Spider-Man 2 (2004)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #86

A man will face his destiny.
A hero will be revealed.

Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 127 minutes | 135 minutes (2.1 extended cut)
BBFC: PG (cut, 2004) | 12A (2004) | PG (uncut, 2009)
MPAA: PG-13

Original Release: 25th June 2004 (Lithuania)
US Release: 30th June 2004
UK Release: 16th July 2004
First Seen: cinema, July 2004

Stars
Tobey Maguire (Pleasantville, The Great Gatsby)
Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire, Melancholia)
James Franco (City by the Sea, 127 Hours)
Alfred Molina (Frida, An Education)

Director
Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Drag Me to Hell)

Screenwriter
Alvin Sargent (Gambit, Ordinary People)

Story by
Alfred Gough (Lethal Weapon 4, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor)
Miles Millar (Shanghai Noon, Herbie Fully Loaded)
Michael Chabon (John Carter)

Based on
Spider-Man, a comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; in particular the story Spider-Man No More! by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr.

The Story
Peter Parker battles problems in his personal life while his superhero alter ego Spider-Man battles the machinations of evil scientist Dr Otto Octavius.

Our Hero
Spider-Man! Spider-Man does whatever a spider can — spins a web any size, catches thieves just like flies. Is he strong? Listen bud, he’s got genetically-modified blood. Wealth and fame he’s ignored, action is his reward… though he’s having doubts about if it’s worth it. With great power comes great responsibility, and neither sit well with a kid who wants a normal life.

Our Villain
Doc Ock! Guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs, four mechanical arms welded right onto his body — what are the odds?

Best Supporting Character
Before he won an Oscar for Whiplash, or posted photos of his insanely ripped body on social media, J.K. Simmons brought himself to everyone’s attention as the hilariously irascible editor of The Daily Bugle newspaper, J. Jonah Jameson. He was so good, they haven’t even bothered to recast the character for any of the three live-action Spidey films that have come since the first reboot.

Memorable Quote
“So here I am, standing in your doorway. I have always been standing in your doorway.” — Mary Jane

Quote Most Likely To Be Used in Everyday Conversation
“With great power comes great responsibility.” — Uncle Ben may be dead, but they manage to have him say it in this one too.

Memorable Scene
The elevated train fight between Spidey and Doc Ock. It was the first major sequence filmed, before the screenplay was completed, but Raimi had dreamt it up personally. It was shot in Chicago because New York no longer has an elevated railway, but Raimi was seeking to create an idealised version of the city.

Technical Wizardry
The sound effects for Doc Ock’s tentacles were created using motorcycle chains and piano wires, while the sound of him ripping open the bank vault was a hubcap scraping along the floor. The designers consciously didn’t include the noise of servomotors, to enhance the idea that the tentacles have become a part of Ock’s body.

Truly Special Effect
Doc Ock’s tentacles were built practically. Each one was 13ft long, made up of 76 pieces, fully articulated, and controlled by four people. Obviously some of their appearances are CGI, especially when Ock’s using them to move around, but every scene was first filmed using the real props to see if CGI was truly necessary

Making of
Tobey Maguire injured his back before filming began, to the extent that Jake Gyllenhaal (at the time only really known for Donnie Darko) was tapped to replace him, and even began preparing for the shoot. Ultimately Maguire recovered enough to participate (obviously). A couple of years later Gyllenhaal was one of the final contenders for Batman in Batman Begins, but didn’t get to do that either. I’m sure Marvel will find a superhero for him eventually — they do for most people.

Previously on…
Ignoring the many and various animated series and failed attempts to bring Spidey to the screen, there was the first Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man, which was the first film to gross over $100 million on its opening weekend. Also, MTV animated series Spider-Man: The New Animated Series is technically set after Spider-Man and therefore before Spider-Man 2, but I don’t think anyone remembers it…

Next time…
Spider-Man 3 concluded the trilogy with a whimper thanks to behind-the-scenes clashes, which also scuppered plans for Spider-Man 4. The series was rebooted with the unpopular The Amazing Spider-Man, which was followed by the even-more-unpopular The Amazing Spider-Man 2, leading to the character being rebooted again and integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The latest version debuted in Captain America: Civil War before starring in a solo movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, next summer.

