Film reviews

Spiderman 2, Dir; Sam Raimi Cert; PG

A short time has passed since our Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman's alter ego, Peter Parker, discovered his 'Great Power'. And quite a lot has happened....

Pete's unrequited love interest, the lovely Mary Jane (MJ) Watson has become a top theatre actress. Pete's top buddy, the snide Harry Osborn (whose father, remember, became the Green Goblin and was killed by Spiderman in v.1) has inherited his father's..... erm.... 'Questionably-ethical' Oscorp business. And Pete's Aunt May, missing her husband dreadfully and now alone in their house, is finding it increasingly hard to pay the bills.

Pete himself is late. Always late, for everything, but specifically for class lectures and his job. We know why - he's Spiderman - and saving the city takes its toll on your schedule. However, lecturers and bosses - not aware of his 'Other job' - take a dim view on his apparent laziness.

And if that wasn't enough, the press is on Spidey's back. Far from being billed as a Good Thing - our Daily Bugle editor (hammed up brilliantly by JK Simmons) pitches Spiderman as a menace, a thief and a con.

Peter Parker finds demons of his own to battle with, and it gets worse for him as he discovers MJ is to be married, Harry is dishoning him for not being a proper pal, his frustrated lecturer tells him not to be so lazy, to use his intelligence or leave the University. And, owning up to feeling responsible for his Uncle's demise provokes his Aunt May to leave the living room in silence. Gulp........

I start humming 'You can't always get what you want'.

All these stresses can have an effect - and they do on poor Spiderman, who loses his Mojo (or Spider mojo?). Very heavy, baby. This leads to an amazing stand-out scene (which could so easily have been kept back for some crappy 'DVD deleted scenes' extra) involving a beautifully acted exchange between a man and Spiderman in an elevator. Watch the movie.

Raimi plays our emotions fantastically. Our brains thrum at the options our poor Pete has to choose from. There's a very satisfying undercurrent of mental battles we follow - the pace and timing of each twist and turn are perfect. Whilst the underlying story was strong in S1 - it's a monster in S2 - and we haven't even met the Bad Guy yet....

Step forward Mr Alfred Molina as the humane, ethical and brilliant scientist Dr Otto Octavius... who's lived life, and loves his wife. Parker gets to meet Octavius for a Uni assignment - to discover that our Doc chum is busy finishing his life's work, fusion. More specifically, controlling the power inherent in a nuclear reaction. Not forgetting he's a brilliant student himself, Pete has doubts about the Doc's claims.

And so as the Oscorp-sponsored debut is presented, things ... ahem.... don't quite go to plan.

Let's not spoil it too much, but suffice to say that the Doc becomes a slave to his creation and it makes him super-determined to have another go - at any cost. Doing a deal with Harry Osborn - he promises to bring him Spiderman in exchange for the Trillium core he needs to recreate his 'baby' once more.

If you're a CGI-sceptic, then you're less likely to enjoy the ensuing, daring battle scenes. Whilst not totally over the top - the observant audience members will be in no doubt as to when the real people clash and when their CGI counterparts do. But this is an aside really and doesn't spoil the pace or action.

Pace and action. Yes definitely. More of everything in this movie - and some Spider-taboos broken too. (Few scenes will bring a lump to your throat more than Spiderman, sans mask, saving a tram-load of people from certain death - collapsing through the effort - only to come round to a circle of concerned adults and a kid, who hands back his mask and says "We won't tell anyone")

Nowadays we expect more than just a sequel; another dose; more franchise. It's not enough. This is more than a formulaic fight of good against evil. It's about sacrifice, betrayal, revenge, love, envy, choice, power - Raimi has delivered and excelled himself. Without doubt a great 2004 movie. Without doubt a benchmark for the genre (including Superman) and something very special indeed. 10/10

Rob McNeill

Odeon Online


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