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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Spider-Man sequel swings past predecessor

Sequels are rarely stellar, particularly those following up a major summer blockbuster. But somehow "Spider-Man 2" manages not only to be as good as the original, but actually manages to surpass it in many ways. Not only are the special effects superior to the first film, the sequel ups the ante with a more interesting plot and better acting that brings a classic comic book villain to life. "Spider-Man 2" revisits the life of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who is trying to somehow balance life as a college student with his dual life as Spider-Man. The duties of a superhero aren't very forgiving, which causes Peter to get fired from his pizza delivery job, neglect his schoolwork and deny his feelings for Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). His friend Harry (James Franco), who believes that his father was killed by Spider-Man, pressures Peter to help him exact revenge on the hero.On top of these problems, Peter's spider powers seem to be failing him. The remarkable web-spinning powers that propel him across the city begin to fail, resulting in nasty falls and doubts about his abilities. The building pressure culminates in Peter throwing away his Spidey suit and giving up the superhero business. Peter's retirement is called into question when Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a scientist searching for a new way to generate power, conducts an experiment that goes wildly awry. The metal arms he strapped to his back fuse with his body and twist the formerly benevolent doctor's psyche. Dr. Octopus, as he comes to be known, goes on a crime spree across the city and Harry enlists him to aid in capturing Spider-Man. The plot of "Spider-Man 2" is much more engaging than the first film, especially since less time must be spent on introducing the essential characters and storylines. Maguire does a great job again in the role of Peter, embodying both aspects of his character's dual life well. The breakout star of the film, though, is Molina in the role of Dr. Octavius. He makes his character sympathetic - but not nauseatingly so - before his transformation, and he is even better when he is allowed to explore the villainous role. Unlike William Defoe in the first film, Molina manages to avoid the scenery-chewing style of acting and actually makes his villain respectable and even slightly terrifying. The special edition DVD for "Spider-Man 2" comes with a wide variety of extras. The first disc includes two very different commentaries. The first features director Sam Raimi and Maguire, producer Avi Arad and co-producer Grant Curtis. But if viewers want to find out more about the special effects in the film, particularly those used to bring Dr. Octopus to life, they can listen to the second commentary featuring members of the various special effects teams. There is also a trivia subtitle track that can be viewed along with the movie, a series of featurettes, a blooper reel and music videos from the film's soundtrack.The second disc is composed of featurettes. These include "Making the Amazing," which details various aspects of the film's production, "Hero in Crisis," which traces the development of Peter Parker's character and "Enter the Web," which details the premiere fight sequence between Spider-Man and Doc Ock. Overall, "Spider-Man 2" is a fantastic example of just how good a summer blockbuster can be when a film's creators care about the its quality. The DVD set reflects this devotion to excellence. Viewers can only hope the filmmakers continue this vigilance when the inevitable third film is made.