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By BILLY NORRIS
Published July 5, 2004
Movie: Spider-Man 2
Rating: PG-13 for stylized action violence
Summary: Columbia University student Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who spends most of his time fighting crime as his alter-ego Spider-Man, is having trouble balancing his dual life. He constantly questions whether his spider senses are a blessing or a curse; they have forced him to walk away from his true love, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), for her safety. He often hears the powerful words his uncle left ingrained in his mind: "With great power comes great responsibility." As MJ moves on with her life and becomes engaged, Peter gives up his "job" as crime fighter in hopes of leading a normal life. Meanwhile, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) has been hired by Harry Osborn (James Franco) to continue his late father's work at OsCorp. Octavius is trying to develop a way to contain the power of the sun with a precious metal and a fusion reactor to create a powerful new energy source. Octavius' most recent invention - mechanical octopus arms - become fused to his spine in an accident and take on a life of their own. When Octavius begins to terrorize New York, Peter must overcome his personal struggles and put on his tights. Spider-Man is the only one who can stop "Doc Ock."
My view: What constitutes a great movie? It must meld an interesting and well-written story with proficient acting, skillful cinematography, and in Spider-Man 2's case, raw and gutsy special effects. The first Spider-Man film was very good; it had mass appeal and broad success. But 2 transcends its predecessor on every level. The special effects sequences dominated the film. Monster explosions and dazzling computer-generated illusions went hand-in-hand with an energetic score. A technique favored by the creators involved swinging a camera attached to a wire from building to building (sometimes as far as 2,400 feet) to show things from Spidey's perspective. The Manhattan theater in which I saw the film had an extraordinary sound system that emphasized the mind-blowing sound effects and accentuated the visuals.
The comic-book aura was even better preserved than in the first film. The dialogue, especially between Maguire and Dunst, had a certain hokey edge to it that made it appropriately laughable yet authentic in the style of a classic Marvel Comic. Dr. Octavius is bigger, badder and creepier than the Green Goblin ever was, though that might change in the next installment. Octavius' octopus arms are a little too lifelike - so much so that they actually creeped me out. Hard-core fans of the Spider-Man comics will be crazy about this live-action portrayal of one of the series' most popular characters. We are left at the end of this film exactly as we were in the first one - perfectly set up for another action-packed Spidey sequel (Spider-Man 3 already is on the schedule for summer 2007). The filmmakers really will have to go overboard to outdo what they have accomplished here.
Recommendations: A movie that blends action, humor and the scare factor with big stars and big-budget effects is just what the doctor ordered for many moviegoers. The violence level is turned up a notch, so watch out for that. I advise you to not let this one pass you by.
Billy Norris, 16, will be in 11th grade at Seminole High, and is a former member of the Times X-Team.
[Last modified July 2, 2004, 11:04:01]