Welcome back to Heroic Weekly, the weekly series where I talk about a superhero movie from the past. Before we go any further, I’d like to say that I had a ton of fun writing this and the last episode. Honestly, I had way more fun writing these than actual reviews. Just pointing that out there. I really appreciated the feedback so please feel free to let me know what you think of this series!
Alright, so last episode was about Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” from 2002, and I think it only makes sense to follow up with the sequel, “Spider-Man 2.” Sam Raimi returns to direct what is in my opinion my favorite superhero movie EVER. Seriously, this movie is incredible, and I’ll get into why later. Is it perfect? No. Do I care? Not necessarily. Is part of the reason that I like this movie so much purely due to nostalgia? Absolutely yes.
“Spider-Man 2” once again centers around Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) trying to balance his life as both himself and Spider-Man. Along with being a hero, he’s dealing with school, living on his own, his job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, his conflicted relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), who hates Spider-Man since you know… he killed Harry’s dad. As a new villain emerges with Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Peter must rise to the challenge and become a true hero.
I first saw this movie when I was five, and I distinctly remember it in my head today as being one of my first theater experiences. Specifically, I remember myself being absolutely terrified in the theater because of Doc Ock. However, I 100% loved this movie right from the start and watched it on repeat countless times since. Even back then, I realized there’s a lot going on in this movie. I recently rewatched it with relatively fresh eyes so I can write this article, and if anything, I love it more.
Peter gets the life kicked out of him in this movie. If you don’t sympathize with this character in any way during this movie, I don’t know man, there’s a chance you might be a sociopath. He has so many things going on in this movie. However, it’s not done in a super fast, jarring way. Everything blends together pretty well, and Raimi successfully transitions between the various subplots. The best thing I can say about this movie is that it nails Spider-Man as a character down really well. No, it’s not an accurate comic book representation, but as a film character, it works really well. Now that the origin story is out of the way, we can dive into his core values.
We need to see why great power requires great responsibility, and Peter makes some tough decisions in the film. There’s a scene towards the end of the first act when Peter uses a pay phone to tell Mary Jane that he’s Spider-Man, and you can see that it’s just so hard for him to do. Tobey Maguire constantly looks like he’s about to cry in this film, and while we can make fun of it all we want, it actually works really well for this character. Maybe if you were going through the stuff he was in this movie, you’d be sad too.
Peter’s stress and constant struggle is what causes his powers to fail. One of my favorite lines in the film is when Otto Octavius says to Peter, “If you keep something as powerful as love stored up inside you, it can make you sick.” It’s a good use of foreshadowing and Peter definitely feels sick inside through the majority of this film. He’s tired and frustrated with being Spider-Man and not able to be with those he loves. He ultimately gives up his suit and becomes a normal guy for the first time since he became Spider-Man. While this is a really easy way for a movie to mess up, Raimi actually uses it to his advantage. One of the best scenes in the film is when Peter Parker (without his powers) rushes into a building on fire in order to save a little girl. It shows that even without his superpowers, his real power was inside him all along. Yeah, it’s some Care Bears level stuff, but come on, admit it, you felt good when Peter saved that kid.
Every relationship Peter has is tested in this movie. He finally tells Aunt May that he’s partly responsible for Uncle Ben’s death, but Aunt May chooses to forgive him instead. She also tells Peter (and the audience) what makes a hero a hero. She tells him,
“Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.”
Aside from that being my favorite quote in any superhero movie ever, she’s basically forgiving him. Peter’s act of taking responsibility for his actions, being honest to Aunt May, and continuing to be a caring nephew is what makes him a hero to her. Moreover, it shows that Aunt May is a hero to Peter. Peter is getting his life kicked in this movie at this moment, and Aunt May is the first one to subtly tell Peter to hold on a second longer.
The other aspect of this quote about giving up your dreams comes into major play just a few scenes before with Peter’s dreamlike conversation with Uncle Ben:
Uncle Ben: “All the things that you’ve been thinking about, Peter… make me sad.”
Peter: “Can’t you understand? I’m in love with Mary Jane.”
Uncle Ben: “You know I understand. But I thought you’d learned the meaning of responsibility.”
Peter: “You don’t know how it feels.”
Uncle Ben: “Peter, all the times we’ve talked of honesty, fairness, justice, out of those times I counted on you to have the courage to take those dreams out into the world.”
