Spider-Man 2

Dir: Sam Raimi
Star: Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco

Second verse, same as the first. Actually, that's a little unkind; what I mean, is that Raimi evokes the same sense of fun and wonder here as last time, cementing his position as the most-assured director of comics. The problem - and it's relatively minor - is a desire to cram too much in. As well as Spidey taking on Doc Ock (Molina), we've got the Green Goblin's son (Franco) out for revenge and the on-off-on-off romance between Parker (Maguire) and MJ (Dunst), both carried forward. Then add Aunt May getting evicted, plus Spiderman losing his powers. All of these work individually - together, there's just not room for them, even at 127 minutes, and the eviction plot thread evaporates entirely in the final third. It's also why there are at least two endings two many.

Otherwise, it's fine, with some great, sly digs at superhero culture, as when Spiderman uses his abilities to deliver pizza, or is forced into taking the elevator. The action scenes are improved, in particular a battle on a subway train which is heart-stoppingly shot and edited, yet still packs significant emotional wallop. J.K.Simmons steals his newspaper mogul's scenes effortlessly, and credit also to Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, who does a beautiful job of delivering what could, in other hands, be phenomenally awful dialogue. Yes, the film succeeds despite, rather than because of, its script, and you'll likely be left eager for the almost-inevitable Spiderman 3. At least, if they can find any characters left who don't know Peter Parker's secret...

July 2004

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