In those years before I hit my teens I collected comic books, a typical hobby for that age group and gender. Discounting the Ďgirlí comics like Archie and the like there were two major forces in comic lore then, DC and Marvel. While DC had the heavy hitters like Superman, Batman, the Flash and The Green Lantern, Marvel had something completely different, super heroes with very human faults. Spider-Man was a prime example of this humanization of their heroes; he couldnít get the girl, had to scrape by for a meager living and had doubts about even being a super hero. It was his human connection that drew me to the comics and thankfully, it was provided once again in the wildly successful films. Spider-Man 2 is not your typical super hero flick; it has greater depth than many of the so called serious dramas I have seen recently. This film crosses the genre lines by having heart. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is starting to doubt his role as Spider-Man. While most would think it was so cool to be able to swing above the streets of New York fighting crime the price Peter has to pay is the almost complete abdication of any personal life. He has always been in love with the girl he grew up next store to, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) but Peter realizes that he makes enemies in his role of Spidey and fears that his alter ego would place MJ in grave and constant danger. Add to this his emotions take a major hit when he is fired from his job as a pizza delivery man and his beloved Aunt May is about to lose the family home. To make matters worse an archetypical scientific genius Dr. Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) creates robotic arms, dons them and becomes the evil Doctor Octopus. Spider-Man is not the self assured man of steel most comics provided; he is a young man with problems that the audience can connect to on a very real emotional level.
Instead of bowing to the recent trend of special effects drive, almost mind numbing action this film has a story. Even if you donít normally enjoy super hero flicks this film has the emotional investment to hold your interest and entertain. Attention is paid in this story to actual character development, the characters are permitted to grow, fail and interact in a realistic manner. While most films made from comic books give us only one dimensional people here we get full human beings, the super powers are almost secondary to the motivations. In the scene where Peter tosses the Spider-Man costume in the trash (taken right from a panel in Spider-Man #50) we understand why he took this step. There is more here than when Superman gave up his powers for Lois in Superman 2, we see the depth of Peterís love for Mary Jane. Even the villain is more human than most films of this genre. Doc Ock is drive to his heinous acts.
There where rumors that Tobey Maguire was to be replaced for this film. Fortunately, this did not come to pass. Not only would that ruin the continuity with the first film but Maguire is the perfect choice for this part. I have been a fan of his since The Ice Storm and have watched him grow as an actor. Here, he gives his all to define a realistic character, a rational young man placed in the most un-rational of circumstances. Maguire is not the overly pretty boy stereotype used too often by Hollywood today. He presents himself as a boy next door, just one that can shoot webs and climb on walls. He also has great chemistry with his female co-star. Kirsten Dunst is another young actor with a long and varied resume. Here she gives Mary Jane just the right amount of hesitation, she really wants to be with Peter but life goes on and she falls for another man. She has the innate talent to make us believe what is going on beneath the surface of this young woman. Few could have imagined that Alfred Molina, the cowardly young man covered with spiders in the first Indiana Jones film would grow into such a powerful actor. He plays the part of Doc Ock just up to the line, never quite going too far over the top. He presents us with a villain that is overcome by his own invention, driven to become the villain.
Sam Raimi once again takes the helm for this second installment of the Spider-Man saga. Like the first film Raimi has respect not only for the comic book this tale came from but for the audience willing to part with their money to see it. He cuts between the exposition and action in a flowing, seamless fashion, always aware of what the audience needs at that moment. There is a lot he gives to Peter that reminded me of one of Raimiís older films, Darkman, a hero with extraordinary abilities condemned to being the hero. The special effects here are a lot more realistic, Spider-Man swinging over the streets of New York looks more like Magiure than even. Raimi was originally going to go with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio but in order to capture the action properly choose 2.35:1 instead. This added room on the screen is well used here; the composition is perfect in every frame.
Columbia/Tri-Star does it again with this DVD. The video is absolutely stunning, the color palette is vibrant and always on the mark. The transitions between light and dark are presented without any artifacts at all. The Dolby 5.1 audio fills the room during the action sequences yet even the faintest whispers between Peter and MJ are crystal clear. The commentary gives better than the usual back patting; it actually provides interesting insight into the making of the film. With over ten hours of extras this disc will continue to entertain long after the film is over. Particularly interesting was the little blooper reel showing some of the better mistakes made by the cast. Of course, there are featurettes detailing the arduous tasks of incorporating the amazing special effects into the film. Even if you never saw the first movie, even if you are not really a fan of comic book films get this one and enjoy.