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"Spider-Man 2"

Directed by Sam Raimi.
Written by Alvin Sargent.  Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and others. 
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco and Alfred Molina.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  7/6/04


I was not a huge fan of the first "Spider-Man" film, but I will admit that it was pretty entertaining (hence the strong Bellview rating).  It's cool seeing Spidey on screen, but sometimes I thought the action was a little weak.  I thought there was good chemistry between Tobey Maguire (as Spider-Man/Peter Parker) and Kirsten Dunst (as Mary Jane) and the direction by Sam Raimi ("Darkman") was a good match for the comic book genre he was assigned to visualize.

In the sequel, the tension between Peter and MJ continues amidst a New York City being tormented by Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina, "Frida"), a scientist gone mad thanks to a fusion experiment that ends up with Octavius sporting eight appendages--four human, and four mechanical tentacles, making him all the more deadly.  Spidey's got to take "Doc Ock" out...and, as Peter Parker, he's got to spend most of this film getting his life in order.

I read an interview last summer with Raimi last summer, and even 12 months ago he stressed that "Spider-Man 2" would have less emphasis on action and more of a dramedy feel to this respect, the sequel does not disappoint.  The storytelling this time around is much better than it was in the first film.  Most significantly, "Spider-Man 2" has some truly hilarious material, some of the traditional crowd-pleasing variety, and some of the more inside joke mentality.

Everyone loves laughs like the ones provided by Peter's editor J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), who makes fun of Peter, New Yorkers and the world at almost every turn.  And, the scene in the elevator is, well, a riot of non-verbal scene-stealing.  But, for me, I love anything that goes for kitschy and hits the home run, like that Asian woman who shreds that old-school "The Amazing Spider-Man" theme song.  Or, when we get the freeze frame of Happy Peter, as he walks out of a class...for me, it harkened back to those great John Woo films of the late '80s and early '90s, when for no reason at all Woo would freeze his frame on action heroes or rivals sharing a laugh about something very UN-funny, making it all the more classic.

Or, in the most underrated part of the film--at least to me--when Raimi veteran Bruce Campbell shows up, playing a theater usher that just won't let Peter go into a performance mid-film; jeez, if you've seen any of the Raimi/Campbell collaborations (the "Evil Dead" series, or "Darkman", or "Army of Darkness"), you should be laughing right then and there!  Or, if you've seen "Bubba Ho-Tep", a VERY average film but featuring a great performance by Campbell!  I can't believe that 90% of America doesn't even know who Campbell is!

There are laughs galore, but the action in "Spider-Man 2" is tighter, Molina is a better, more compassionate bad guy that gives you a better feel for the inner torment than his predecessor had (Willem Dafoe from the first film) and the pacing is excellent for this kind of fun.  It's too bad that the writers (a collection of them are credited for the story and then the "screen story") decided that they needed to serve this film up with a side of wine, because...

...this is some of the cheesiest shit I have suffered through in some time.  There were at least a half-dozen scenes that made me gag as Jennifer sat next to me in the theater; man, by the time the crowd on that subway train are lifting Spidey up like he's a dead Jesus Christ just had me up in arms.  "Go get 'em, Tiger!"  Ugh!  As I sifted through the thick soupy cheesiness, I thought that maybe the writers were snakebitten by the standards of the studio and they were FORCED to make these kinds of additions...but, I have a bad feeling that isn't the case.

This brings "Spider-Man 2" down a full grade, but it's still a great time at the movies.  If you haven't seen this by now, what the hell's wrong with you?

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09