In the first Spider-Man Sam Raimi had to set everything up and establish the franchise. If he did it well, there would be another film. He did a great job with Spider-Man, but there seemed to be some rough edges. Parts felt a bit forced - maybe a bit like a suit that almost fits. But with Spider-Man 2, the suit fits very well and Raimi has made a great comic-book film that really captures the essence of the Spider-Man comics and explores the whole idea of what it means to be a superhero. What’s great about the whole world of the comic-book superhero is that when it works well it isn’t about (mainly) guys in suits fighting each other, but us - non-superheros and how we deal with the challenges in our lives. The hard part isn’t fighting an enemy with 4 mechanical arms, but struggling with our feelings and doing the right thing.
Sam Raimi has a great sense of humour, can direct great action sequences, and also can make very moving smaller films such as A Simple Plan. In Spider-Man 2 he brings it all together into my new favourite comic-book film. Even though the film is just over 2 hours long, my son said to me afterwards, “That was a short film.” That says a lot as John can be easily bored. It’s a pretty much perfect balance between nail-biting action sequences and emotional moments. Maybe it’s because I loved the comic book, maybe I’m a sucker for that type of story, but the film brings everything that works in that type of story and leaves out things that don’t. The cast is great with Toby Maguire bringing the proper balance of strength and vulnerability to the part. Even though you know that it’s a franchise and the hero isn’t going to die, you’re worried for him, which means that you’ve suspended your disbelief and you care about what happens. Alfred Molina brings depth and dignity to a villan who could be just a set of arms by giving him a heart. Kirsten Dunst is completely believable as a woman that you’d be hopelessly in love with. She’s a strong character and adds subtlety to a role that could be just “the girlfriend.” We care about the characters, which is why the film works so well.
While Peter Parker agonizes over his life and the decisions he’s made the balance with the action is just right and the film moves along well. The action sequences and computer imagery are fantastic this time. In the first film they were a bit off, but this time they’re exciting and perfectly integrated. I was never bored and I noticed that I was sucked in to the story and action. A great summer film that is solid and fun.