Spiderman 2 is an excellent roller coaster ride of a movie which picks up where the first film left off. Once again we join Peter Parker/Spiderman in New York for the next stage in his eventful life. All of the same people who made the first movie are involved again here with the exception of Dr Octopus who replaces the Green Goblin as the super villain troubling Spidey.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is now at college studying and trying to earn cash through his photography for the Daily Bugle newspaper. This time around Spiderman has to face the powerful Dr Octopus (Alfred Molina) who possesses his own set of indestructible artificially intelligent mechanical arms which are welded to his body after an almost fatal accident during his latest fusion experiment. The once great physicist becomes insane after the accident which ruins his career and claims his wife´s life. The only man capable of stopping him is of course Spiderman.
Once again Peter is struggling to keep his love for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) a secret. He cannot reconcile the two sides of his life and we follow this internal battle which leads him to briefly turn his back on the web slinging antics which have made his name. Naturally he finds it hard and there is some emotional back and forth between him and Mary-Jane which drags a bit in comparison to the rest of the action. The real attraction here is the battle between Spiderman and Doc Oc and it doesn't disappoint.
The action sequences are really impressive, a battle on an elevated train which has to be seen to be believed and some fantastic special effects work on the mechanical arms make every scene featuring Spiderman and Dr Octopus gripping viewing. The direction is excellent from Sam Raimi and he creates some beautifully shot action sequences. He also continues to reference the original comic books and again succeeds in bringing the world of Spiderman to life.
Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and the rest of the supporting cast do well with their roles but once more the super villain steals the show and for me the performance of the film is Alfred Molina´s Dr Octopus. Molina has come a long way from his early appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark when he left Indy high and dry without his whip only to be skewered on a booby trap. His portrayal of Dr Otto Octavius is really thoughtful and almost the polar opposite of Willem Dafoe´s Green Goblin. Then again Dr Octopus is a more sympathetic character and Molina plays him as a basically decent guy who has lost his way, this really adds to the film and gives some depth to the proceedings.
As with the first Spiderman this film breaks the two hour mark but feels much shorter. The pace is generally frenetic but things drag in places and the main weak spot is the back story as Harry Osborn still seeks the death of Spiderman in revenge for the killing of his father. This is wedged together with the Dr Octopus plot but weighted too heavily and James Franco as Osborn is not able to hold it together. Franco simply isn´t a good enough actor to convincingly portray the mental breakdown of Osborn and even a cameo from Dafoe as the Green Goblin/Norman Osborn isn´t enough to save this part of the story. This is a shame as any fans of the comic will know that Norman is going to take on his father´s mantle and will likely appear in Spiderman 3 as the Green Goblin.
The director Sam Raimi also made the Evil Dead films and the star, Ash played by Bruce Campbell has cameos in both the Spiderman films. I mention this simply because I really like Bruce Campbell and so you should watch out for him as the Ring Announcer in Spiderman and the snotty Doorman in Spiderman 2. Let´s hope he can get a bigger part in Spiderman 3, I think he'd pass as Sandman.
Spiderman 2 is not as good as the original, the events are more muddled and the conclusion less satisfying but there is still much to recommend it. Great direction, an amazing performance from Alfred Molina as Dr Octopus and some of the best action sequences ever should be enough to thrill and entertain you for the duration.