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Spider-Man 2 (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Commentaries - cast and crew, technical; 4 featurettes; Music video; Spidey Sense 2 - factoid track.
Disc Two: 12 documentaries. 4 featurettes; Enter The Web multi-angle shots; Photo art gallery; Theatrical trailer.

IT’S not very often that a sequel so overwhelmingly betters the original (especially when the first film is so good in itself), but Spider-Man 2 does just that, in truly spectacular style.

All of the factors which helped turn its predecessor into such a money-spinning record-breaker are carried forward, to provide a follow-up that is as rich in character development, as it is in jaw-dropping special effects.

So while the inevitable wow-factor has been increased, so, too, has the emotional element, thereby providing audiences with something that is really worth investing their time in.

Spider-Man 2 picks up some two years after Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has walked away from his childhood love, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), in order to do the right thing as his alter-ego, Spider-Man.

But he is finding it more difficult than ever to balance ‘the gift and the curse’ of his powers, especially since Spider-Man is still vilified by the press, Mary Jane has started a new relationship, with a view to marriage, and his beloved Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) has fallen on hard times.

His friendship with Harry Osborn (James Franco) is also strained, given that Harry is still struggling to come to terms with his father’s death at the hands of Spider-Man, and is becoming jealous of Parker’s loyalty to the super-hero.

So, after much soul-searching, Parker resolves to abandon his alter-ego, and start placing his own desires to the fore, only to find that walking away from his responsibilities is not as easy as it seems, especially when New York is facing a new threat in the form of the multi-tentacled Dr Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a former scientist, whose failed experiment to control the power of the sun in the palm of his hand has far-reaching consequences for himself and all around him.

Having set things up admirably in the original, director, Sam Raimi, really finds his stride in Spider-Man 2, delivering an emphatic tour-de-force which epitomises Hollywood at its finest.

Too often, sequels seem content to churn out simple re-treads of the original, yet Raimi excels by refusing to take his eye off the ball, and by actually furthering the story in a way that completely satisfies the viewer.

Hence, Spider-Man 2 never feels lazy and almost treats the audience as part of the family. It’s funny, exciting and occasionally surprising, and provides a wealth of multi-layered characters, each of whom serve to heighten the overall satisfaction.

Maguire remains excellent as Parker/Spider-Man, effortlessly tapping into the anxiety of his character, as he learns to accept his fate, while Molina, as the villain, is also sympathetic, as he struggles to wrestle the demons within.

The chemistry between Maguire and Dunst also picks up where it left off in the original, making their relationship something worth rooting for, while Franco, as tortured best friend, Harry, builds nicely towards the eventual path his character will take.

Even support players, such as JK Simmons’ fast-talking newspaper editor, J Jonah Jameson, and Harris, as the sweet Aunt May, don’t get overlooked, serving to heighten the humour and tragedy of the proceedings.

And there are even a few nice surprises thrown in along the way, in the form of cameos and in-joke references to the director’s past work, to get the movie buffs salivating, while Raimi manages to set things up tantalisingly for the third film in the series.

Of the action sequences, all of which surpass the quality of the original’s head-spinning antics, a tussle between Spidey and Doc Ock on top of a train ought to have audiences gasping with excitement, while several of the comedy-laced curtain-raisers serve to get the adrenaline pumping.

Spider-Man 2 has already broken Box Office records in America, where audiences have been falling over themselves to get caught in its web, so expect a similar reaction in the UK. It is finally a film that lives up to its hype, delivering just about everything you could wish for from a blockbuster.

For Peter’s sake, don’t miss it!

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