23 January 2006

Review: Spiderman 2 (2004)

Poor Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire)! As if being an unappreciated superhero in New York isn't enough, he's too skint to pay his rent, his life long sweetheart MJ (Kirsten Dunst) is betrothed to a national hero, Aunt May's (Rosemary Harris) house is about to be repossessed by the bank and his best friend Norman (James Franco) is consumed with hatred of Spiderman who killed his dad. What's more, there's a new super villain Dr Ock (Alfred Molina) on the loose. Maybe this superhero lark isn't all it's cracked up to be and it's time to grow up. Or maybe being a hero means more than just rounding up baddies, leaping between buildings and wearing a cool costume?

This second installment of Spiderman's adventures is unusually sophisticated for the costume superhero genre. Writer Alvin Sargent assails our hero with numerous mundane and profound problems, and reflects his situation in the subplots. He's also been allowed to move the story along a couple of years and to avoid revisiting ground covered in the first film. A little extra care with the science would have helped avoid some annoying statements (for example, Dr Ock's fusion device generates one thousand megawatts of power without immediately incinerating everyone in the room).

Director Sam Raimi keeps a tight grip on the story and the tone light. He pokes gentle fun at the essential silliness of the genre (the lift scene is hilarious) and doesn't let the special effects overwhelm the most down to earth superhero in the world.

The cast look as if the characters in the comics have come to life, especially the editor of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) with his flat top haircut and overbearing behaviour. The leads, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, are starting to look a bit too old as college kids in their first jobs. There's a cameo appearance of Sam Raimi's buddy Bruce Campbell as the snooty theatre door attendant.

A satisfying continuation of Spiderman's story.

Stars: 3 out of 5