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spider-man 2
Spider-Man 2

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Spider-Man 2

Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris and James Franco
Screenplay by Alvin Sargent; story by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Michael Chabon, based on the Marvel Comics characters by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Directed by Sam Raimi

IN SHORT: The Best of the Year (so far) is as Spectacular as it is Amazing. [PG-13 Rated PG-13 for stylized action violence. 125 minutes]

Long time readers know that we are an avowed 'toonhead and decades long comic book collector. You don't have to go digging in the Archives to find our reaction to the first Spider-Man movie, which we pretty much hated as a sloppily stapled together patchwork of story ideas lifted from comic book sources. We hoped that number two would "fires on all cylinders," and it does. It still lifts much of its content from forty years of Spidey history, right down to duplicating some of John Romita's most famous visual images from his run as pencil artist on the book, but this time everything, from story and characters to the expected and amazing special effects, blasts off the screen and knocked us back in our seat.

For the 0.05% of the Western World that has no idea how Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) came to be Spider-Man, or of why his best friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) hates Spidey, Spider-Man 2 is not the place to start. Sam Raimi's decision not to incorporate any historical summary into Alvin Sargent's screenplay (based on a story by Smallville creators Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Michael Chabon) is the only negative we can deduct for -- them's the Rules of the Site, ten years running -- but the rest of his work, and the work of his cast and crew, is so phenomenal that we'll think about breaking our Rules. It is our Site, after all . . .

Two years after the events of the first movie, Peter Parker and his best friend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) have each left their Queens homes and settled in individual run down apartments in New York City's Greenwich Village. Mary Jane pursues her dreams of becoming an actress; she's landed a big part in a staging of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, which all of the pals from the old neighborhood have seen many times. Save one. That "one" of course, is Parker, who just can't get the balance between his work as Spider-Man and his life as civilian Peter in balance. He's got his beloved Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) to look after. He's got day job he can't manage to keep and his work as a freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle would pay the bills if he could just get paid.

Editor J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) dispatches his lackey to cover a demonstration of new fusion technology developed by renowned scientist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina). Parker, science geek that he is, idolizes the good doctor and is thrilled to get the assignment.

Controlling the fusion reaction requires Dr. Octopus to strap on a pair of bionic-powered tentacle-like arms to control his machines. These arms seem to have their own source of intelligence and, when an accident bonds them to their creator, they start to run the show. It's the old mad scientist routine -- as soon as you see Otto's devotion to his wife Rosalie (Donna Murphy) you can write the script yourself -- and it's made absolutely human by Molina's outstanding performance. That performance, on the other hand, is topped by Maguire's second outing as Peter Parker, now presenting a character more fully formed than the one seen in movie numero uno. The only disappointment is Dunst, who is stuck in the usual Lois Lane damsel in distress mode. She's a far better actress than this part lets her be. We can only hope for better in Spider-Man 3, given what happens by the end of this flick. . . and there is a ton of stuff that happens in the personal lives of the characters in this episode, most of which we can't report because of Site Rules that prohibit our spilling the third act.

New fans will be thrilled. Fanboys will be counting off issue numbers, page and panel numbers as Spider-Man 2 moves towards its conclusion. They'll also have a couple of years to ponder the prospect of a CGI transformation of newly introduced film character, Dr. Curt Connors (Dylan Baker) into the super-villain called, nah, that would be telling. Speaking of effects, these are designed by the legendary John Dykstra, also in charge of the first one, but with more money to utilize the web spinning bits alone are worth the price of admission.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Spider-Man 2, he would have paid . . .


Spider-Man 2 should be rated 9.50 because of the Rules of the Site. Then again, it's our site and we can break the rules if we want. So we will.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.