SPIDER-MAN 2
TOBEY MAGUIRE IS INCREDIBLE AS PETER PARKER IN THIS SPIDER SEQUEL!

What a treat is must be for Sam Raimi to make these Spider-Man movies. The characters in the original 60s comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko are so perfectly developed and ready to go, from the amazing costumes and powers to the tortured dramas, it's like the director just has to wave a magic wand and bring their brilliance to the screen.

Spider-Man 2 is an excellent next issue in the series, and it doesn't disappoint in any capacity. All the action, drama, jaw-dropping fight scenes, humor, and special effects you could dream of are there. And the glue the holds it all together is Tobey Maguire, in the role he was born to play, Peter Parker. Spider-Man may not be the most fantastic super-hero ever created, but Peter is easily the most interesting "alter-ego" of them all. Bruce Wayne was a brooding bore when he wasn't Batman, and Clark Kent was just a sham holding all of those super-powers back while he pretended to be one of us. Peter, who carries the burden of being responsible for his Uncle's death, who bottles in his love for Mary Jane, and can barely find time to work or study (because apparently New York Cops are pretty helpless without him) is full of more angst than a stadium full of Chicago Cubs fans.

Maguire's performance is superlative in this film, and almost as fascinating to watch out of costume, than in. But if you're expecting good Spidey action, you won't be be let down. In a hilarious opening scene, Parker has to drive his moped 42 blocks in 7 minutes to deliver some pizzas, or he'll lose his job. A traffic jam makes the job insurmountable, so he rides in to an alley, and emerges as Spider-Man to finish the job, prompting an onlooker to shout, "He stole that guy's pizza!"

The inspired casting of Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus works very well, too. A marginal and dumpy scientist, a freak accident (aren't they all in the comics?), fuses 4 giant robotic arms to his back, and boy are they a kick to see. Using a mixture of computer effects, and actual animatronic arms, his amazing steel arms weave about and behave with a mind of their own. They even manage to convey emotion, making him a treat to watch every moment he's on the screen.

Dunst works well as Mary Jane Watson again in this installment. She loves Peter, but is too much of a mystery to crack. Fearful that he'll only hurt her, he continues to be flaky and shun his advances to the point where he practically drives her into the arms of a handsome young astronaut, John Jameson (who happens to be the son of boss, once again played brilliantly by J.K. Simmons). And yes, staying with what worked well in the first film, we're treated to the always crowd-pleasing special effect of Dunst in a cold wet dress again.

There's great twists and turns in the story, and the fight scenes are a thing of beauty. A sequence where Octopus and Spidey fight on a train is thrilling, and the emotional payoff at the end almost made me cry. I'm happy there was so many legal hassles and delays in getting this franchise off the ground because I cringe at the thought of 80s/90s special effects being utilized to realize this adventure.

It's easy to say this is the best super-hero movie ever made, but I think that belittles the great work Sam Raimi and the cast did in putting this together. Spider-Man 2 is one of the better movies, period, I've seen in quite a while. A credit to the source material, and the vision to be faithful to it was all it took. This movie has a lot of heart to it, and that's what separates it from the other spandex operas that'll ever be made.

Also, if you're concerned at all about the direction of the additional sequels, you'll be leaving with a big smile on your face, eagerly awaiting the next, without the shit of a cliffhanger ending.


-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

retroCRUSH RATING

FIVE out of FIVE


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A Tribute to the 60s Spider-Man Cartoon

The defining cartoon of my childhood was Spider-Man.  Though there's been many animated versions of this great character, it's the 1966 version that I still think is the best.  Sure, the animation cut a lot of corners, but the storytelling, mood, atmosphere, and music was unlike anything else on TV.

With stories taken straight from the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comics, the cartoon was fantastic.  As the first non comic book version of the character to exist outside the medium, the cartoon captured the angst of the Peter Parker wonderfully.  Comic book legend, Gray Morrow, served as the show's Art Director, which showed in the trippy water-colored backgrounds which looked as if New York City was in the middle of a nuclear holocaust as Spidey swung through the air.

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