Saturday, May 05, 2007

Spider-Man II

Often a sequel is nothing but a ruse to sell an idea that has already expired, and I am happy to say that Spider-Man II is not one of those. Yes, the formula remained the same - ordinary guy with extraordinary powers - but the character has gone through more difficult times and greater challenges.

We start off by seeing Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) doing a difficult “juggling act”. He has to study; work for a living; and in between wear that red and blue costume and save the world.

It was a near impossible juggle even with the best of us. After a late pizza delivery our hero loses his job. He was also failing in school because of tardiness and lack of energy in class.

And as if failing in school and losing a job was not enough, he had to hear comments like, “brilliant but lazy” or “you can’t keep a promise.” Hurtful words if you think about it for someone who has given time and dedication in helping everybody else. But that is not the straw that broke the camel’s back as they say. As with many superhero stories the heart of the hero’s anguish always points to a girl.

Mary Jane’s (Kirsten Dunst) star was on the rise and though she never thought badly of Parker who always seemed lost and haggard, she greatly resented the fact that he did even care to see her act on stage. She dates another man. With problems like these our hero could have relied on the best friend but Harry Osborn (James Franco) proved no solace as his obsession with killing Spider-Man became more and more obvious.

His personal life in shambles and compounded by slanderous articles by the Daily Bugle of Spider-Man, Parker begins to show signs of stress; his powers were disappearing. And when the problem became even more pronounced, his dedication for duty also disappeared. He quit being Spider-Man.

Or so he thought. While in hiatus he founds out his worth. His life may be more in control but the city was not. Furthermore, no one else but Spider-Man can keep Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) in check. In the end, Peter Parker accepts who he is: he is both Spider-Man and Peter Parker.

The action scenes have improved in this movie mainly because it depended on more special effects. In part one the pivotal with the Green Goblin was done at night robbing the viewer of being astounded by the details. One on one they seemed like what they are two men fighting.

Here, in battles with Doc Ock the surrounding areas were varied and well lit as it always happened by day. What helped, I think, was that Doc Ock having eight appendages added to the more unique flavor in the battle scenes of part two.

I liked the story too. Peter Parker’s problems were even more pronounced and defined than in part one. The entire ensemble of actors did not loose a beat; they mixed well and played their roles beautifully. J.K. Simmons who plays J. Jonah Jameson was a great comic relief. James Franco (Harry Osborn) was better than in the first, in having a more darker role here in the sequel. I don’t have anything flattering to say about Alfred Molina but he looked ok.

What I don’t like is that there seems a wanton disregard for secrecy in this picture for too many people have seen Spider-Man without the mask. I suppose it is unavoidable. Followers of the comic book know Mary Jane is one who knows the secret, but I am unsure if, in the comics, Harry Osborn is given that secret as well. But why does Spider-Man have to be unmasked in the train? Feels wrong.

Regardless of my above mentioned misgivings I greatly enjoyed this movie. As the story shows, being of two minds can be troublesome. There is always a choice, they say, but the operative word there is choose. At least for this review, I choose to say that Spider-Man II is one superhero film you should not miss.