Spider-Man 2 is just about the perfect sequel. It works as a standalone film, it works as a sequel to its predecessor, while also managing to be a harbinger of things to come in the series by setting up a potential third film. It does all of this seamlessly and without much work on the part of the audience, being an easy to watch film, while also having enough depth in its plot to keep you sufficiently entertained.
The worst thing that I can say about Spider-Man 2 is the fact that Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) seems less mature in this installment than how he finished in the last. There is a slight inconsistency in how his character is presented, and this was quite noticeable for me. In a sense, this doesn’t matter that much, because it allows Spider-Man 2 to tell a story of Parker growing up and learning how to deal with his new-found responsibilities as an adult and as a superhero.
The primary story this time around involves Peter Parker dealing with life on his own. He gets fired from his job as a pizza delivery boy, can’t have a successful relationship with anyone, and doesn’t seem to be very happy. This is all because of his secret life as Spider-Man, a life that is taking up all of his free time. He starts to doubt whether or not being Spider-Man is the best way to live his life.
There’s also a new villain this time around. Since the Green Goblin is no longer a threat, we need someone to terrorize New York City. Once again, our villain is a reluctant one, not becoming evil by his own choice. In fact, the villain comes in the form of a scientist named Otto Octavius. After a nuclear reactor experiment goes wrong, the robotic arms that he had attached to his body ended up becoming a part of him. Unfortunately, they contain artificial intelligence, and end up taking control of Otto’s body. They end up controlling his actions and end up making him the bad guy.
Both Spider-Man and his adversary get a lot of depth and development in this film. One thing that was definitely improved from the first Spider-Man was the way that times when Parker was in his suit blended seamlessly with the times when he is his regularly, dorky self. You don’t actively notice when a transition occurs, and neither part is better than the other.
It does quickly become clear, however, how much better an actor Alfred Molina is than Tobey Maguire. Don’t get me wrong, I think Maguire is perfect for the role of Spider-Man, but there are a few times throughout the film where you can tell he was struggling. Molina, on the other hand, completely owns his role as Dr. Octopus, seemingly having quite a lot of fun with the role. And mention must be given to J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, who steals every scene he is in.
Also an improvement on the first film is how Spider-Man moves around the city. He seems to actually have weight this time around–he’s affected by gravity, unlike before. With gravity comes the ability to fall, something that happens quite frequently once Spider-Man begins losing his powers.
That’s another of many sub-plots within the film. One of the reasons Spider-Man considers dropping the act altogether is because his powers begin leaving him. Not completely, or at least, not right away, but he does begin having moments where they fail him. This gets wrapped up without much mention though, being one of the only plots that doesn’t go anywhere.
Visually, the film still holds up. Granted, it did win an Academy Award for Visual Effects, so you would expect them to look good. They still do, from Dr. Octopus’ tentacles to Spider-Man swinging through the city, the film looks amazing. Spider-Man 2 also concludes in possibly the best way it could, perfectly wrapping up the story held within it, while also setting up a sequel and bringing in elements from the first film.
Like I said to open off with, Spider-Man 2 really is the perfect sequel. The first film was good, its sequel is great. The characters are deep and well-rounded, the acting is certainly good enough, while the story doesn’t take a back-seat to the action. It can also be a standalone film, which, to me, always shows the making of a good film in a series. If the story it tells can begin and end with one film, while still keeping all the continuity and nuances of the rest of the series, then it’s a good film in my eyes. Spider-Man 2 does this, and does it incredibly well.