Spider-Man is box office gold nowadays. Since the web-slinger’s 2002 inaugural Hollywood adventure, there’s been no slowing the production of Spider-films. Yet, I argue that the character’s heights were reached in Sam Raimi’s unforgettable 2004 sequel, Spider-Man 2. Never has a movie captured what makes the character so iconic than in this film.
Thus, to celebrate the strong possibility that Tobey Maguire is returning in the tights for Spider-Man: No Way Home, let’s count down the top ten reasons why Spider-Man 2 is still the best Spidey movie to date…
10) It’s the Most Emotionally Powerful Spider-Man Movie
Spider-Man 2 is easily the most touching and heartwarming (and heart-wrenching) Spidey movie to date. This is because the film picks up threads from the last one and expands on them. We can see that Harry harbors resentment for his best buddy because he’s taking pictures of the man who he thinks killed his dad. Two years on from Uncle Ben’s death, Peter still feels remorseful and yet, Aunt May possesses a lot of guilt over it, too. It kills Peter that he can’t tell her about his secret in fear that it would put her in harm’s way regarding his enemies. All of these factors set up some of the most emotional scenes in the movies (Peter telling May about the night he saw Ben die, Peter dreaming about seeing Ben and telling him he doesn’t want to be Spidey anymore, etc). The movie is an emotional roller-coaster that is amplified by Tobey Maguire’s best performance of Spider-Man/Peter Parker.
9) The Ending’s Got the Best Hook
While Spider-Man: Far From Home has the best ending purely in terms of shock value, Spider-Man 2 has the most emotionally impactful ending of the movies. Let’s just go through it, shall we? 1) Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn, knows his secret identity and finds his late father’s secret lair, his hatred for Spider-Man alive and well. Secondly, MJ also knows his secret and bails at her wedding with Jameson’s son to be with him. Thirdly, there’s that ominous stare MJ gives just before the credits, accompanied by a low point in the score, implying that she somewhat regrets her hasty decision to choose to be with Peter.
Unfortunately, most of these threads are closed disappointingly in Spider-Man 3. But at the time of release, the ending to Spider-Man 2 left so much to the imagination and so much potential for where the story could go. It’s a good lesson in how to keep your audience coming back for the next movie.
8) It Has the Best J. Jonah Jameson Lines
J.K. Simmons is an example of perfect casting in a Spider-Man movie. In the comics, J. Jonah Jameson has always been the source of comic relief due to his obsession with Spider-Man. Raimi’s movies, including this sequel, translate this over pretty well. And you can thank J. K Simmons for that.
You can’t help but split your sides when Jameson maniacally laughs when Peter innocently asks for a raise. And when Betty Brant comes in, informing her boss that his wife has lost the credit card? He just smiles and says, “thanks for the good news!” Jameson has some of the funniest lines in the movie and his portrayal here remains the best in the Spider-Man movies.
7) The CGI Battles Are Top-Notch
In terms of the CGI action, Spider-Man 2 takes things up a notch compared to its predecessor. Not only is it used more often, but Spidey feels a lot more agile than before. While the Spidey of Spider-Man 1 often feels stiff, the animated hero of Spider-Man 2 is nimble and flexible, artfully dodging debris thrown at him by Doc Ock and effortlessly performing flips and parkour moves of all kinds.
The battles are also a lot tenser than Spidey 1. Doc Ock is a menacing villain whose arms allow him to flexibly traverse over all manner of terrain, making him more than a match for our hero. Having the ability to use multiple arms at once allows Ock to surprise Spidey when he least expects it and throw everything at him but the kitchen sink (although if he were near one, he’d probably throw that too!). All this is depicted via effectively implemented CGI that blends in superbly well with the filmed scenes.
6) Tobey Maguire Continues to Own the Character
Tobey Maguire is talented in bringing out the earnest side of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. It is this side in particular that helps relate to him as an audience. Tobey manages to make Peter honest, likable, and completely sympathetic. Given that this movie basically tortures Peter from start to finish, that latter point is important. It’s hard not to feel for Peter as he glumly drags his damaged bike along the pavement after finding out the love of his life is happy with someone else.
