Saturday, July 03, 2004
SPIDER-MAN 2: A VERY HUMAN ADAPTATION
By Reymundo Salao
The Guardian, July 3, 2004
Just when you thought they were going to sell out to the fame and success of the first one, SPIDERMAN 2 proved to be a superhero film that held strong to the similar reputation of the first Spidey movie; that of being not merely an eye-candy-action-packed extravaganza, but a movie that has a very rich storyline and brilliantly-developed characters. Nevermind the overhype, never mind the endless promos and commercial tie-ins, because at last, after seeing the film, you must realize the fact that the beauty of Spiderman 2 lies much on the story’s characters and the interesting drama that unfold, and not on the “action-figure-superhero” aspect of it. Instead of trying to cashing in to the popularity of the first by pleasing the audience with more action, stunts, and CGI, the filmmakers seemed to have focused more on the drama between the characters this time. Not to say that it lacked in visual candy, when in fact, it did have greater fight sequences than the first Spiderman movie, and the adventures are more thrilling. But there is a larger tip in the balance that makes the movie heavy on the drama side. Not to say that it becomes more of a weepy chick-flick, but rather, a movie that focuses more on the regular struggles in life: like complications in friendship, paying the rent, pressures in not finding a well-off job, and a frustrating love life. Giving it more life and more of the human touch. Usually on a sequel whose fame and anticipation is of this grand scale, we would have expected numerous action sequences all throughout the film. With Spiderman 2, it seemed to have just disregarded the fact that it was going to be the most popular sequel of the year, and maintained the storyline realistically focusing on the life of it’s main character, Peter Parker, and the consequences that surround the fact that he must be Spiderman. Because the main characters of Peter Parker, his Aunt May, his friend Harry, and his love interest, Mary Jane, have been well-introduced in the first movie, the sequel was left with the liberty of giving more weight to each of them with twists and turns that makes us become so engrossed on the whole Spiderman world the way soap operas do to its fans.
Speaking of soap operas, it is also worth mentioning, the excellent consistency between the two Spiderman movies, as the events of the first movie is greatly in harmony with that of the second movie. This is perhaps due to the reason that the film was faithful to the storyline of the comicbooks. Hollywood has time and again murdered comic adaptations, thereby destroying the original beauty of the genres. This is why Batman HAD to be re-written, this is why The Hulk HAD to be rewritten, this is why The Punisher HAD to be rewritten. It is because their film adaptations in the past had greatly damaged their franchises. With Spiderman, the filmmakers already have the impressive storyline to base it on; all they have to do is be faithful to it. And as the first film has great consistency to the second, the second has started to establish its consistency with the inevitability of a Spiderman 3.
This may be due to the fact that the director Sam Raimi, is himself, a great fan of the Spiderman comic book since his teen years. His devotion for the Spidey genre may have made this project much of a labor of love. Raimi’s unique “classic horror” style can be seen throughout the film. He is the director responsible for such films as “The Quick & the Dead”, “The Evil Dead Trilogy” (it’s part 3 is popularly entitled “Army of Darkness”), and the not-so-popular superhero “Darkman” (with Liam Neeson and Frances Mcdormand) which has some aspects of Spiderman attached into it.
Alfred Molina, who plays the new villain, Dr. Otto Octavius is already an actor of respectable reputation, and his performance is up-to-the-role, excellent, as expected. In an early scene where he is having a pleasant conversation with his wife and Peter Parker, the scene and the acting evokes a realistically pleasant atmosphere that you wouldn’t expect Dr. Octavius to later evolve into the mad villain, Dr. Octopus. James Franco as Harry Osborn, the son of the late Green Goblin, has succeeded in portraying a character whose death of his father has gradually twisted his personality. His Anger for the Spiderman is real, and his vengeful determination convincing. Kristen Dunst , who played Mary Jane Watson, was all the more charming in this movie, as her character moves on to become famous for becoming a model and a stage actress, but still is confused with her feelings for Peter Parker. And Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker delivers a performance worthy of a respectable acting trophy. He vividly gives life to his character, a complex young man whose life is torn by his duties as Spiderman, his duties as a working student who must earn a living, his duties as a friend, and his duties as a man who loves. The character of Peter Parker is not an easy character to portray. Peter is a geek, who despite all the trials and miseries of life, does not easily fall off into a dark sense of brooding contempt. Instead, he just feels the pains of life, and does what little he can, to roll with the punches and adjust to the misery. And the miseries of Peter in this movie can rival the miseries that are found in Sharon Cuneta films. This is what is great about this Spiderman storyline is that to be truly heroic, one must also face the trials not only set by dangerous villains or catastrophic accidents, but by what difficult choices life has to offer. You’re Peter Parker a.k.a. Spiderman, your best friend hates you because you’re responsible of his father’s death, you cant go abusing your powers, you would have enough time for school and work but only if people wouldn’t need your help, worse, you cant have a relationship with the woman you love. That pretty much sucks, doesn’t it? With great power comes great responsibility. But the risks are too high. Can Peter leap through it?
Also worth mentioning is the performance of Rosemary Harris as Peter’s Aunt May, who, in both the comics and on the film, serves as Peter’s touchstone. With more focus on her character, she greatly adds more heart to the film. Then there’s the minor character of Professor Curt Conners, whose arm was cut off during an accident. In the comic books, the character of Curt experiments with reptile specimens as a desperate move to “regrow” his arm, the way lizards normally do. He didn’t expect the experiment would cause grave side-effects mutating him into the monstrous “Lizard”. Well, perhaps, we can expect him in the next sequel. The end of this movie also gives us another idea of what is in store for us on the next Spiderman movie as one of the characters discover something that will surely shock Spidey’s senses.