A Film Review By The Mike
|Rating:RATED PG-13 for Stylized Violence
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina
Directed By: Sam Raimi
It’s quite fitting that one of the logos that opens Spider-Man 2 is a large imprint of the word “Marvel,” because that’s all I did during the film’s runtime. I sat back with my mouth ajar, and marveled at the film onscreen, which seems to have been made with an extraordinary amount of care and pride by all involved, making it a rare big-budget treat that’s impossible for me to find fault with.
Admittedly, I knew this was coming. The first Spider-Man has ranked since its release as my favorite comic book film and my favorite film of its release year, and with almost the entire cast and crew returning I knew this one would be a treat as well. But I was still taken aback by the film; which left me in a state of glee that reminded me how much I appreciate the man that deserves most of the credit for this joy.
That man is director Sam Raimi, who’s come a long way in the last 23 years. He made his roots in the low-budget Evil Dead films, and made his first super-hero film with 1990’s Darkman. He soon moved into his first bit of big-name Hollywood with The Quick and the Dead, and jumped from there into the dramatic and enthralling (A Simple Plan, The Gift). Now, he’s shown up here, at the helm of a franchise that had been attached to more directors than a wannabe starlet with no moral scruples. Through it all, he’s stayed true to what’s made his films work, both in his eyes and ours – And no film has shown that better than Spider-Man 2.
When looking at Spider-Man 2 (and, in retrospect, Spider-Man), I can’t help but look at the parallels with Raimi’s first two Evil Dead films, as both sets of films operate on the same principles. In the first chapter of each, the story is introduced, our characters that will be important (which are much more numerous here than in his first film, obviously) are introduced, and there are touches of humor underneath a stronger emphasis on the story. It’s pretty much the guidelines you’d want for any movie in these films’ genres.
In the second chapter, things change…while staying the same. The plot works along the same arc as the first, with entire sequences and plot devices showing an uncanny parallel to the first film. It’s a retelling of the same story almost, but with different cogs and different action scenes to give it a fresh feel. Also, the comic ante is upped, as is the general “fun factor.” Whereas the first chapter was more focused on creating a story with minimal distractions; the second film encourages and embraces these distractions, making them an integral part of the story at hand. There’s so much that’s over-the-top added in, but there’s still that underlying serious theme that the first film brought to the table. And they’re balanced perfectly.
The above two paragraphs are vague, but I mean that to happen. My point is, Raimi has basically used the same formula here as he did in those films, and it works just as well. Spider-Man 2 is a funnier, more laid back, and an altogether campier film than its predecessor. It’s as if Raimi turned to us and said: “OK, you’ve had the story as the librarian would tell it, now here’s the circus barker’s version.”
Is Spider-Man 2 a better film than Spider-Man? I couldn’t tell you. The two films are made for different tastes, and really should be looked at in a symbiotic manner instead of a comparative one. But, thanks to Raimi’s great style, and with a strong assist by Oscar-winning writer Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People), Spider-Man 2, like its predecessor, sits on a perch high above its summer competition. It’s truly a marvelous film to behold, and is easily one of the most enjoyable works of film released this year.