PG-13. It's violent. I mean, it is significantly less scary than the first Spider-Man movie. There is one scene that is straight out of Evil Dead though. The operating sequence, my daughter desperately wanted to watch. It is very very scary. But the rest of the movie kind of lacks the jump scares that the first film loved so much. Spider-Man does get pretty abused at points, but nothing like what happened at the end of the first film. A pretty well-earned PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi
Yeah, we watched the extended cut. It's the same film. That Hal Sparks scene goes on way too long, but I like Hal Sparks. The best thing out of it is the J. Jonah Jameson wearing the Spider-Man costume. But I'm going to review this as if it is the theatrical cut. We went to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. What do you think we'd want to watch immediately afterwards? This is all personally great for me. I did a binge of all of the MCU movies before Infinity War came out. I then wanted to knock out all of the Marvel properties that weren't MCU movies. Now, Spider-Man 2 has always been my favorite Spider-Man movie, until arguably Into the Spider-Verse. I was obsessed with this film. I had seen it way too many times in the theater. It was 2004 and I was at the height of my arrested development and irresponsibility. I could go see a movie in the theaters upwards of ten times. (Real retirement is early 20s.) I was teaching at a theatre school in the summers and everywhere I went, I mimicked having Doctor Octopus's tentacles. Everywhere I went, "Ka-CHUNK, ka-CHUNK!" (You can hear it and imagine how cool I was.) But I've seen so many great superhero movies since this one. Going back, I had to wonder if this one held up.
It totally does. Now, I know that there's a lot of nostalgia clouding my judgment fo this one. It is a great movie. It is leaps and bounds better than the first Spider-Man movie and that comes from the writing of the film. See, in 2004, I was also obsessed with this little show called Smallville. I don't know how much made it into the final Alvin Sergeant script, but the Smallville guys wrote a draft and Michael Chabon, my then favorite author, wrote a draft. The script is gorgeous. It is a great movie that oddly has small stakes, besides the fact that the city would all be destroyed if Spider-Man didn't shut off Doc Ock's machine. Okay, it just feels like the stakes are intimate. This really reads like a grudge match between Peter Parker, Doctor Octopus, and Harry Osborn. I like that. When Homecoming focuses on Peter being in charge of smaller threats, I always felt like that was a commentary on how big the other movies got. I guess that's really not true. That exploding machine at the end is a big deal and I guess I shouldn't be so glib about it, but I never really think of the movie in terms of that stuff. This really feels about egos and personalities and pride issues. The center of that is Peter's existential crisis at the center of this movie. A very loose adaptation of "Spider-Man: No More!", Raimi doesn't lose the core that Spider-Man's character is a constant reminder that responsibility absolutely sucks, but is necessary. The reason I probably loved this during my arrested development times is that I had no idea what responsibility actually was. People told me what to do. If no one gave me a job to do, I would have been lazy as get out. But Peter Parker's journey through this story takes a very grounded issue and makes a superhero narrative out of that.
Peter Parker's life should suck. Maybe one of the reasons that I like Spider-Man comics and movies so much is because Pete very rarely gets his cake and eat it too. There are a lot of stories where a binary situation is presented and the protagonist either cops the system or some deus ex machina gets the character off the hook. In my review for The Jazz Singer, the protagonist has to choose between his dying father and his career. He makes the choice to support his father, but his career comes out unscathed. Spider-Man never really gets that. In Spider-Man 2, Pete uses his anxiety as an excuse to free himself from responsibility. Admittedly, Pete is an extremist when it comes to meeting responsibility. But in this case, Pete goes cold turkey. He's going to focus on his grades and his love life (which I kind of want to look at as well). But he actually walks away from a situation where Peter Parker could have helped, let alone Spider-Man. As a metaphor for that arrested development, as good as his life gets, he starts showing signs of depression. Lord knows that I was probably more depressed during these years than the years that followed. Do I wish that I could just play video games for hours on end? Sure. Do I wish that my pop culture wishlist could be whittled down because I had time to actually do the things I want? Sure. But I write to keep my mind active. I write because I tell my students that writing makes you a better writer. I will never catch up to the Assassin's Creed games and I absolutely love them. Because Peter Parker's life is built around a strong sense of responsibility. Peter Parker is no saint for his obsession. He continually hurts those around him, but that just reminds us that he is a hero that is fallible. What's odd is that most sequels try to ramp up the action and a sizable portion of Spider-Man 2 actually robs the movie of Spider-Man himself. It is a choice.
