Spider-Man 2

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The plot in a nutshell
Spider-man, Spider-man, does whatever a spider can...this song is in the movie not once, but twice!  Hmmm - Spider-man 2, song played twice...maybe there's a connection.

This is a sequel to the tremendously successful film Spider-man.  All our cast members are back, better than before, and they are joined by a new scientist-soon-to-be-villian, Dr. Otto Octavius.  He's working on some sort of fusion project to give the world an unlimited power source, and the doohickey hits the flim flam, and next thing you know, all hell breaks loose.

But this film is more about what it means to be a hero, and the sacrifices we all must make, than it is about comic book villains.  This is a film for people who aren't superhero film fans.  The superhero film fans will love it as well.

Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
What is a hero?  This is a question I've debated with friends in the past, because I have a very specific definition.  In our world, we throw the term 'hero' around far too loosely.  If someone can dunk a basketball, act in a movie, or make us sing along, suddenly they are our 'heroes'.  Those with more talent, beauty, money and luck somehow reach this status, although all they have ever really done is for themselves.

These aren't heroes - they're role models.  Nothing wrong with that, and there are plenty of good role models in this world for us to look up to and aspire to.  But just as a square is a rectangle, but a not every rectangle is a square, so is it with heroes and role models.  The square has those four equal length sides that sets it apart and above the basic rectangle, and the hero has one crucial trait that sets him or her apart from all the other role models.  This movie is all about that trait - self sacrifice.

It's easy for us to see this trait in real heroes.  They sacrifice their lives, either by giving up a normal life, or literally sacrificing their lives, for the lives of others.  But when it comes to 'super' heroes, it gets a little trickier.  They can't get hurt or killed like we can, so where's the sacrifice?

Previous movies about super-heroes have tried to explore this, but have usually failed miserably.  Other times they've skipped it altogether, acting as though the super hero has nothing to lose.  But what makes this film perhaps the best super hero movie ever done is it's ability to make us understand and feel the pain, loneliness and suffering that Peter Parker is forced to endure in his quest to help others.

All the acting is top notch, and Tobey Macguire is really coming into his own.  Between this and Sea Biscuit, there an be no doubt that he's the real deal.  Kirsten Dunst plays a perfect Mary Jane, beautiful but yet still the girl next door.  Even with her career in modeling and acting taking off, she's still the sweet girl Peter fell in love with.

J. K. Simmons does a bang up job as J. Jonah Jameson, and even the actors who are only on screen briefly - Peter's Russian landlord and his daughter, Dr. Curt Conners, and even the crowd on the subway - do a fantastic job adding life and color to the film.

Alfred Molina as Doc Ock is the big new name here, and he brings actual depth to the character.  While Dafoe's Goblin was psychotic, we were never given much of a chance to care about him up front.  Here we get to see Otto as a man in love, and as a man determined to make the world a better place.  When things go wrong, we can feel empathy for him, and that makes his villain much more three dimensional than the Green Goblin was ever able to be.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned the CGI.  That's because this movie is so much more than just CGI.  In fact, the acting and writing are so good, that the CGI is merely window dressing.  But what beautiful window dressing it is!  The effects are far more realistic this time around, particularly the battle scenes between Doc Ock and Spidey.  While you can still tell when it's real, and when it's Memorex, er, CGI, the difference is getting smaller and smaller with every passing day.

If there's one problem with the movie, it's that some of the science is pretty silly.  Octavius' arms alone would get him the Nobel prize - I don't think he needs to solve the entire world's energy problems too.  And it wasn't particularly clear, or even sensible, as to why he needed the arms to control the fusion reaction, or why it went out of control.  And after watching the science fiction movie parody "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" last week, in which everyone is after the special element 'atmospherium', I thought it was pretty funny that here again everything hinged upon a super rare element.

And how exactly did Otto hide the tentacles when he was waltzing around town?  It seemed like that might be a bit of a trick, even with a trench coat.  Still, these issues were minor compared to the overall story and general good times.

We can certainly expect a Spider-Man 3 in our near future, and with this quality, that's a very good thing.  Just think about it - how many times have you seen a sequel that was better than the original?  This movie manages to do that, and so much more.

Rating - Get to the theater NOW.
This may be the best summer blockbuster this year, and could arguably be the best super hero movie ever done.  This is a movie you want to see on the big screen, with all it's swooping, swinging glory.

If you do wait to see it at home, or you're like me and will be buying the DVD the day it hits the shelf, you'll be happy to know that this is going to be a great sounding flick on the home theater.  There's tons of excellent base, and a hefty use of the surrounds.  I can't wait to hear the fusion whatchamacallit start up at home, rumbling the floor!

Spoiler Laden Thoughts
Here's one of those movies with tons to spoil...












So MJ and Peter finally get together.  While it took awhile coming, it's nice to finally have Peter out there in the open.  Now that she knows he's Spidey, and is willing to accept it, the films can turn in a whole new direction.  I have high hopes that they'll handle the relationship well - look at her expression as Peter swings away from her, after another criminal.  She knows she'll always have to share him, and that loneliness is bound to be in her future.

I was getting a tad tired of his mask coming off in the last 15 minutes of the film.  While I loved the scene on the subway, and the Christ-like symbolism of both his 'crucifixion' on the front of the subway, and their carrying him gently back to lay him down, the de-masking that seemed to happen every thirty seconds after that got to be a bit much.  Still, it was about time that Aunt May, Mary Jane and Harry Osborne figured it out.

Speaking of Harry, the fact that he found his dad's goodies doesn't necessarily mean he'll be the next baddie, and I hope he's not.  I would rather not have us jumping back into that particular gene pool of wackiness quite yet.  With Dr. Conner (who was the Lizard in the comics) and several other possibilities, I think there are better options.  Personally, I'd love to see a Venom story line.

There have been some folks that have wondered about the Russian daughter, and who she might be.  She might just be a girl hot for his bod, someone in this film to mirror his loneliness.  She might also be Black Cat.  Anything is possible!  I do think it was interesting that her father said "I have the ears of a cat and the nose of a rodent!"  Perhaps the line is intended to give us some hints?

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