Adapted by Alvin Sargent from Spider-Man no More! by Stan Lee.
What’s so great about Spider-Man? I’ll tell you what’s so great about Spider-Man – this.
I’ve recently been going through the Spider-Man series, and eventually got to this one, having heard the legends of its greatness and legacy. Honestly, I still think it’s underrated.
The hero’s journey formula might be criticised regularly, but Spider-Man 2 shows what it’s capable of when done exactly right. Having done a more-than-satisfactory origin story, Sam Raimi, the director I’d aspire to be like, rolls-out the main event: the sequel. With everything established, we can go into a story allowed to have more time due out of not needing set-up. And at the heart of it’s Peter Parker, a protagonist I often say is the most relatable and inspiring. I myself have many moments through the day when I feel like him, and this motion picture was almost therapy, especially because I’m feeling quite low at the moment.
Ultimately, it’s a story of priorities. Parker has so much stuff happening in his life that each aspect of himself begins to wane, to the point that he realises he has to pick himself up and decide what he really wants, and to chase it.
And “what I want” is the theme of the story for everyone. Parker still desires Mary Watson, who in-turn discovers she really loves him. Aunt May wants to move-on from Uncle Ben’s death, John Jameson switches between wanting Spider-Man stopped and then wanting him back, while Harry Osborn wants to discover who Spider-Man is to kill him.
Following the narrative begun in Spider-Man, the dualism remains the driving factor, with Parker and Osborn against each-other by the time the story’s concluded, but it’s executed in a way I’d willingly compare to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The Prince of Denmark is young, and must decide if what he wants is valuable enough to endure the challenges it brings, or to give-up. Parker gives a similar speech during Spider-Man 2 in the window of his apartment, while Osborn discovers who Spider-Man really is, and drops his knife, and falls back into his chair out of pure shock. And it ends with a wedding, and everyone’s happy.
But it’s not just that. Osborn and Otto Octavius aren’t the only protagonists, but so is Parker himself. They exist on the fringes of his perception of the world, and the real battle is fought within him as he learns how to be happy, and to appreciate what he’s got and who he is. By the time the credits rolled, I’d shed a few tears. I’m not afraid to admit that. It’s a movie. But it speaks to all of us in a way personal and specific, and it’s an excellent example of how we all consume cinema in our, unique way. The one factor of Spider-Man 2 I appreciate the most is its representation of the Human condition, and that makes Spider-Man more superhuman than anyone. It does exactly what Spider-Man did – take the characters to challenging places, and build them up even higher. It just takes them to more extremes.
Spider-Man 2: the best superhero’s best film. 10/10