After the exposition comes the real fun. Sequels have always had the upper hand in comic book movies - Batman returns, Blade 2 and X2 are some recent titles that come to mind. The latest entry into that formidable list is Spiderman 2, a sequel less about a superhero, more about an ordinary kid troubled amid the confusion of love, college, a dead end job and juggling the demands of being a costumed hero.
A scrumptious mix of well conceived action movie and high drama, the sequel finds Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) perturbed and deeply confused shouldering the responsibility that comes with his immense power. The collective turmoil is enough to want him to opt out of the situation, and soon Parker has his glasses back on and his costume in the trash bin, returning to being a normal onlooker on the streets while crime occurs unabated. Contributing to this spur of increased transgression is the new villain in town, Doctor Octopus, the remains of what was once Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), following an experiment gone wrong. Peter still yearns for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), now engaged to an astronaut, while continuing his friendship with precarious best friend Harry (James Franco), but the scales are soon tipped against him when the lives of his dearest are threatened by Doc Ock, working in tandem with Harry in luring Spiderman so that they may exact revenge.
A simple enough tale, as it should be (with much in parallel to another superior superhero sequel, Superman 2), but one given heart by a well weaved tapestry of events, each resonating human concerns and sentiment. During the first half there is little of the confrontation that viewers would want and rightfully expect, but what surprises is how well this segment flows despite being talky. This is the ultimate tale of a person who is persecuted while being potent, and viewers relate to it because there is something agreeably human about a superhero in distress.
Director Sam Raimi slightly miscalculates in suppressing the onscreen clash between Spidey and his nemesis until the very last act, but when it finally does occur, it becomes the very definition of 'edge of your seat'. A battle atop a speeding train entertains like no other scene from any movie this year, with the duo scorching the screen in their manic, fast paced, uninhibited fight. Credit goes to Raimi who shoots wonderfully well, without letting the CGI become an obvious distraction, the way it did in some portions of the original. Another marked improvement is the choice of the commanding Molina as the ultra cool baddie. Green Goblin was a good villain, but he was also goofy and at times, plain silly. This time Doc Ock is given more dimensions by his tentacles which have a serpent like menace and their own individuality.
I've always had a problem with Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, because she just doesn't effuse with the kind of radiance that readers of the comic are familiar with. But with my initial reservations having been subsided this second time around, she was more comfortable to watch and performed admirably well. Franco as Harry Osborne also comes full circle in accepting the destiny that awaits him, concluding on a high note with a superb setup for the inevitable sequel. For both comic fans and non-fans alike the setup is exciting because it is heading in the right direction and I can only wait with renewed optimism for Spiderman's certain return. - Faizan Rashid