Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 6/30/04
Director: Sam Raimi
Music: Danny Elfman
Special Effects: John Dykstra
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, cameos by Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee, Willem Dafoe

Definitely a disappointment, especially with all of the gushing reviews I've read for it. Two years have passed since "Spider-Man" (2002) and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has gone to college while Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is making a modest living as a model and actress. Peter's life and health are crumbling apart from the stress and responsibility of being Spider-Man, and he eventually ditches the costume and resumes his past life as a geek. Unfortunately, when Aunt May and Mary Jane get threatened by the nefarious Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Peter is forced to pick up the mask once again to save the city and his loved ones.

Unfortunately, director Sam Raimi plays it mostly for laughs this time around, and overworks the angst and sentimentality angles to absurdity. The entire first hour of the film is tediously unenjoyable, but the film becomes immediately engaging as soon as Mary Jane gets kidnapped. It's like the first and second halves of the film are two entirely different movies. Tobey Maguire once again gives a stellar performance as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and James Franco shows some depth as Normon Osborn's increasingly troubled son. Kirsten Dunst is rather uninteresting, but she sure can scream well. Surprisingly, the special effects this time around are extremely exciting, mostly due to some very inventive fight choreography between Spider-Man and Doc Ock. Everything happens very quickly, but it's fascinating to watch the intricate detail in which these characters react with each other and their surroundings. Danny Elfman's score is good, but noticeably subdued. It doesn't feel like it's covering any new ground, but superhero fans will likely find something to like about it.