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First, Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) blames himself for his uncle's death. Then, Spider-Man kills his best friend's father, a.k.a. The Green Goblin. Ok, he was a homicidal maniac, but now, his best friend, Harry (John Franco), soon to become Green Goblin II, blames Spider-Man, too. In order to be a super-hero, Spider-Man walks away from Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), the woman he loves. Even his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) isn't too happy with Spidey. He can't sleep. His inner demons start coming out. He starts to lose his super powers. Spider-Man has issues. He needs therapy. And he's not the only one. Spider-man's soul-mate, Mary Jane is totally screwed up, carrying a torch for Peter while throwing herself at men she doesn't love. In particular, she throws herself at astronaut and soon-to-be Man-Wolf, John Jameson (Daniel Gillies), son of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). When Mary Jane and Peter finish with their separate therapies, they can go straight into couple's therapy. At least, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) is Ok. All he wants to do is provide clean, cheap electricity to the World. Unfortunately, when his first attempt at controlled fusion fails, kills his wife, and fuses four mechanical arms to his back, Doc Ock decides to rebuild his experiment on his own. In order to raise the money, he agrees to catch Spider-Man for Harry. To do this, he has to kidnap Mary Jane in order to get Peter Parker to tell him where Spider-Man is. And they say irony is dead.
Spider-Man 2 is definitely better than the first Spider-Man even with all this angst and ennui. Sam Raimi does a nice job with the direction. In particular, Doc Ock is a great super-villain. Alfred Molina is wonderful and the Doc-Ock effects are the best thing in the movie. Molina has shown that he is a great character actor in movies such as Chocolat and Frida. By the way, his first movie role was as the guy who was skewered in the first scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The rest of the cast, mostly back from the first movie, is good too. Even Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe) return from the dead for cameos. Maguire is quite good as the crazy-mixed-up friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He and Dunst are good together, although there is nothing to match the now iconic upside-down kiss from the first movie. J. K. Simmons steals every scene that he is in, as the crusading newspaper editor. Watch for Sam Raimi's best friend, Bruce Campbell, as the snooty usher. He has one of those recognizable but impossible to place faces. He's had bit parts in many movies and TV shows.
Even though some of the scenes in Spider-Man 2 are a bit cheesy, there is definitely a lot more going on in this movie than in the first installment. This may be due to the fact that Michael Chabon was brought in to work on the script. He wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel about two guys who write comic books. There are some very funny bits, including a Mary-Tyler-Moore-Show-type opening credit sequence where Peter Parker has happily given up being Spider-Man. The effects in Spider-Man 2 are still a bit cheesy also. But I like that they make Spider-Man look a bit like a comic book character. The Doc-Ock effects are very successful. I should mention that this is another good bad-science movie. Doc Ock creates a miniature Sun in his fusion experiment which, when it goes awry, starts to magnetically attract every piece of metal in New York city. But it makes for good special effects. This is definitely a very good summer movie. Go see it.