Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 20 News List

A welcome return for Spider-Man

Spider-Man was the fifth-biggest film of all time and the sequel is not a bad effort either, except for the special effects which are a bit far-fetched at times

By Leslie Gray Streeter  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , West Palm Beach, Florida

Tobey Maguire goes through his paces as Spider-Man in the second installment of the movie franchise.


Two years ago, the big-budget, blockbuster version of Spider-Man was darned near perfect. The only thing wrong with it was, well, Spider-Man, or rather, the computer-generated, high-tech version of everyone's fav-orite webslinger.

It was highly distracting every time the flesh-and-blood Spidey gave way to a cheesily bouncing, computer-generated thing that sprung off the sides of buildings like a red-and-blue beach ball.

The bad news is that the beach ball is back.

The good news is that nearly everything else about director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 (which opened on Wednesday) is, again, close to perfect, from the acting to its reverence for the original comic book. There are even a few winking nods at movie heroes past and several sly scenes portraying the everyday absurdities one would encounter while scaling New York City in red and blue skivvies.

When last we saw young Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), Spider-Man's alter-ego, he was stoically walking away from a future with true love Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), because their relationship put her in danger from his various strangely costumed enemies. (I also think he's one of those mopey guys who doesn't know how to do happy.)

Peter's other joy-obstacle was the ocean of guilt he'd been drowning in, ever since he failed to catch a robber who wound up killing his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). That incident, along with a radioactive spider bite, spurred Peter's leap into the wall-crawling hero business.

Also, his first arch nemesis, Green Goblin, was really the father of Pete's best friend, Harry. And when Harry (James Franco) discovered Spider-Man over his dad's dead body, Harry swore vengeance on the masked man, not knowing he was his best friend. Yikes!

Film Note

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Starring: Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Alfred Molina (Doc Ock/Dr. Otto Octavius), Rosemary Harris (May Parker), JK Simmons (Jonah Jameson), Donna Murphy (Rosalie Octavius), Daniel Gillies (John Jameson)

Running time: 110 minutes

Taiwan Release: Last Wednesday

It was all very messy, and since it wasn't really an option to take Harry out for a beer and say, "Dude, I was sorta in a fight-to-the-death with your father, but he was really a psycho threatening the city and, well, he started it," Peter is pushed further into the guilt mill.

Now, a couple of years later, Harry is running his dad's company, OsCorp, and has temporarily traded in his petulant "Rebel With A Trust Fund" pout for oily corporate showmanship. Mary Jane, or MJ, is acting, modeling and dating an astronaut (Daniel Gillies), and Peter's delivering pizza, still free-lancing pictures of Spidey for the Daily Bugle and saving the city in skintight PJs.

But Pete's becoming aware that Spidey duties cut into his homework time, and he can't pay his rent because he can't work while he's busy saving people. And friends Harry and MJ are getting a little annoyed at him for never showing up to meet them and being generally unreliable.

Once again, here's a situation where the real explanation -- "Fine! Next time I'll just let that busload of nuns and puppies plunge to the bottom of the East River!" -- just won't cut it. So Peter has to watch as Harry rants about killing Spider-Man and while MJ gets closer and closer to the bland-ish astronaut, who happens to be the son of rabid Daily Bugle editor Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons)

Meanwhile, his professor (Dylan Baker) tells Peter that he's got one last chance to salvage his academic career -- a project on brilliant scientist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), an OsCorp-funded genius who's created a machine that will allow man to harness matter. Octavius and Peter hit it off, and the good doctor invites the student to the heralded unveiling of his machine.

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