Spider-Man 2 is truly a fantastic film, never mind a fantastic superhero film. Upon rewatch after seeing so many other MCU and DCEU films (some of which I do generally love) it’s easy to see why Spider-Man 2 is still considered to be one of the best examples of a superhero film. It’s fun, the character work great, the “low stakes” relationship drama is just as compelling as the high stakes battles with the villains.
Spider-Man 2 builds on what was laid out in the first film with great success. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to juggle life as Spider-Man while also going to college and holding a job. Meanwhile Harry Osborn (James Franco) is now the head of his father’s company and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has made it as an actor and has a starring role on stage and is dating an astronaut who happens to be J. Jonah Jameson’s (J.K. Simmons) son.
The idea of Peter losing his Spider-Man-abilities because he’s torn between two lives is a really interesting one. This is where this Peter Parker having organic webs shooting from his wrists rather than being something he built really works. He has no control as he’s becoming indecisive over what he wants, if he doesn’t want to be Spider-Man, he can’t be Spider-Man. Likewise, you get to see how good a person Peter Parker is even without the suit and the powers. He runs into a burning building to save a little girl because that’s the right thing to do and he can’t walk away. Side note: the moment where the little girl helps pull him up is one of the sweetest things ever.
Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) is a brilliant villain because through one small dinner scene with him, his wife (Donna Murphy), and Peter you get to see the man who likes poetry and loves his wife and science. Having the robotic arms have powerful AI be part of the cause of his descent into villainy is a clever idea. He’s smart, perhaps too smart, and comes up with a failsafe to protect himself but when that fails and he sees the love of his life die in front of him, it’s easy to see how he’d be manipulated by AI that’s smarter than him to solely focus on redoing the experiment no matter the cost.
The action sequences in Spider-Man 2 are still some of the best in the superhero movie genre. They are shot so you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another and the majority of them happen in the daytime so that along with not being too heavily edited means you can see what’s happening. The bank sequence is a lot of fun and is a great prelude to Spider-Man and Doc Ock’s next confrontation. The train sequence is still something that stands out even after over 15 years or more superhero movies. It’s exciting and while it’s a fight between Peter and Doc Ock it’s also a fight for Spider-Man to save the passengers on the train. The New Yorker’s standing up for Spider-Man is something that still gets me in the feels. It shows the good of the average person and how while the Daily Bugle and others may hate Spider-Man, there’s still many who feel like he’s a hero.
One thing I didn’t expect to get from this film was how much I empathised with Harry Osborn. He’s constantly in people’s shadows and no wonder it makes him act out. First it was his father, never living up to his expectations and pleasing him, and then Peter, not being as smart as him or being the one that MJ wants out of the two of them. I’m looking forward to seeing what I make of Spider-Man 3 after not seeing it for so long as there’s so much good groundwork laid in this film for Harry’s arc. He feels lost and desperate after suddenly being thrust into the role of head of Oscorp and then finding out that his best friend is who is (supposedly) to blame for his father’s death. It’s a lot for him and while Harry’s plot is a minor part of Spider-Man 2, James Franco does a great job with what he’s given.
Spider-Man 2 is truly a brilliant film. Even after all this time it’s still the film other Spider-Man films aspire to be as great as. It’s the combination of Peter’s struggles with responsibility and the various relationships in his life, it’s the villain that can be very creepy and almost horrifying at times, and it’s just how there is still humour to be found even though Peter’s life really does suck the majority of the time. 5/5.