Main cast: Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Alfred Molina (Dr Otto Octavius), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May Parker), Daniel Gillies (John Jameson), and JK Simmons (J Jonah Jameson)
Director: Sam Raimi
This is one definitive scene in this movie that sums up what Spider-Man 2 is to me. Peter Parker, as Spider-Man, loses temporarily his ability to shoot those web thingies from his er, wrist, I think, and is stuck on the roof of a hotel. He takes the elevator down and shares the elevator with a man. This man gives him an odd look, asks him after peeking at his crotch whether the outfit is uncomfortable, and Peter can’t help confessing that the outfit makes him itch and it also gives him wedgies at times. They both then look away, clearly uncomfortable with each other.
That sums up perfectly Peter Parker in this movie: a lost, lost and totally confused guy forced to wear a silly outfit that irritates his backside. This movie wants me to sympathize with Peter but it doesn’t know just what to do with Peter. Can someone tell me why Sam Raimi makes every woman in this movie look at Peter as if he’s the hottest thing ever and not the oldest-looking man supposedly in his early twenties ever? So what is it? Should I view Peter as a poor lost guy or some sex symbol in the making? Maybe if he makes up his mind and stops trying too hard to make statements about “America! Courage! Hope!” he can let me know.
I know, I’m such a commie but I get really exasperated with this movie’s blatant “Hail, America!” sentiments. Aunt May hangs an American flag outside her house. When Peter and Aunt May visit Ben Parker’s grave and she talks about how old people are all heroes, an American flag flies not-too-discreetly in the background. There is a subway scene where Spider-Man gets enough Jesus moments to star in his own Mel Gibson vehicle. Aunt May delivers a very long and epic speech where heroes are supposed to give up their dreams and inspire people, which, in the context of this movie where dead old Ben Parker is automatically equated to being a hero, comes off like a dumbed-down pandering to right-wing pro-war sentiments. Or maybe I should just blame this on Rupert Murdoch. He owns everything nowadays, doesn’t he?
In the case of Peter Parker, however, what exactly are those dreams he is giving up to be a hero? Let’s see, oh, he’s giving up his infatuation with Mary Jane Parker. Since Sam Raimi has every hot chick in this movie dying to throw herself at Peter, I’m sure that the death of that particular dream won’t be a big loss. Oh, Peter Parker has to be Spider-Man, is late for a pizza delivery gig, and is fired! Boo-hoo-hoo, I’m never come across such a depressing scenario. What is the world coming to when a guy’s dreams of becoming a pizza delivery guy is crushed like that? Seriously, just what exactly are these dreams that Peter is giving up? Peter has no money to pay the rent! Aunt May has no money to pay the mortgage! Poor people are so sad and noble, aren’t they adorable?
A normal life? Peter becomes normal for a few minutes in this movie, but Mr Raimi shows the audience how he gets bullied as a “normal” guy. Ooh, normal Peter walks like a pansy! I think I should be embarrassed for this normal Peter and cheer when Spider-Man makes a reappearance. So this movie tells me that a normal life isn’t that much of a loss. So what exactly am I supposed to sympathize with Peter for?
I do feel sorry for Tobey Maguire’s singular lack of facial expression in this movie, for what it’s worth.
When this movie is not trying to make me feel sorry for Peter for who knows what reason, it is briefly a story about Spider-Man fighting Dr Octopus. Dr Octopus is actually Dr Otto Octavius, a supposedly brilliant scientist who conducts a nuclear experiment in an apartment by the water without any security measures. (I guess the scriptwriter is still living in the 1970s in his parents’ basement – dude, research, what research?) For this monumental stupidity, he is punished when he ends up under the control of his robotic tentacles that make him want to bomb up New York City for… hmm, why exactly does he want to bomb up the place again? I don’t think this movie ever tells me the reason. Meanwhile, Harry Osborn is getting angry and drunk (or maybe both) because Peter isn’t telling him where Spider-Man is so that Harry can go after the man single-handedly trashing baddies all over town with a small knife. Nice one there, Harry – go seek therapy. Mary Jane Watson is getting married to JJ Jameson’s kid. Poor Peter. His grades are slipping and he can never tell Mary Jane he loves her because when he does, she will be in danger, and now that woman is marrying another man! Life is so sucky for Spider-Man!
If Peter isn’t so self-absorbed in being a pity party for one, he may notice that Mary Jane may not know he is Spider-Man, but this movie marks the second time she gets captured by a bad guy. Newsflash, Parker: she’s already in danger! Just move far away from her, just go to China and topple the Communist regime there if you really want Mary Jane to be safe. Passive aggressive idiot “I love you but I will tell you I hate you for your own good” behavior is best left to Taiwanese soap operas.
I don’t know what this movie wants to do. It shows me a Peter Parker who is clueless and self-absorbed, and his selfish martyrhood is getting older by the minute. Its claims that Peter is sacrificing a lot is actually not much of a big deal. To paraphrase a lot from Five for Fighting, Spider-Man is just a guy in a weird Spandex bodysuit trying not to scratch himself in public.
On the bright side, JK Simmons steals every scene he’s in as JJ Jameson and I like how Mary Jane Watson finally puts her foot down and tells Peter to stop making a martyr out of himself and just kiss her already. The Spider-Man and Dr Octopus fight scenes are kinda cool if definitely choreographed and unrealistic. But this movie tries too hard to pander in a dumbed-down “for the muscle-bound NRA-card holder trailer park guy with plenty of tattoos” manner that cynical old me is unable to appreciate this movie without snickering for all the wrong reasons.