Review: Spider-Man 2

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Director Sam Raimi has managed to trump the original Spider-Man film with a sequel whose action and dramatic elements transcend the extreme competence of the first. Maintaining the "campiness" of the comic that he was able to so closely capture in Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 offers a truly escapist fantasy where the good guys always triumph in the end, while keeping the characters down-to-earth enough that the audience is compelled to get behind the heroes and cheer them on (several moments during the screening prompted audience applause).

Tobey Maguire is back as mild-mannered Peter Parker, aka. Spider-Man, who has been adjusting to his role as New York's masked hero, or according to newspaper mogul J. Jonah Jameson, villain. At the same time, Parker must deal with the fact that, as Spider-Man, he can never be with his true love, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), as well as contend with the hostility of his friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) stemming from Parker's connection with Spider-Man, who killed Harry's father Norman (the Green Goblin), in the original film.

As Spider-Man's duty continually calls, Parker has been alienating himself from Mary Jane, as well as falling far behind in his schoolwork. When he learns that Harry's company is funding the fusion research of acclaimed scientist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), Parker is invited to meet with the doctor, as well as be on hand for the demonstration of his breakthrough experiment. In a similar disaster to the first film, the experiment goes horribly wrong, turning the well-meaning doctor into an octopus-like monster, Doc Ock. Doc Ock begins terrorizing the city in order to continue his research, but his motives have turned selfish and malicious, rather than to serve the good of humankind. Who will rescue the city from this monster?

Although Spider-Man 2's trailer does give away more of the film's plot than it should, one of my friends that came up with a completely plausible plot derived from the trailer was only about 25% absolutely correct. For this reason, I will attempt not to shed too much light on the plot as I tell you that it is Parker's emotional turmoil that propels this film, rather than the action sequences, even though they are wonderful to see. Parker wrestles with his desire to live his own life, free of the restrictions that being a superhero requires and his late uncle's assertion that "with great power comes great responsibility".

There is not one performance in this film that is lacking in any way. Each actor has seemed to discover the perfect balance between a realistic performance and a histrionic (over-the top, usually stereotypical of villains and side-kicks) performance for his or her character. It is still exhilarating to see Spider-Man swinging through New York, saving good guys and beating bad guys. Spider-Man 2 is lots of fun, but parents should be cautioned about bringing VERY young children, as there is a larger degree of violence than you may think. But in terms of summer blockbusters, Spider-Man 2 is Jer's pick.

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