But perhaps what Tobey does best is make the character feel human and relatable even when he’s in Spider-Man mode. For example, when an unmasked Peter awakes on the train and the kid hands him his mask, he still gives off an air of, as one bystander comments, “just a kid, no older than my son”. He’s not an alien from another planet, he’s just an ordinary kid with great power trying to use it responsibly.
5) It Still Has the Humour
Despite its serious subject matter, Spider-Man 2 never loses the humor that made its predecessor so whimsical. While the humor isn’t the sole focus, it does pop up to ease the tension of the story. When a sleep-deprived Peter Parker wakes up one morning to find his grouchy landlord on the toilet, demanding his rent, we can’t help but laugh. And of course, there’s Bruce Campbell, the only villain in the movies that Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man can never seem to defeat and his ultimate Achilles’ heel.
4) Danny Elfman’s Score
Danny Elfman is one of Hollywood’s most talented composers. Thankfully, this is evident in Spider-Man 2‘s score, which tops that of the previous film. While much of the previous movie’s score returns, Elfman adds some new stuff to the mix (i.e. the Doc Ock theme) and puts new touches on established tracks (the theme that plays when Peter quits being Spidey). Spider-Man 2 shows off how diverse Elfman is in his scores, narrating the tender moments and dangerous moments of the movie with seeming ease. It’s one of the best movie soundtracks to grace the silver screen, period.
3) Doc Ock is a Beautifully Tragic Villain
Green Goblin was a decent villain in Spider-Man 1, but his silly Power Rangers-Esque suit is oft-considered a downside. Personally, I liked Dafoe’s performance when the mask was off – he was able to be more expressive and creative in his role. Doc Ock, on the other hand, wears no mask period, giving Raimi a chance to feature a villain whose expression is visible, even during fight sequences.
But more importantly, Doc Ock is a more sympathetically tragic villain than Norman Osborn. The film spends more time developing the pair’s bond before his dark turn. We see his passion for science, his noble ambitions, his sense of humor, and his love for his beautiful wife. Therefore, when he does become Doc Ock, it feels even more tragic than it would otherwise. And indeed, it helps harden the impact when he sacrifices himself at the end to save New York.
2) It’s the Most Down-to-Earth Spider-Man Movie
Whereas the MCU movies feel like they take place in a comic book universe, Spider-Man 2 feels like it takes place in the real world. Peter’s not depending on Stark Tech nor is he getting involved in a conspiracy involving his dead parents. Rather, he’s a regular kid working at pizza shops and selling freelance photos to a newspaper while surviving college. The fact that Peter deals with an irritable landlord, angry bosses, and disappointed college professors makes him feel real and relatable on a human level.
Even Doc Ock has a grounded nature that helps him become more believable. At heart, he’s a hardworking scientist who wants to make nuclear fusion a sustainable energy source for the whole world. This is actually a scientific endeavor in the modern world, again helping keep a sense of reality among the superhero goings-on. The fact that this movie anchors itself to reality rather than going too cartoony is another advantage it has.
1) Spider-Man 2 Portrays the Burden of Being Spider-Man
The main message of Spider-Man 2 is this: it ain’t all fun and games, folks. Or, as Aunt May eloquently states, “sometimes, to do what’s right, you have to be steady and give up the thing you want the most – even your dreams.” Throughout the movie, Tobey Maguire’s Peter feels he has let life pass him by in being Spider-Man. He’s struggling to hold down jobs, keep up with his university studies and maintain meaningful relationships. As if that weren’t enough when he is being a hero, the media – particularly J. Jonah Jameson’s Daily Bugle – is slagging him off.
Peter’s constant struggle to balance his civilian and superhero identities is a huge reason why he is such an endearing character in the comics. Spider-Man 2 is the first Spidey film to properly portray this. In this way, it is effectively one of the most poignant, definitive portrayals of the character outside of the comics.
Do you agree that Spidey 2 is the best movie to star the web-slinger? Are you hyped for Tobey Maguire’s return in No Way Home? Tell us why or why not in the comments below!