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After an incredible origin story and beginning for a live-action Spider-Man, Sam Rami follows up the legacy he created and possibly even surpasses the greatness of the original in what remains one of the most significant among comic book movies.
Spiderman 2 is astonishing in every sense a film can be, executing perfectly in characters, themes, and action, Rami knew what he wanted to make as his vision perfectly translates to the screen as a perfect sequel.
From the get-go, the amount of talent and passion enthralled into this film is incredible. Before the film even begins, the opening credits are set to a beautiful comic illustration recapping the events of the first film to the majesty of Danny Elfman's theme that transcends all in its beautiful visual storytelling. The score is iconic and perfectly tells the story of Spider-Man just through his theme alone.
Moving forward to the story, the characteristic of the film that propels it to the status of brilliance is the through-running theme of Peter's double life. His struggle to find the balance between Peter Parker and Spiderman is seemingly impossible as he is forced to choose what is more important. As the first film's main theme was responsibility, Spider-Man 2’s theme is choice as we see Peter struggling in his choice between being Spider-Man or Peter Parker.
The reason this film still stands out in a genre that has become mainstream in pop culture is because of Sam Ramis's ability to create dynamic layered characters.
Peter Parker is embodied by Tobey Maguire perfectly as his character has an infectious likability and charm that elevates the film. Every struggle met by Peter afflicts the audience with his emotion but yet although there are so many heartbreaks the overall essence is hope as Peter keeps moving forward. Between living expenses and having to let go of the one he loves, Peter is such a compelling protagonist because he is human.
Our antagonist Otto Octavious, similar to the Green Goblin is incredible as their full journey is on display through the film. Why Dock Ock remains a great villain is the tragedy of his story. Otto is presented as an idol to Peter as we watch their bond grow, the two are presented with similar worldviews just divided by different stages of life. Otto is with the woman he loves, in a career he is passionate about and creating breakthroughs to change the world, these are all things Peter is thriving for yet his double life restricts him from the future he desires.
This is what makes Peter quitting his alter ego Spider-Man so compelling as to this point his decision is justified. The toll of his Spider-Man persona has led to the destruction of Peter's relationships, career, and living situation.
Peter's arc is paralleled by the tragedy of Otto as the corruption of the arms takes over. Doc Ock is an incredible villain as his humanity is among the most apparent of all the villains in Spider-Man’s rogue gallery. While the arms maintain the direction of his mind the humanity isn’t deprived of him as apparent in the magnificent final battle.
A strength of Rami that is very apparent in this film is his ability to create a great setup and even better payoff. The moment of Otto's realization of his mistakes and what he has become ushers great emotions in that he chooses not to die a monster. Peter choosing to return as Spider-Man despite the struggles of balancing his life. As well as a finale where through all the back and forth of Mary Jane and Peter Parker’s relationship, through one single shot it all makes sense as she sees an unasked Spider-Man.
All these payoffs feel so earned through the character dynamics at play because of Sam Rami’s ability to layer characters.
With beyond incredible characters and payoff, there remains an aspect to discuss, that being the perfection of the action sequences.
Rami understands how to direct action. The emotion built-in each battle, as well as personal ties, create a gripping sequence of high stakes. While there are so many brilliant sequences throughout the movie, one in particular that stands out in this film and remains in the conversation for best of all time being the iconic train fight.
Serving as the high-stakes battle toward the end of the second act, Rami directs one of the greatest sequences ever made with tense action and astonishing moments. Everything from the fight, stopping the train, and the citizens standing up for spidey create this integral sequence of passion and heart.
Spider-Man 2 is a spectacular sequel that elevates character, plot, and payoff perfectly. Filled with passion the characters embody the themes of choice that equates to brilliant setup and payoff. The film has some of the best action of a comic book movie ever put to screen and maintains its legacy with its heart at the center of the film. Spider-Man 2 holds up to this date with its compelling narrative of the meaning of responsibility and choice.