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Movie Review: "Spider-Man 2"

While I'm whiling away the hours waiting for the Cubs game against the Brewers to start at 7 tonight, I thought I'd post this review of this immensely popular sequel, which my son Mark and I saw on Sunday afternoon.

(Mark's review: "It was great!" OK, he's not quite nine. What do you want?)

This movie is a comic book. No, that doesn't mean what you think it does. Yes, it's based on a comic book, and that's the point. Even though it's live-action, you have to look at it that way, and see the characters in that sense, and think of the dialogue and action as comic-book dialogue and action.

In that sense Sam Raimi has made a perfect comic book. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst do their Spider-Man 1 performances one better this time. I simply cannot imagine Jake Gyllenhaal (who was under consideration as a replacement for Maguire at one point) in this role. Maguire was thinking about dropping out due to back problems that were in part a result of the punishing stunts he did himself in the first movie, and there is a scene in "2" that does a neat little wink at this.

The use of popular music is terrific, even some older songs like "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head". There's a lot of action, but there are also sweet and tender moments, and not only between Maguire and Dunst, but between Maguire as Peter and the terrific Rosemary Harris as Aunt May Parker.

Alfred Molina gets better in every role he plays (go see him as Diego Rivera in "Frida" for a great example of how great an actor he is), and he's a terrific villain as Otto Octavius, who becomes through a great comic-book style "accident", "Doctor Octopus", or as Peter Parker/Spider-Man's nemesis Daily Bugle editor Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons, and rarely has an actor as precisely resembled his comicbook character as Simmons resembles Jameson) terms him, "Doc Ock".

I've read some criticisms of the CGI work in this film -- that it didn't seem realistic, but there's one chase/battle scene that really did work, and seemed completely real, except for the fact that there aren't any elevated trains in midtown Manhattan. But the scene wouldn't have worked as well without it, and for that, Raimi can be forgiven.

Naturally, the ending leads right into sequel territory, and there are plans to make four more of these films, though likely only one more with Maguire and Dunst, who are perfect for the roles but might be too old for them by the time they get around to making Spider-Man 4. Until then, enjoy them and enjoy this one, because as summer escape action fare, it's just about perfect.

Note: this movie is rated PG-13 for "Stylized Action Violence", but I didn't find anything that you couldn't take your average nine or ten year old to.

AYRating: ****