Tell her not to open the caviar.
Synopsis: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to find balance in his life as he navigates going to college, paying rent, being a friend and a nephew, and fighting crime as a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. His best friend, Harry (James Franco) is trying to run his late father’s business and holds a massive grudge against Spider-Man; and the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is moving on without him. After a science experiment goes terribly wrong, a new foe emerges while Parker struggles with the weight of being a superhero and the need to live his life.
It’s wrong that we should only be half alive. Half of ourselves.Mary Jane Watson
Breakdown: Spider-Man 2 has often been regarded as one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. Even to this day, in a world where there is a new superhero movie, TV show or video game almost every week of the year, people still hold this film in high regards. And for some of the movie, they are right. This movie expertly shows the physical and emotional toll being a superhero has on a person. Heck, this movie might as well be called Peter Parker: The Movie. It is much more about who he is as a man and what that means in his crusade against crime.
To be honest, the weakest point for me was Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. At no point do we see him enjoy who he is and what he is doing. I get it–that’s the point of the movie, but even in the last one he was so weighed down by his world and what was going on that he never got to be the fun-loving Spider-Man that we know from the comics. He always seems like he is moving at half speed, while everyone else around him is firing full steam ahead. It works for the scenes where he is trying to weigh his decision to live a double life or live truly free from the burden of being a hero, but it just drags everything else down in other parts of the movie.
It also doesn’t really help that I just don’t buy the romance between Mary Jane and Peter. Remember how, just a couple of years ago, MJ had no idea who Peter was? Though they lived next door to each other, she essentially met him for the first time in the last movie. And didn’t realize she loved him until the end… and then they never dated. But now they are star-crossed lovers? It’s stretches belief, a bit.
In this film we get another scientist whose hubris and ego get in the way of doing something for the greater good. The big difference here is that Alfred Molina, who portrays Dr. Octavius, is utterly charming and believeable as a good guy gone tragic. You feel the love he has for his wife in the few scenes they share and the utter dismay he has when she dies. Though it is getting a bit old to hear villains have monologues with their evil selves, it works here that his split personality is manifested in his robotic arms.
And can we talk about the graphics for a minute? This movie came out just shy of 20 years ago, and the graphics look excellent. Everything from the first film was refined and expanded upon, from Spider-Man’s fantastic costume to the animation of him swinging through New York City. The scene on the train with Dr. Octopus? Absolutely fantastic, all these years later. I would argue that, just by the last third of the film alone, this is one of the greatest superhero movies of all time.
A special shout out has to go to Rosemary Harris, who turns in a heartbreaking performance as Aunt May. Her reaction to Peter telling her the truth about the night that Uncle Ben died was so raw, so real, and devoid of any melodrama. She is the true MVP of this trilogy of films, to be sure.
I mentioned this above, but the last third of this film is just comic book movie gold. Harry (James Franco) finding out that Peter is Spider-Man and seeing his father again, setting up the promise of a major conflict in the next film. The above mentioned train scene. Dr. Octopus’ selfless act to save the city from his experiment gone wrong, and Peter finally getting the girl all just worked. And set up a very exciting future for Spider-Man on film (one that, unfortunately, wasn’t fully realized, but I digress).
Verdict: The best superhero film of all time? In an age before The Dark Knight, Black Panther, and Avengers: Endgame, I think not. But in a time before those films existed? Absolutely. There are parts of this movie that are without a doubt a master-class in action blockbusters. Unfortunately, there are other parts that bring it to a screeching halt, as well. I’m curious to see how the events of this film play into the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home. At the end of this film, Dr. Octavius is dead after having sacrificed himself. Will he be plucked from his timeline before he turns good and dies? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
**This movie review is part of a series of reviews, where we are watching one Spider-Man movie a week leading up to the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home. You can read more about this review series here.
To see the other reviews, click the links below (we’ll update this list each week as we release new reviews):
- Spider-Man 3
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Venom: Let There Be Carnage
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Spider-Man: Far From Home
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
- Movie Marathon Review: Spider-Man Recap
Mark Pereira is a senior writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.
Featured image source: Bam Smack Pow