One of my top 10 favorite films of all time is Spider-Man 2 directed by Sam Raimi which made its cinematic debut in 2004. I’ve been a fan for about a decade now and because of that, I’ve heard every possible complaint for the movie.
And yet, I still love it more than I can say.
I think what makes the Sam Raimi trilogy special for me is that these are movies I grew with. I remember my dad renting them and I’d come into the living room and watch pieces of it here and there. When I was 12/13 I thought I’d outgrown superheroes until I spent the night at a friend’s and she put on the first Spider-Man. It was late and I remember the other girls falling asleep half-way through, but I was up until the DVD looped back to the title screen. I was blown away by this story of a nerdy Toby Maguire acquiring spider powers. The next weekend I rented the sequel and at the tail end of my freshmen year I went to see Spider-Man 3 in theaters and walked away as happy as could be (I honestly can’t find it in me to hate the third one.)
Apart from the nostalgia factor, I see these films as having their own unique charm. I think that’s what helped draw me in. There’s a silly comic book vibe to them, but they still maintain a basis of reality. For example, Uncle’s Ben’s death scene. Some poke fun at Maguire’s acting there because he isn’t the most graceful crier, but who is? His reaction felt normal to me and it still does. It doesn’t appear as a perfectly executed cinematic weeping, it appears raw and uncontrolled. It’s ugly. He comes across the most important figure in his life lying on the cement with a bullet hole in his chest. I would be crying like that too. It’s shocking and painful and Maguire delivers that.
What made Spider-Man 2 land of my top 10 was that it worked off these two aspects – it kept the fun comic book theme while still creating quiet and serious moments that didn’t feel forced or rushed.
My favorite line is something Aunt May tells Peter:
Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.
I find this line incredibly sweet and it explains the whole trilogy for me. Each movie slid directly into the next and each deals with the same idea – that Peter is seeking out balance. He’s learning to be a hero, if he wants to be a hero. Even though he gets a big head over his fame, in the end it’s all about supporting those around him. Learning to take sacrifices, to not give up, to forgive, to help and make a difference. Not to say the other movies didn’t touch on this, but the lessons and growth shown in this particular trilogy was achieved at a natural pace. Viewers see so much of these character’s lives that suddenly it becomes less of a superhero movie and more of a movie about people growing into better people – realizing that what they think they deserve may not be what they need and taking mistakes from the past to mold themselves into something heroic for the future.
Spider-Man 2 especially shows this with Peter believing he doesn’t need to be Spider-Man anymore. The city’s issues are not his issues. When he sees a man being mugged in the alley he turns away because he doesn’t see a crime as his business anymore. Yet he ends up rushing into a burning building later on because try as me might, he can’t turn a blind eye. The costume is a way of projecting that message out. Peter can act as a reminder to the public to help each other out. He encourages them to be a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
Apart from that the movie has great one-liners, a perfect Jonah Jameson, some great action sequences (even if a little outdated now), cliffhangers, and, above all else, heart.
Spider-Man 2 is charming. I can’t help, but smile when I watch it. I get teary eyed during the bus scene. I love the “Harry finds out who Peter really is” bit. I like the inclusion of the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.” This movie is flawed, yes, but there is nothing else like it. I even love the cheesy moments because that’s all part of the film’s atmosphere. It allows itself to be goofy, but it also allows itself to be serious. It can become melodramatic at times, but those high emotions fit perfectly into the comic book vibe I mentioned earlier.
Am I ready for another reboot? No. I enjoyed the Amazing Spider-Man and I honestly didn’t hate the sequel. I wish we could have gotten a proper conclusion and while it’s best that Spider-Man return to Marvel, it still feels too soon for a cinematic return.
All I can say is that Toby Maguire will forever be my Spider-Man. No matter how many years pass, this trilogy will have a special place in my heart because it’s impossible for me not to be charmed by this film.