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Spider-Man 2 (****)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Michael Chabon, Miles Miller, Alfred Gough, and Alvin Sargent, based on comic books by Steve Ditko, John Romita, and Stan Lee
Principal Cast
Tobey Maguire -- Spider-Man/Peter Parker
Kirsten Dunst -- Mary Jane Watson
James Franco -- Harry Osborn
Alfred Molina -- Doc Ock/Dr. Otto Octavius
Rosemary Harris -- May Parker
J.K. Simmons -- J. Jonah Jameson
Donna Murphy -- Rosalie Octavius
Daniel Gillies -- John Jameson
Dylan Baker -- Dr. Curt Connors
Bill Nunn -- Joseph 'Robbie' Robertson
Vanessa Ferlito -- Louise
Aasif Mandvi -- Mr. Aziz
Willem Dafoe -- Green Goblin/Norman Osborn
Cliff Robertson -- Ben Parker
Ted Raimi -- Hoffman
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Spider-Man 2 By now you already know that Spider-Man 2 is in the same league with the first Spider-Man film, which is to say that it is among the best super-hero films ever. Some people prefer it to the first film. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is still my favorite film so far in 2004.

It's a love story. I didn't bring a stopwatch, but I would guess that less than a fifth of the film is action. The action sequences are very well done, better than in the first film. Especially effective are Doctor Octopus's metal arms, who have a personality all their own.

The Spider-Man films have been true to the Ditko/Romita/Lee comic book, while condensing several years of comic books into each film. The biggest change from the original mythos is the omission of Gwen Stacy. Why didn't they have Kirsten Dunst play Gwen instead of MJ? My guess is because they didn't want to have to face killing off Dunst. And so we will not see on film one of the most dramatic and memorable moments from the Silver Age of comics.

The first film was loosely based on Amazing Adult Fantasy 15, Amazing Spider-Man 14 and 40. and the last panel of 42: "Face it, Tiger. You just hit the jackpot." This film has a lot from Spider-Man 3, a hint of 6, 12, a touch of 33, a bit of 42, and a lot of 50. Since Ditko left the book with 38, John Romita really should be getting screen credit.

I do have one philosophical bone to pick. The moral of the first film was "With great power comes great responsibility." Not profoundly original, but certainly true. The moral of Spider-Man 2 is, "Sometimes you have to give up the thing you want the most." Not true, not even possible. Certainly there are great love stories in which the hero gives up his love. "It is a far, far better thing that I do now." But you can only give up something you want because there is something else you want even more. There is a Theodore Sturgeon story with this theme the last lines of which are, "You could have had love." "I did." Sturgeon understood love as well as any writer, and he understood that you can only give up what you love when you have an even greater love. You cannot give up what you want most of all, because there cannot, by definition, be something even greater.

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Copyright © 2004 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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