"Spiderman 2"
Dir: Sam Raimi

Patricia Ducey

“We Need Him…”

He’s back! That scarlet spandexed, web-snapping, crime-wave-busting, angst ridden arachno-human Spiderman, and just in time to save the summer movie season. Heck, maybe the year. Show stopping special effects aside, this warm, humanistic and finally ennobling film is a comic book superhero movie for everyone, even those of us who usually don’t like comic book superhero movies.

The special effects are dizzying, and director Sam Raimi orchestrates the interaction between humans and CGI with a buoyant confidence. Spiderman's final confrontation with Doc Ock on an El train echoes Popeye Doyle’s epochal chase in The French Connection, adds a soupcon of Speed, and surpasses them both. Above all else, the script gifts the audience with multi-dimensional characters, conflicted, passionate and heroic, a rarity in realistic movies or summer blockbusters. And Raimi has chosen his writers wisely. Novelist Michael Chabon contributes to the story, while the superlative Alvin Sargent, at 70-something, delivers a script that ranks among his most notable, as well crafted as Ordinary People and Paper Moon. Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spiderman and Kirsten Dunst as his true love, Mary Jane Watson, headline a cast that clearly revels in Sargent and Raimi’s outstanding vision.

Peter Parker is an unwilling Spiderman, like all truly interesting heroes, and the inner struggle between his warring nerd and superhero personalities tears him apart. He remembers too well the words of his beloved uncle, who warned him that he might be lonely, that he would have to be strong and perhaps even have give up his dreams because of his “gift.” Peter does live a troubled existence, emotionally and physically exhausted by the demands of his double life. The press villainizes Spidey to increase circulation (in a sly reference to media manipulations today). As Peter, he continually disappoints Mary Jane and his Aunt May, while his college professor threatens him with failure if he doesn’t shape up. As Peter’s depression deepens, his superpowers start to fade, and he finally renounces his alter ego. By this time we ache for him and are almost glad he chooses the easy way out. Suddenly, he feels great! He’s the star pupil at Columbia, he takes another stab at wooing Mary Jane, while the sun shines and the birds sing – he’s high on the Prozac of normalcy. The only scene missing is a confessional appearance on Oprah. But crime soars and chaos ensues, and Peter sees all too clearly the cost of his choice to his beloved New York. Where’s Spiderman, children cry, we need him!

Alfred Molina is masterful as Peter’s intellectual idol, Dr. Otto Octavius. But after the good doctor ignores sober warnings against his fusion experiment it goes horribly wrong. (Of course.) The resultant metallic snake-like succubus thingie that latches onto his spine, colonizes his brain and morphs Octavius into the evil Doc Ock is surely the creepiest monster ever. But Sargent’s script and Molina’s haunted eyes reveal even his inner torment, and we cannot help but empathize with him as he faces his cruel destiny.

For all its comic book delights, Spiderman-2 wins the audience with its tale of human struggle. It’s no accident that, in the film, budding actress Mary Jane debuts in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, a play about false identities and the quest for true love. Whether you’re a Big Bug or a Victorian, these universal themes will resonate with you. One can only hope that somewhere right now, Mr. Raimi is conferring with Mr. Sargent on Spiderman-3.

-- Patricia Ducey

Copyright Web del Sol, 2004

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