Spider-Man 2 (2004)
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Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon, Alvin
Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Bruce Campbell, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Banks, Daniel Gillies, Donna Murphy, Vanessa Ferlito, Ted Raimi
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Listen To Me Now!
Favorite Movie Quote: "Am I not supposed to have what I want? What I need?"
This is gonna be one of the tough towns...
I've never met anyone that agrees with my opinion on Spider-man 2; I even got into a filmmaker's version of a donnybrook with my film school screenwriting instructor over its merits (or lack thereof). It's not that Spider-man 2 is a terrible movie, I just can't feel compassion for a masoachist.
(Masochism: gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation, etc., inflicted or imposed on oneself, either as a result of one's own actions or the actions of others, esp. the tendency to seek this form of gratification).
Some time has passed between this and the original when ULTIMATE POWER led to ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY and Peter Parker (Tobey McGuire) defeated Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), rescued Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and began lying to his best friend, Harry Osbourne (James Franco). This chapter involves Dr. Otto Octavius/Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina), and Spider-man getting kicked in the junk for two solid hours. And asking for more. And more. And more. And still more.
There are fine lines between being a hero, being a martyr, and being a f*cking horse's ass. Let's examine this stage of Peter Parker's life. Pete diligently takes responsibility for stupid children, absentee parents, completely ineffectual law enforcement (crime goes through the roof during Spider-man's sabtical), questionable safety standards (how many buildings actually burn down in New York over the course of a year?), an over-zealous physicist's nearly catastrophic blunder, and a murder.
Let's start where we left off in the first stage. Parker determined at the end of the first Spider-man that allowing himself to get involved with MJ would put her at risk, that his enemies would hurt her to get to him, and similarly he feels that honoring the wishes of mass murderer Norman Osbourne (Dafoe) to not "tell Harry" was more important than honesty, trust, and allowing people to take RESPONSIBILITY for their own lives. Pete does make these decisions in the first film, but it's in the sequels in which he (and we) must live with them.
Mary Jane and Harry are grown-ups. Why does Spider-man's POWER give him the right to make decisions for them? This is disrespectful of people one professes to care about, at the least, and borders on meglomania. This half-assedness is at least partially culpable for Harry's descent into rage and drunkeness. I was hoping Harry's pimp-slap might knock some sense into Pete, but no such luck. Meanwhile, abstaining from dating MJ means nothing to her safety when she's still visibly an important part of his life. Parker wasn't nailing his Aunt May either, but that hardly kept her safe from Goblin.
Now, I understand this 'tweener' conflict is the central theme of Spider-man 2, but it plays out like a business telling a single mother she must choose between career and family - we're not specialized insects (spiders are arachnids). For one thing, even a superhero needs to take care of his basic needs - food, shelter, water, and companionship - while Parker's getting fired from job after job while flushing everything down the toilet so he can save every kitty that gets stuck in a tree (BTW kitties are fully capable of getting down; they just don't like you). Even cops get paid, for Spider-man's sake. It's a f*cking martyr complex, one that's destined to see web-head swinging through the concrete jungle of New York in a costume patched with burlap; the secret hide-out can be a dumpster. On top of all this, Parker doesn't voluntarily complete his arc, doesn't learn anything; it's MJ's assertiveness at the end of the day that saves this train wreck (though she has to leave a decent fellow at the altar to do it *grimace*) and Peter gives Harry the finger.
There's no fewer than three cuties potentially offering up their chastity to Pete in this flick (MJ, news girl, and chocolate cake girl); f*cksake, you're not a monk, dude. On second thought, why don't you give Silas from The Divinci Code a call? You can flip for who gets to flog themself first. Or maybe Kevin Bacon's character from Animal House? THANK YOU, SIR! MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?
There's nothing technically wrong with this structure - if you want to root for a horse's ass.
What salvages the film for me is Alfred Molina, a chameleonic actor who's been tooling around tinsel town forever, getting some roles decent, others not so decent. He owns this flick, steals every scene in which he's present, and closes it out with an appropriately redeeming sacrifice. Other high points are the entire train sequence (sans Jesus parallel would be preferred), JK Simmons continued awesomesauce as Jameson, and despite how we get there, it sets up the third movie with Harry and MJ ("Go get 'em, Tiger.") very well. Somehow Dunst ends up in a wet t-shirt - again.
It's tough to be rough with Spider-man 2. I like this movie, I watch it, I owe it, but I just can't give it top-shelf status with such a door-mat protagonist.
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