As the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) continues to grow exponentially every year, it is easier than ever to lose sight of the vast catalog of superhero films that came before it. But long before Tom Holland donned Spider-man’s famous costume, Toby Maguire took his turn as the web-slinger.
Maguire, well-known child star and poker enthusiast, has received mixed press during his lengthy time in the spotlight. But all other things aside, he starred in what many people agree is one of the greatest superhero movies of all time: Spider-man 2.
In this article, we take a look at why this film stands the test of time decades after its initial release.
Compelling Character Development:
Spider-man villains tend to follow a predictable character trajectory. They start as basically decent people with some obvious character flaw. They then experience some type of terrible accident that turns them into a supercharged physical manifestation of said flaw.
Never is this more apparent than in Spider-Man 2, when Doctor Otto Octavius reaches just slightly beyond his grasp and is transformed into the villainous Doc Ock. Like all of the best comic book villains, Doc Ock works because he’s an ideal foil for Peter Parker.
Both are scientists. Both desire to help people. Both take extreme steps to achieve that end. When the film begins, Doctor Ocatavious is not trying to take over the world or build some ludicrous weapon. He’s trying to create a clean source of renewable energy that he believes will change the world.
As the story progresses, Doc Ock eventually begins to fully comprehend his fall from grace. In the end, he does exactly what Spider-Man himself is always doing—he chooses the well-being of others over himself and makes the ultimate sacrifice to save New York City.
Yes, that’s what twelve-year-old me loved about Spider-man 2. Renewable energy. Difficult adult choices.
Well. Maybe not. The resonating emotional themes are what made the film widely successful amongst a broad audience. But at the same time, it was impossible not to respond well to the…
Iconic Fight Scenes
Of course, we now live in an era where the Spider-man 2’s special effects are…if not hokey, at least quite modest. At the time, however, the film was able to combine an iconic villain with the technology necessary to make him come to life on the big screen.
The result? Some of the coolest fight scenes in any Spider-man film to date. If you watched Spider-man 2 as a child, you can probably still remember the eerie vibrations and thudding sounds that Doc Ock made as he tore through the city. Maybe you recall Peter and Mary Jane having a heartfelt conversation in a café, moments before a car bursts through the front window display.
Sam Raimi has a talent for combining digital and practical effects in a way that most vividly captures the viewers’ attention. That talent was on full display here.
Toby Maguire has had mixed press when it comes to his ability as an actor. Most fans agree that he really showed up for Spider-man, but there are plenty of mixed opinions on that subject.
Alfred Molina’s performance, on the other hand, is not nearly as controversial. Molina was well-established as a serious dramatic actor. He applied his skills admirably to this performance, ensuring that Doctor Octopus was received the way he was meant to be: as a tragic hero turned villain, consumed by flaws that most viewers may be able to easily recognize in themselves.
The Spiderman Legacy
Unfortunately, the Raimi Spider-man films are now remembered with lukewarm fondness. For one thing, they’ve been buried beneath an avalanche of new films. There have been seven theatrically released web-slinger movies since Tobey Maguire’s last starring role in one of the films.
There have also been multiple television shows and a handful of Spider-man cameos in other MCU films. With all of this content, it’s very easy for a modern viewer to disregard Spider-man 2 as a relic of the pre-MCU past.
It also doesn’t help that the Maguire Spiderman films have been reduced to the (admittedly unfortunate) dance scene that takes place in the third installment.
But it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Spider-man 2 is a stand-out film, not just within its trilogy, but also within an increasingly saturated genre. It combines universal themes with a strong script, great performances, and an ultimately tragic arc that continues to resonate with viewers to this day.
In a world where Spider-man fans are well-fed, it’s important to keep classics from getting lost in the shuffle. If you love the old web-head, give Spider-man 2 a rewatch. You won’t regret it.