now tries to win over Mary Jane as she recently announced her impending marriage Ock realises that he still needs the help of Harry Osborn for one crucial ingredient for his experiment and so Harry agrees to help him on the condition that he delivers Spider-Man to him. Dr Ock proceeds to seek out Peter Parker taking Mary Jane Hostage in the process and promising to peel the skin off her body unless spiderman comes to meet him. Battle of good versus Evil in several spectacular scenes follow with plenty of drama and heartbreak to stop it from becoming a hollow CGI venture ensues leading to an ending that will leave you drooling for more.
Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are fantastic and there is an incredible chemistry between them, coupled with genuine compassion, fear and anger from Maguire’s Peter Parker. Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is perfectly honed to give equal parts of bad and good, while James Franco is equally good as the bereaved son of the Green Goblin. Rosemary Harris delivers a very credible Aunt May with the right amount of frailty and strength, not to mention Bruce Campbell who gives yet another humorous cameo as an obnoxious theatre usher.
This sequel is excellently directed by Sam Raimi and in many ways it excels over the first one with more character development, better action scenes, more comedy like the scene where Spider-Man starts to lose his web spinning power and is forced to ride the elevator down from the top floor, and ends up chatting to a stranger about his fake Spider-Man suit complaining about how it rides up his crotch and is kind of tight.
This is super hero heaven, summer movie brilliance and sufficiently emotionally dramatic.