Thee superhero movie to end all superhero movies!
Screenplay By: Alvin Sargent
Directed By: Sam Raimi
When people ask me what the best superhero movie is, I answer Spider-Man 2 every time and without pause. If I’m asked what the one movie is that people need to see to get others into comic books, I answer Spider-Man 2 every time, without thinking at all. Spider-Man 2 is my go to movie when it comes to great superhero and comic book movies. It is a movie that I have seen countless times and I have yet to find a single fault within its borders. I am prone to hyperbole, I know this, but Spider-Man 2 is perfection in movie form.
Right off the bat Spider-Man 2 understands itself and its audience. The delivery of pizza is made into the most dramatic event one could imagine. This accomplishes two things, it relates how human Peter Parker is, regardless of the powers he has. It plays to us as high comedy, something to laugh at, and it is very funny. But, at the same time for Peter it is deadly serious, delivering those pizzas is just as important as stopping a villain because of the implications it has for his non-superhero world.
The above scenario leads to the idea of Peter Parker, the heart and soul of Spider-Man 2. Every idea Spider-Man 2 brings forth is explored through Peter and the way he goes through life. At times the movie is about how lonely the life of a hero can be. You would think that having great powers would equal a great life, but every day Peter Parker proves that isn’t always the case. Peter’s interactions with Dr. Octavius highlight the idea of the responsibility of using whatever gifts you may possess. Being gifted isn’t enough, you must use your gifts to their fullest and be responsible about it, something that is very hard to do.
Above even those ideas, Spider-Man 2 is all about identity. Where does Peter Parker end and Spider-Man begin, and vice-versa. Can both entities coexist, or must one overrule the other? The movie does so many things to explore this conflict, Spider-Man losing his powers, all of his relationships and even the character of Doctor Octopus himself. But, most of all the idea of identity is brought forth through the unmasked Peter/Spider-Man hybrid. At various times in the movie Spidey removes his mask, revealing his Peter Parker face. In those moments you see visually the conflict he is undergoing, he is two people and he can no longer differentiate between the two, they are blending together when they shouldn’t be and he has no idea what to do about this. The identity aspect of Spider-Man 2 is set up wonderfully and given a proper resolution, it feels like a complete inspection of the character.
The effects in Spider-Man 2 are excellent, they look great, but more than that they bring you into the action. Spidey’s powers are a lot of fun and as he is swinging across the screen in Spider-Man 2 you get a sense of how fun they are. The mechanical rams of Dock Ock don’t just look great, they have a personality all their own and they blend seamlessly into the picture.
Sam Raimi flexes his directorial skills in certain moments, none more so than the brilliant glass reflection shot involving Rosalie Octavius. He also brings across his understanding of the humor that Spider-Man fans expect. Scenes like the slow burn with Hal Sparks in the elevator and the “Ow, my back” fall are hilarious and completely in tune with the humor one expects from these characters.
Speaking of characters, it was true in Spider-Man and it’s true in Spider-Man 2, J.K. Simmons steals every scene he is in as J. Jonah Jameson. Tobey Maguire brings humanity and depth to Peter Parker as well as wit and charm to Spider-Man. Kirsten Dunst is lovable and confused as Mary Jane, as well as having perhaps the most memorable shot in the entire movie. I could go on, but the point is that Spider-Man 2 is full of a cast that delivers in every way possible.
The finale of Spider-Man 2, and by that I mean the final thirty five minutes, is without a doubt the best ending I have ever seen in a superhero movie. The action and effects are top notch, nothing beats the emotional action of Spidey trying to stop the train, the score continues to escalate and the conflicts that the movie has addressed internally and externally are given full closure at the end. However, Spider-Man 2 is very adult, it isn’t just fluff and it shows in the final shot of the film. The pure exuberance of Mary Jane telling Peter to “go get em, tiger” is followed by the zoom in on Mary Jane’s face. Her face tells the entire story, this battle may have been won and their lives may be happy right now, but this was just one hurdle they have vaulted over. Who knows what the world will throw at them next and who knows if she made the right choice, it is the perfect way to end the film, full of hope and dread at the same time.
Each and every time I watch Spider-Man 2 I fall in love with it a little bit more. I notice little things that I have missed on previous viewings and I always walk away from the movie with a feeling of absolute contentment. There may be better movies out there, but there aren’t many. If you are looking for an adult superhero tale that knows how to deliver its story while maintaining that delicate balance between fantastical whimsy, humor and seriousness, Spider-Man 2 is the movie you need to see. It remains one of my all time favorites and one of the best movies I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen Spider-Man 2 yet then you need to, because you are missing out on something great.