(2004, Action-Superhero, color)
Josh Frulinger, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy
This looks like a job for Captain Crybaby!
In a nutshell:
Peter Parker struggles to balance his regular life with his masked alter ego.
Life isn’t going so great for Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire). Having gained phenomenal superpowers from a radioactive spider in the previous film, he now wanders the streets of New York fighting crime and so on to the detriment of his schoolwork, his work-work, and his personal relationships. After a particularly stressful day of getting fired from pizza delivery and told off by his professor, Peter drags himself to his Aunt May’s house, having wholly forgotten that it’s his birthday. His friends Harry (James Franco) and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) are there to celebrate with him in a vaguely hostile, stand-offish sort of way. Harry resents the fact that Peter knows Spider-Man well enough to get close-up pictures, but won’t help Harry track the agile arachnid down to take revenge for his father’s death. Mary Jane resents the fact that Peter won’t come see her new play, or pursue a romantic relationship with her.
With his academic career hanging by a thread, Peter needs a really good term paper to pass his vaguely science-ish classes. Fortunately for him, Harry is a maniacal science research mogul (or something) with access to all the greatest mad geniuses of the age. He sets Peter up to meet Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), mad genius in charge of creating glowing balls inside giant metal horseshoes. He has a good talk with Peter and then invites him to the glowing ball/metal horseshoe gala. Since glowing balls cannot be handled with bare skin or even rubber gloves, Octavius fuses a set of four super-strong and hyperintelligent metal tentacles to his spinal column to assist with glowing ball manipulation duties. The demonstration begins. The machine gets switched on. And, of course, things begin to go Horribly Wrong.
The glowing ball grows too big and starts to suck all metal items towards itself, including the glass in the windows. (Yes, I know there’s a non sequitur in the previous sentence.) This kills Octavius’ wife and nearly kills the other attendees as well. As Spider-Man, Peter shows up to save the ungrateful Harry and pull the plug on Octavius’ experiment before it can destroy the city. Harry swears further revenge while Octavius is carted off to the hospital for tentacle removal. The hyperintelligent tentacles take over Dr. Octavius’ mind; he kills his doctors before they can remove his metal appendages and escapes into the night. Later, he robs a bank so that he can buy materials to rebuild his glowing ball/horseshoe thingy, taking Peter’s Aunt May hostage in the process. As Spider-Man, Peter tries to leap out and save her, but she ends up saving him instead.
Somewhere in there, Mary Jane invites Peter to her play. He does his best to make it, but has to stop on the way to interrupt a crime in progress. He doesn’t make it in time, and the obnoxious usher (Bruce Campbell) refuses to let him in. This serves to further Mary Jane’s disappointment and she becomes affianced to someone else. Adding insult to injury, Peter suddenly loses his powers mid-swing, forcing him to take the elevator down from the top of a tall building. At the culmination of the work/school/Mary Jane/Aunt May/Dr. Octavius situation, Peter cries and vows to give up being Spider-Man.
Peter’s performance in all the non-Spider-Man areas of his life immediately improves. He’s quite pleased with himself until he notices the growing crime rate, and eventually has to run into a burning building without his powers to help rescue a trapped youngster. Meanwhile, Harry promises Octavius a rare glowing-ball-machine element in exchange for Spider-Man’s capture. Octavius knows that Peter knows how to contact Spider-Man, and further observes his crush on Mary Jane. So he kidnaps Mary Jane, threatening to kill her unless Peter sends Spider-Man after him.
The abduction of his not-quite-girlfriend proves to be the spark Peter needed to regain his powers. The subsequent fight scene stretches from a clock tower to the El, and ends with Peter sacrificing himself to stop a runaway train. Octavius ties up the exhausted hero and delivers him to Harry. Harry yanks off the mask and sees his best friend. Peter recovers enough to break his bonds and demand Octavius’ whereabouts. Harry inexplicably knows them, and Peter swings away.
On a rotting old dock, a chained-up Mary Jane watches helplessly as Octavius constructs an even bigger giant metal horseshoe in which to house his glowing ball. Of course it goes wrong again, sucking all the metal in the near vicinity towards it, including Mary Jane’s chains. Spider-Man arrives in time to save her from being sucked into the vortex. He subdues Octavius and unplugs the machine, but now the glowing ball is too big to stop sucking. He removes his mask and appeals to Octavius for help. Octavius realizes that his mind has been overcome by villainous tentacle intelligences, and struggles to regain his humanity. He plunges the glowing ball into the river, dousing it and drowning himself. Peter rescues Mary Jane from the wreckage and confesses his Spider-Man-hood. They can’t be together because his enemies will always threaten her to get to him.
This does not appear to be a good enough argument for her, since she later runs out of her own wedding to join him. Oh, and the strain of finding out that his best friend killed his father drives Harry insane. Stay tuned for the sequel, kids!
Peter’s “we can’t be together because my enemies will threaten you” speech doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me, especially considering that by the time he finally delivers it to Mary Jane, he’s just rescued her from her second abduction by a maniacal supervillain in as many movies. Peter, every archnemesis you’ve ever had has figured how much you like MJ with ridiculous ease. They don’t really care that you’re not “officially together”; your unrequited love is more than excuse enough to check her into the Kidnap Hotel every time they feel like they need a little leverage. I guess what I’m trying to say, Peter, is that you already have your cake whether you want it or not. You might as well eat it too.
That said, Spider-Man 2 is actually the best of the series thus far. It still has everything I praised about the first movie going for it, as well as a fantastically choreographed clock tower-and-train fight sequence, and a lot of emotional depth besides. If I have to register a complaint (and knowing me, I do), it’s that there might be just a little too much emotional depth. Peter’s under a rather horrific amount of stress for most of the film, I know. In his situation, I’d probably cry that much too. I would not, however, expect people to be entertained by endless scenes of my silent weeping between action sequences. But this is a minor quibble. For the most part, it’s an exciting and involving film that’s as much about its characters as it is about ‘splosions. It’s just too bad that such a promising young sequel should have the unfortunate Spider-Man 3 in its future.
Bill and Kevin provide the commentary for this Rifftrax Presents title, along with special guest riffer Josh Fruhlinger, a.k.a. The Comics Curmudgeon. Josh’s delivery isn’t as polished as other guest riffers, but his enthusiasm and timing leave nothing to be desired. Good lines include “It’s a recession, who can afford a house and meth”; "Is that creepy or endearing, it’s hard to tell with him”; and “My three-year-old niece weeps less than this superhero.” Veteran riffers Bill and Kevin step up as well, most notably when Bill calls Peter’s intermittent powers “Arachnile Dysfunction”, while Kevin sings, “Oh you can tell by the way I use my walk / I’m a Spider-Man, / I hate Doc Ock.” It’s a fun movie coupled with a well-written and well-performed commentary, making it my favorite of the three Spider-Man Rifftrax.
(2004, Action-Superhero, color)