Rakesh's movie talk
Spider Man 2 (2004)

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Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Alvin Sargent (based on screen story by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and  Michael Chabon  and characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Starring: Tobey McGuire, Alfred Molina, James Franco and Kirsten Dunst

Loan sharks are after Spidey...

There are two ways to watch Spider-Man 2. Wait a minute, that's a lie. There is only one way of watching Spidey on big screen, unless it is an open-air theatre. There, you can watch both the front and the back of the screen. If you view the back, you will notice that most characters are left-handed.


Anyway, two ways that I meant was; one, as a normal superhero action flick, and two, as a character study. Of course, you will not get anything much from the second way, even if you find yourself on endless occasions listening to the directors and the actors going on and on about the complexity of the characters in the movie during the making-off publicity stunt. Not their fault, its a standard stuff in publicity runs.


Off track: I like revisiting my reviews. No vanity trip here, but I like it mostly because these reviews are like my diaries. This is my Blog, or whatever you want to call it. It reflects my feelings, emotions, and reactions to my surrounding at that time.


My Spider-Man review started with complains. Now, let's look at it and see the difference as with this movie. Yes, I am comparing. You must compare sequels. They want to our money, right? So, we have the right to complain.


The italics is my comments on the first movie:


1.   The bad guy, Goblin, is not that good. His mask looks like the insect helmets worn by many Japanese superheroes. He doesn’t have enough motivation, except he kills people who pissed him off. Nothing wrong with Willem Dafoe’s performance. He is as good as always, and here he tried his best in interpreting dual personality with brilliant result, only with no proper background to it.


      Alas, this weakness lies still, this time in the characterisation. I can't quite make out why Doc Ock (Was originally Dr. Octopus, which sound better, this sounds er...croaky) was easily led to the dark side. Why, exactly? There was attempt to make his character tragic, but I couldn't see that. I couldn't see that in Hulk too. Maybe because I am short sighted and dumb. Nothing wrong with Alfred Molina, an excellent character actor who rarely does action roles. He did an adequate job. And boy, those tentacles are mean effects. They are really good. Believable.


2 . Over reliance of Computer-Graphic. It is very easy to point out which is real and which is not. The worse, even the fight sequence on the ground was done with a CG Spidey. Come-on man! Get some Hong Kong stuntmen to don the Spidey-suit and get on with it. This is the problem with most movies nowadays, they still can’t match the CG prowess of Jurassic Park, made almost ten years ago.


      Yes, the filmmakers have been paying attention. This time, there is still CG, but it is much better. It blends in easily with live action. At times, you can't tell which is which. Some of the daredevil stunts Spidey can pull can never be done by stuntmen, hence the CG. The CG does not mar the physiques of both Spidey and Doc Ock. Sure, you can spot the CG Spidey and Doc Ock, but the brilliance of the action sequences more than makes up for it. Superb blend of real actors/stuntmen and animation. Good job.


3 . Mary Jane Watson is just another damsel in distress. In fact, here she is seen as someone who is not good in relationship at all. Why Peter Parker is going after her is beyond me.


      Yup. Still irritating. Still can't like her. Here, she almost gets married to someone else. Unbearable clichés of romance emanates from her scenes. Pshaw! Get rid of her, will ya. And yes, she is the damsel in distress again, this time trying to equal Tanya Robers in screaming competition. She must have really given a good, err...kiss to Peter for him to desire her badly. Where's Renee Russo when you need her...


4.   No particular theme music. My favourite composer, Danny Elfman, did a fantastic job with the overall score (reminiscent of Batman), but didn’t provide with a familiar theme. Aerosmith was supposed to have done a title song, but it was nowhere in the movie. Hmmmm...


      Again, no particular theme music, but Elfman scores well with the ambience. Better than the first movie. The soundtrack will be a good buy, unless they cram in some 'inspired by the motion picture' pop bullshits. Oh, the TV cartoon theme song makes a funny appearance here. Now, I hope Elfman doesn't stereotype himself as a Superhero composer. Hell, with the surreal qualities in his sound, he is more suitable for some freaky characters. Like John Williams who is brilliant in high concept action movies (see his collaboration with Spielberg), Elfman is best suited when we are experiencing some out of the world scenarios. His works with Tim Burton in most of the director’s works are great examples. Here, the tracks does not mesh with Spidey the character, but rather the surrealistic world Peter Parker sees. Of course, the Academy will continue to tease him with a nomination, and have it snatched right under his nose by others as usual.


5.   It lacks a bit on originality. There are too many scenes remindful of earlier Superhero movies and the recent SFX extravaganza like Matrix.


Peter Parker neglects his real life commitment because of his job as Spidey. He especially loses MJ Watson. Woe be upon him. He hangs up his suit and becomes ordinary mortal, and then wears it again when the world and the ever helpless MJ Watson needs him. Havent' we heard of this before? Very unoriginal, but the director and the scriptwriters managed to make it interesting. Clichés are splattered all around the place, but they are interesting and intriguing.


Some other comments on the original and my comparison:


...Superman stood test of time, especially with its special effect. So did the first two Batman’s, but Spidey may not. Why? The poorly executed CGIs.


CGIs still abound, but better. This one will stand the test of time. This is the first time, after Batman Returns, a sequel is superior to the original.


On top of all, I was impressed with Tobey Maguire’s performance as Peter Parker.


Yup, he is a good actor alright. But the director and the scriptwriter got carried away with the Hamlet like brooding on Peter's part. It gets to you sometimes. You wanna scream, "Well, bloody hell, make up your mind. Its just a comic book movie, for Clark Kent's sake." We had already seen this To Be or Not To Be scene in the Superman sequel, but the director was smart enough to not to let that drag. Audience wants action, more superhero antiques. Thank god, here once he wears the suit, things get back on track.


The fight between Spidey and Goblin is a bit on the lower scale, but the film is taking its time to develop the characters, which is necessary.


Here, the character development is uneven. The only guy with proper motivation to hate Spidey is James Franco's Harry Osborne (that's Norman Osborne's - Goblin - son). Others are in emotional wilderness. Even aunty May is brooding, and though it helps to establish Peter's character as more down to earth honest guy, it does not bring the story anywhere. Again, the director was wise enough to not to drag that scene. He finishes off Peter and his aunt's little problem quickly.


Now, the film had improved on the action scenes 100 percent. Oh man, they are some of the best bashing scenes I had seen for years. Even better than Batman. And, I dare say, better than Superman. Easily the best good guy / bad guy confrontation since Connery battled it out with Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love (1963), the best Bond movie ever. Like the Bond movie, this one takes place in Train; or in, over, on and outside of the train. Brilliant work with all the best products you can grab from stunts and effects store.


I was amazed with the way the camera was handled, swishing in between the buildings, going over and under a train. It is everywhere, to make way for the effects people to fill it with animated Spidey and Doc Ock. Brilliant. They used every goddamned things they can get their hands on, CG, miniatures, matte art, etc. The cinematography deserves an award. And I am serious.


Like the original, the film ends with indications for another sequel. It was actually same indication left hanging in the first movie - that Harry Osborne is gonna avenge his dad. Dafoe makes a brief welcomed appearance, and lets hope the third will be a darker movie.


I liked this film very much and would like to rate it as the best since Batman Returns. Good job all around. Just stop brooding. That's for more serious movies with the likes of Brando, De Niro, or Pacino in it.