Spiderman 2 (5/5)Better than the original. I'm sure plenty of people will hear that when they hear people talk about this movie, and what can I say except that it's true. Yes, that's right expect numbers to be divisible by zero, mass to exceed the speed of light, objects to fall faster than 9.8 m/s^2, and Wile E. Coyote to remain in the air even after he has looked down, because a sequel has bested the original. Spiderman 2 has joined that rare pantheon of films that are actually better than the original: Terminator 2, The Empire Strikes Back, and Dawn of the Dead to name a few (and the last one's stretching it).
At the heart of this movie is an actor who has really grown into his own and taken America's heart by storm. He's always been talented, but this is the movie that has really catapulted him to superstardom. That's right, Alfred Molina, you had me at "Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip." Seriously though, Alfred Molina has been in every movie ever, and I didn't even know it until I saw this movie last year. He must have a bet going with Jude Law to see who can be in more films. Of course, he does a fine job in this film, and must be a really good actor because I didn't recognize I had seen him previously in about fifty movies, he just blends into the character.
Everyone does an excellent job in this film (except for Kirstin Dunst. Now that we know Topher Grace is going to be in the next film can't he bring over the redhaired chick from That 70's Show to play Mary Jane). Actors are often reiterating that comedy is the hardest thing to do (although it doesn't seem like the Academy is ever listening to them), and in Spiderman 2 they not only need to master comedy but make believable drama in the midst of complete fantasy. This change of gears isn't an easy thing to do I'm sure. At one pivotal point in the film Peter Parker has to confess to his aunt that he was responsible for her husband's death, and later in the film there is a montage that can only be described as an homage to sixties television. Tobe Maguire is able to play these extremes confidently and sells us the character in both scenes.
The biggest strength of this film is that Sam Raimi is able to mesh together so many genres without it seeming jarring. During the course of the film it takes on the characteristics of a drama, comedy, romance, horror, action-adventure, cartoon, monster movie, and none feels forced or out of place. Most of these genres aren't subservient to the others either. It could just as easily be argued that this film is a comedy as it could be argued that it is it is a drama or action-adventure. I have rarely seen this even a mixture of genre without the film itself feeling uneven.
Speaking of comedy, that is the single biggest advance between this film and the last. In the original Spiderman they just expected us to accept the cheesy lines as camp. This was fine for those who had read old comics before, but those who didn't just thought it was cheesy. The aforementioned montage to Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head is perhaps the biggest risk the film takes, but the film makers are so confident that it works perfectly. It is easily the funniest part of the film.
What makes the Spiderman films in general so great is that Sam Raimi really believes that these characters have depth. In fact, I don't think I've seen two films since this movie came out, coming from a major Hollywood studio, with characters as developed as these are. Sam Raimi is not afraid to put real people in the middle of what can be essentially a big cartoon. This is only fitting because that was the exact characteristic that made Stan Lee such a genius. In Raimi, Stan Lee has someone who truly understands his creation.
There are some wonderful scenes in here (besides the montage, which I decided I might as well mention a third time), but if you haven't seen the movie I'll just let you discover them for yourself. It really is the kind of movie you hope they make every summer, but are usually disappointed by. It kicks ass for two hours, and when you thought it couldn't get better Willem Dafoe shows up to call James Franco a pussy. Great movie.