Awards
1 Oscar (Visual Effects)
2 Oscar nominations (Sound Mixing, Sound Editing)
2 BAFTA nominations (Sound, Visual Effects)
5 Saturn Awards (Fantasy Film, Actor (Tobey Maguire), Director, Writer, Special Effects)
3 Saturn nominations (Supporting Actor (Alfred Molina), Music, DVD Special Edition Release)
Nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form
1 World Stunt Award (Best Overall Stunt by a Stunt Man (Peter Parker falling into clothes lines))
2 World Stunt Awards nominations (Best Work with a Vehicle, Best Speciality Stunt (Doc Ock waking up))

What the Critics Said Then
“a sequel that not only outstrips its predecessor but has a perversity and quick-wittedness that hardly seem to belong in a comic-book movie. […] It’s unusual and gratifying to find a multimillion dollar movie that’s been put together with some thoughtfulness, that doesn’t neglect subtlety in between delivering the smash-bang-wallop. […] It’s the interest in human fallibility that sets this movie apart. The superhero who bridles at his own responsibility may not sound an especially gripping prospect, but his dilemma is explored with a conviction that, within the fantasy genre, feels almost groundbreaking.” — Anthony Quinn, The Independent

Score: 93%

What the Critics Say Now
On placing the film in his top ten for BBC Culture’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century: “First of all, the 21st century is the century of superheroes. To approach the history of this era without acknowledging that is to miss the story. Many of my peers opted to make The Dark Knight the film that represented superheroes for them, but while I like that movie it’s a crime film in superhero drag. Spider-Man 2 is an unabashedly comic book superhero movie, a film that is pulsing with the vibrant four color life of the best comic book panels and that is soaked in the sudsy soap opera of the best comic book word balloons. It’s a movie that is a perfect fusion between filmmaker and material, and it is, without a doubt, the best example of superhero filmmaking ever attempted.” — Devin Faraci, Birth. Movies. Death.

What the Public Say
“The most interesting relationship that gets explored in Spider-Man 2, however, is with Spider-Man himself. In the first Spider-Man, Peter basically became Spider-Man the instant he decided to live his life by Uncle Ben’s last few words and donned on the Spidey suit, and that was that. Here, Peter Parker basically breaks up with Spider-Man and with Uncle Ben, as he says he is “Spider-Man, no more,” and has to start over and re-bond with the hero inside of him. [The] movie makes use of this psychological relationship to refine its definition of a hero as established in the first film. It isn’t just about responsibility. It argues that the hero is inherently sacrificial. They give up even their dreams to salvage yours. This definition is much more mature and sophisticated […] It goes to show that a big budget doesn’t have to translate into senselessness. Spider-Man 2 is the intellectual experience I was looking for in a Spider-Man film with all the action that I always imagined was possible.” — Kevin Tae, Taestful Reviews

Elsewhere on 100 Films
Just before Spider-Man 3 came out they released an extended cut of the first sequel on DVD, dubbed Spider-Man 2.1 (remember when they briefly called extended cuts things like that?) At the time I concluded “it’s still a 5-star film because it doesn’t ruin the original — but it’s not at all essential”, though I later added a postscript to note that “I probably should have rated this lower. It may still be a good film, but the fact is the original cut’s better — even if just for the superior version of The Lift Scene. I rather doubt I’ll ever watch it again.”

Verdict

In a simpler time before every superhero movie was connected to every other superhero movie, filmmakers were free to only have to tell one story and develop the ongoing life of their lead characters (rather than juggle everyone else’s lead characters for cameos, too). Spider-Man 2 is a pinnacle of this. It takes the seeds sown by the first movie and nurtures them into more interesting and complex emotional dilemmas, without losing sight of the fact it’s a movie based on a comic book about a man who swings around the city in a red-and-blue onesie fighting crime. Nonetheless, it’s as memorable for Peter and MJ’s up-and-down relationship as it is for the stunning action sequences, which become icing on the cake rather than the raison d’être.

#87 is… no kid’s game.

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