In the pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe world, Spider-Man 2 was still a pretty exciting moment of geekery. It was a cool thing to be a Spider-Man fan and the movie promised to bring in another villain and continue to build on the whole little universe driving the movie. Oh that funny time when the Marvel movies had no connection to one another because CONFUSING LICENSING.
For the most part, I also enjoyed this movie and I really liked how they handled the characters here. They could have made things a little crazier or maybe even a little sillier, but clearly they were saving that sort of a left turn for the next movie. What an unfortunate turn of events that was.
Synopsis: Spider-Man 2 is a comic book superhero movie directed by Sam Raimi. The screenplay had been written by Alvin Sargent as inspired by characters from the various Spider-Man comics.
So we have your classic Spider-Man story setup where Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to balance being a superhero with his personal life. He's facing a host of financial troubles including Aunt May's (Rosemary Harris) home being threatened with foreclosure. He's barely keeping up with his schoolwork at Columbia University and he has become estranged from his high school friends Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and Harry Osborn (James Franco). So like I said, it's the setup of a classic Spider-Man story, at least for those of us who read the older comics.
Then we meet Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a brilliant nuclear scientist, who now works for Oscorp. He utilizes a harness with highly versatile and powerful robotic arms that allow him to perform complex experiments. However tragedy strikes when a power surge disrupts a key experiment. Dr. Octavius refuses to end the experiment and the resulting accident manages to injure many and fatally wounds his wife, Rosalie (Donna Murphy)
So yes, the movie had Dr. Octopus as a main villain, and even though his story was turned into something a bit more like Batman's Mr. Freeze (think the 90's cartoon and not the 90's train wreck movie) since he has the whole wife-related tragedy defining his life somehow. And this wasn't necessarily a bad thing since Alfred Molina is quite the formidable actor and he really brought a certain - dare I say it? - gravitas to the role. Yes, I used gravitas to describe the villain in a comic book movie.
The whole Peter Parker has a million problems bit is a classic Spider-Man story angle if I've ever seen one. Sure, some of the problems that they put in his path were perhaps a little too 1960's cliche in terms of Spider-man stories, but I guess we can sort of forgive that as an effort to stay true to the original comic book storyline. It's hard to balance that sort of thing with an effort to update things to more modern sensibilities and I don't quite know how to score this area accurately. Some bits were good while others felt a little hokey.
James Franco "rising" to become the next Green Goblin wasn't really panning out well for me here. He has a nasty habit of being really, really hammy and so I wasn't entirely sold on his portrayal here. For a son grieving his father and inevitably following down his path of villainous madness is a heavy task for anyone and I really didn't feel like he knew what he was doing here. Major disappointment. I know his role was meant as a sort of build-up to the next one, but I really could have done without it.
As a whole, Spider-Man 2 was a decent amount of fun on its own and I'm still rather glad that Sam Raini went as far as making this one. But beyond this lay much more despicable things indeed. Thus this chapter of the trilogy gets a good 4 silly things that Dr. Octopus's arms do out of a possible 5.