I have always loved Doctor Octopus. One of the best gifts I've ever gotten was from my friend, Tony. He also worked at the theatre school and witnessed my Doc Ock arms in action. (In reality, these were my arms acting like puppet arms and snapping at me.) He gave me a ratty old copy of The Amazing Spider-Man 3. It's pretty beaten up, but I consider it to be my favorite book out of all of them. Doctor Octopus is interesting. Everyone, including myself, wait for Green Goblin issues because they often shift the status quo. But Doctor Octopus issues were way more fun. There's something off about having a schlubby guy who is actually really good at being a villain. While I love him as the Superior Spider-man / Octopus now, the days of how unstoppable Doc Ock could get were great. Yeah, he had the "marry Aunt May" days which could have been better. But Doc Ock has often put a beating on Spider-Man. Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus is how I want to imagine him. I know that the original Doc Ock wasn't as friendly as Molina's Otto Octavius, but it works. It makes him properly sympathetic. I actually might like Molina's Ock as the quintessential Doc Ock. One thing I never understood in comics was why Doctor Octopus wanted to destroy the world. I remember I had a DC/Marvel Crossover book where Doctor Octopus and Lex Luthor tried to destroy the world. Why would he want to do that? He had nothing to gain from that? But Molina's villain is one who thinks he is the hero of the story. His work got his wife killed. He has these arms that have taken over his thinking and all have personalities based on parts of his brain. He wants to rectify the wrong he did by fixing a device that would bring the world infinite power. That sounds awesome. He just loses his way in deciding what it would take to get to that point.
Which brings me to Harry Osborn. How do I end up liking James Franco later on (only to discover that he's kind of a creep)? He's rough in these movies. I think that Franco is camping up the movie when everyone else is trying to make a legitimate blockbuster film with layers. Maybe he's mad about what kind of rubs me the wrong way. Harry goes full evil in this one without the benefit of a Goblin formula driving him nuts. I know that he's obsessed with killing Spider-Man. But he gives Octavius the triddium (sp?) knowing that it would destroy the city. That's a big step. Also, yeah, it works, but Harry says not to harm Peter despite the fact that blowing up the city would also kill Peter. Harry is such a lynch pin in these movies and he is also the weakest element. The trilogy is about Harry's growth into a villain and James Franco is just not great at it. SPOILERS: While I love the end with Harry and Norman, does it make any sense? Harry has no exposure to the Goblin formula at this point. The reason that Norman was able to talk to the Goblin was because he was already exposed to it. Is the idea that the movie is about a familial psychic bond? It looks and feels very cool, but the second that any kind of scrutiny happens, it kind of all falls apart. I also am weirded out that multiple Spider-Man movies discuss the idea that one person does the dumping and then uncomfortably blames the other for not loving them. Actually, both versions of Spider-Man 2 (this film and The Amazing Spider-Man 2) involved Peter Parker dumping the girl he's obsessed with and then spending the entire film trying to figure out how to get back together. It's weird that he does this knowing that Mary Jane is engaged. Also, let's talk about the absolute end. Mary Jane leaves John Jameson, the son of J.Jonah Jameson, at the altar for Peter Parker. Yet, Peter Parker still works for JJJ and the Daily Bugle in Spider-Man 3? Shannigans.
There was one moment in the movie where I realized it was great. It was Doc Ock dropping off the incapacitated Spider-Man for Harry. I knew I was having a good time. I knew the acting, shy of Franco, was pretty great. The movie looked absolutely gorgeous. Yeah, I wish Spider-Man needed to be way funnier, but the movie was about Peter Parker anyway. Rosemary Harris had already crushed it with the best speech in the franchise. The movie is so darned good. I know why I loved it and it's absolutely phenomenal. But there are a handful of weaknesses, so with a gun to my head, I have to say that I probably enjoy Into the Spider-Verse just a little bit more. Regardless, this movie is still wonderful and totally worth another watch.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.