Peter: “I can’t live your dreams anymore. I want a life of my own.”
Uncle Ben: “You’ve been given a gift, Peter. With great power, comes great responsibility.”
[pauses and holds out hand]
Uncle Ben: “Take my hand, son.”
Peter: [pause] “No, Uncle Ben. I’m just Peter Parker. I’m Spider-Man… no more. No more.”
Like come on, that’s just chills right there.
Peter’s relationship with Harry Osborn also hits a low point in this movie because of Peter’s inability to tell Harry the truth. This film makes a clear message that keeping some secrets inside you can make you sick inside and can ruin your relationships with the people you care for the most.
People tend to point out how flip floppy Mary Jane is in this movie, and how it doesn’t make any sense that she loves Peter yet still decides to marry someone else. I don’t have a problem with it because it’s a classic Hollywood trope and the ending scene with Mary Jane showing up at Peter’s apartment is reminiscent of an airport scene in any romantic movie.
I really like this one segment in the movie in which Peter is finally just Peter without the powers. It’s really happy and has really dumb editing but I love it anyways. I’ll just put it in here to show you:
I would like to point out that this guy is a weird hot dog eater:
Perhaps the best scene in the entire film is the train fight between Spider-Man and Doc Ock. The camera zooms through the city as Spidey and Ock use their surroundings to their advantage. It’s not only a smart fight, but also one that shows us the advantages these two super-powered people have. Part of the fight takes place on the side of a train and the two characters have to dodge their environment. The fight itself is incredible, but what follows is even more impressive. Doc Ock escapes and the train’s brakes are broken.
Peter (his mask falls off by the way) has to do everything he can to stop the train and prevent the deaths of everyone on the train. Peter tries everything, finally deciding to cast a bunch of webs on nearby buildings and see what happens. This train scene is right after when Peter gets his powers back after realizing that he can’t run away from Spider-Man. He stretches his body to its limits in this scene to save everyone. I especially love the part after when all the New Yorkers in the train see that Spider-Man is just this young man. They assure him that they won’t tell anyone. Then Doc Ock comes in, demands the people to turn in Spider-Man, but they stand in his way. This is just another scene that Raimi includes to showcase the community of New York.
I especially like the dichotomy presented between Peter and Otto Octavius. In the beginning, Otto suggests that intelligence is a gift to be used for the better of mankind. This ideology is what fuels his decision to rebuild his energy efficient platform that blew up in the first place. Yes, he is being mind controlled by artificially intelligent robotic arms and he is shown in the beginning to be a kind person, Otto was doomed from the start due to his logic that he cannot miscalculate. This type of absolutism is what separates him from Peter, someone who’s constantly in the middle between right and wrong. Despite having a very intelligent mind like Octavius, Peter prefers people over science.
I only have one flaw with the movie, and it’s kind of nitpicky. So Peter is supposed to be 19 in this movie as evidence by Aunt May saying next month it’ll be two years since Uncle Ben died. This assumes that he was 17 during the first film. This means both Mary Jane and Harry are also both 19. What? Huh? So Mary Jane is a big Broadway actress who’s getting married to an astronaut, and Harry is like a CEO of a major international company *AT 19*. Who are these 19 year olds and how are they THIS successful!? Jokes aside, it doesn’t really bother me that much. They could have just said it’s been 5 years, and I might believe it.
The lasting legacy of “Spider-Man 2” has been pretty big. Most people would argue that either this or “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the best Spider-Man movie. As I mentioned before, this is my personal favorite superhero movie ever, and that might have to do with nostalgia. I’ve found that there’s a lot of rewatchability in the movie, and I feel like there are actual layers beneath all these characters, and that’s really impressive for a superhero movie. While yes, most people wouldn’t give it a 10/10, but it’s my site, and no other superhero movie has impacted me this much so that’s what I’m giving it!
Alright, that’s two episodes of Heroic Weekly so far! What are your thoughts on the movie? Do you think that my 10/10 score is unfair? What’s your favorite superhero movie? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section!
Next Friday on Heroic Weekly, we’re finishing the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy with “Spider-Man 3,” and oh boy, am I excited to talk about that.
If you liked this article, be sure to check out this fan-casting I did for an MCU X-Men!
Thanks for reading 🙂