Okay, first up is the "spoiler" review for this film. For those who do NOT want to know the "secrets" of this film, skip this review and go to the next one, which is spoiler free. Okay, you have been warned.
What can I say about this film save that it is, perhaps, the best "Super-Hero" film ever made, better even than the first Keaton Batman film. No, this is not coming from an anti-Batman bias. I have always been as equal a Batman fan as I have been a Spider-Man fan. Director Sam Raimi delivers in this sequel to the wildly popular first film, an installment that has all of the qualities that made the original a wonderful film as well as the removal of the elements that just didn't work in the original film.
This time around, we're given two villains, though one is much more subdued than the other. We're given one of Spider-man's most notorious villain, Dr. Otto Octavius, AKA, Dr. Octopus. When a fusion experiment goes awry, Dr. Octavius becomes an obsessed, deranged man, bound to these indestructible appendages designed for the safe handling of dangerous matter. This is all very true to the comic book origin, yet stream-lined and updated to fit within a film format. Not an easy thing to do. The second villain is none other than Harry Osborne, the son of Norman Osborne, AKA The Green Goblin. Harry is accurately portrayed as a man haunted by the mistaken idea that Spider-man murdered his father and also haunted by the psychological abuse his father thrust upon him when he was alive. He's torn between obsessing over getting revenge on Spiderman and trying to run his father's company.
That is the thesis of the film itself. Everyone is torn between two worlds. One would think this would get tiresome, which it would have were it not that all the characters are torn between their real world responsibilities and events caused by the insertion of the more fantastical. In this film, Peter Parker is torn between his real world responsibilities and the solemn oath he made to his uncle in the first film. The words of his uncle haunt him even still "With great power comes great responsibility". Even the film's central villain is a man torn between completing his own research at any cost and keeping HIS oath to issue that science is only used to benefit mankind, not to destroy.
Perhaps that's what makes this film better than the original, it doesn't; fall into the all-too-common trap of having villains who wear the theatrical black hat. You feel for every character, even the villains. Their motivations are not only rational and believable, but in many cases, justified. The only real villainy in this film comes from the character's inability to see how their actions would have negative consequences. That is, for the most part, true in real life.
There are also a lot of nods in the film to both fans of Sam Raimi films as well as fans of the comic. For the Sam Raimi film buffs, the nods are very apparent. The car that Sam Raimi puts in every one of his films, the infamous car that Ash from the Evil Dead series had, and the car that was trashed in the original film was sitting in Aunt May's garage. The scene in which the doctor's are trying to remove the limbs from Octavius and the camera cuts quickly to the surgical chainsaw, then cuts away, then cuts quickly back to the doctor, thrusting the chainsaw at the screen was lifted directly from both Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. Then there is the inevitable cameo by Bruce Campbell as the usher at the theater. For those not in the know, Bruce Campbell has at least made a cameo in every film Raimi has ever made, including Darkman.
There was no shortage of nods to the comic fan as well. Dr. Kurt Conners was actually cast and shown in this film, complete with the one arm. Comic Fans recognize him as the doomed Spidey villain "The Lizard". John Jameson is also introduced in this film, another occasional Spiderman Villain known as the "Man-Wolf". These are but a few of the nods to the comic inserted. More compelling were some of the scenes taken directly from the comics themselves. The scene where Parker decides to give up Spiderman and walks away with the costume sticking out of the garbage can in the foreground is a powerful image taken from the cover of "Amazing Spider-man". The newspaper headline "Where is Spider-Man?" also taken straight from the comic, the words plastered on a billboard when Spider-man vanished to fight in Marvel's "The Secret Wars". Comic fans also had to cheer when Mary Jane used the line her comic character made famous "Go get 'em, tiger." And lastly, the obvious moment that Harry discovers the truth about his father and we realize he is going to become the next Green Goblin, just as he did in the comic.
But these nods to not steal from the film itself. The depth of character development and treatment is what makes this stand out. These characters all come off as real people, not four color cutouts used as a backdrop for garishly costumed action. This film has something for everyone. It's the best film I have seen this year, bar none.
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