A large number of people will claim that this is the best Spider-Man movie. Even now, coming on eighteen years later, this is widely seen as the gold standard. As soon as a trailer drops for a new Spidey flick, the comparisons will begin. Always. Without fail.
So, are they right to do so? Is Spider-Man 2 the holy grail of Spidey movies? Or is it all just nostalgia talking?
Nah, this movie is really good. It’s easy to see why it’s held up so high.
Peter Parker is down on his luck. He can’t keep a job, Aunt May is on the fast track to losing her house, Harry hates him for his connection to Spider-Man, and Mary Jane is dating another man. Even worse, his idol, Otto Octavius, is driven mad by an experiment gone wrong, turning into the latest supervillain of New York: Doctor Octopus. And to top it all off, Peter’s gradually losing his powers! With that, Peter is faced with a powerful choice: let go of his responsibilities, or give up on what he wants in order to do the right thing?
This is a fantastic follow-up to the first movie. It perfectly expands on the themes of responsibility at the heart of these films. In the first film, we saw Peter take responsibility. In this one, we explore what happens when he has to live with that responsibility. It adds a lot to the depth of both the story and the character of Peter Parker, which allows it to explore one of the best and most relatable sides of Spider-Man.
It helps that Raimi went all the way to make Peter’s life suck. To even the most minute degree. This dude legit doesn’t take a single W throughout the whole damn movie. Everything he does is a struggle, one that he never overcomes. As Spider-Man, life is golden. But as Peter Parker? Not so much. It’s easy to see why Peter would abandon his life as a superhero.
But then Aunt May delivers an incredibly powerful speech. Easily one of the best Spider-Man speeches ever written.
Speaking of Aunt May, I love her in this movie. She’s sassy as fuck and takes no shits from anybody. At the same time, she’s given a vulnerability not often seen with the character. I love her reaction to learning that Peter is responsible for Uncle Ben’s death; she doesn’t immediately forgive him, or chew him out. She’s stunned, unable to respond, and retreats to get her thoughts together. It’s a somberly beautiful moment that really humanizes her character.
To top off my praise of the narrative: I adore the train scene. Not only do we get a scene of the hero actually saving people (an instant win in superhero movies), but Peter actually interacts with them while he does it! It makes the city of New York itself feel alive, just like it was in the first movie, and it is easily one of the most emotionally impactful moments in any superhero film.
Now, I’m gonna share my hottest take in this whole review: I’m not a huge fan of this version of Doc Oc. I think Alfred Molina does a fantastic job as the character! But his motivations felt really weak, and his transformation into a maniacal monster is a little too quick. One scene, he’s arguing with himself about becoming a criminal. The next, he drops an old lady off a building and cracks a joke. His redemption at the end is fairly satisfying, but his turn to evil is a bit too rapid for me.
Of course, this movie is insanely corny by today’s standards, just like the first movie. Granted, the background extras aren’t quite as hilarious as before. Luckily, the intentional comedy is at its peak here. I will always laugh at, “Yo! He stole that guy’s pizza!”
The unintentional comedy all happens in the next movie.
Presentation wise, this movie has aged a bit better than the first one. The CGI is much better; the characters have a bit more weight to their movements, making them feel more real rather than being cartoon characters. Some of the transitions are a bit silly; I will always laugh when we zoom in on the spider crest to transition into Harry’s place. But most of the cinematography, particularly during the fight scenes, is really solid!
Also, the music is amazing. From the sweeping, bombastic fight music to the somber, dramatic, and heroic, this OST is a delight. It fits the mythos of Spider-Man perfectly.
Unfortunately, the issue with the suit still remains. While wearing the mask, Spidey is completely incapable of emoting. Luckily, they seemed to have learned from the first movie, because over half of the Spidey scenes feature him without the mask. Still, when he is wearing it, he is incapable of showing any complex facial emotions.
Again: limits of the time.
So, yes. Spider-Man 2 really is one of the best superhero movies ever made. It hasn’t aged flawlessly, despite what some people might claim. But it is still definitely one of the best Spidey movies ever made.
But is it the best? I wouldn’t say so. Sorry folks, but Spider-Verse exists now. The standards have been raised.
Man, can’t wait for the flood of angry comments that remark is going to get.