By Jennifer Misthal
The superhero seems to have lost his touch in the two years that lapsed since the original “Spider-Man” was released. Now, his spidey senses occasionally fail and some residents of director Sam Raimi's unauthentic New York still think he's a menace. With so much stress, it seems only natural that Queens-native Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) would chuck his spidey suit into trash can in an alley because he is “Spider-Man no more.”
But what Peter soon learns from his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), is an idea the audience is already familiar with – everybody needs a hero. And Peter's need to be reminded of this notion only reminds the audience of the realness Marvel Comics' hero embodies. Though there is nothing Spider-Man can't conquer, Peter isn't quite as lucky, perhaps best portrayed when he moonlights as the Daily Bugle's high society photographer.
It's not long after Aunt May's compassionate lecture that Peter finds his way back into spandex – which was hanging in J. Jonas Jameson's (J.K. Simmons) Daily Bugle office. It's going to take a lot more than Peter's scientific brilliance to rid New York of the malevolent Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), the product of a science experiment funded by Peter's best friend, Harry Osborn, that went terribly wrong. As head of his father's company, Harry is determined to make Oscorp more famous than ever.
It is not until the second hour of the film that “Spider-Man 2” earns its name. The conflict between Spider-Man and Doc Ock is slowly built in Alvin Sargent's (“Ordinary People”) script. When they finally do rendezvous, the special effects resemble a video game more than a summer blockbuster. It's hard not to wonder how the budget was squandered. Luckily the movie seeks redemption in its humorous, yet tender script. Peter is in a state of confusion, not sure which identity he wants. As he longs for Mary Jane, whose career as an actress and model is finally taking off, his humanity and realness shine.
Though the movie is set in New York, the scenery suggests the contrary. While the original was filled with landmarks from both Manhattan and Queens, this time around the need to create an authentic backdrop seems to not be as important. As a result, the audience is left with a clash between Doc Ock and Spider-Man, on an elevated subway train running through this fictional New York headed toward Bay Ridge. Along the way, this non-existent route even pays a visit to Chicago, making it hard not miss the authenticity of the original.
And although Peter is from Forest Hills, he only visits his old neighborhood twice. Don't worry, he hasn't forgotten his roots.
But even the flaws of “Spider-Man 2” serve as a reminder of what makes this superhero so endearing. At his best, Spider-Man is a superhero like none other, and at his worst, Peter Parker is just an average guy in need of a break.
“Spider-Man 2” is currently playing in Astoria, Forest Hills, Ozone Park and other locales throughout the borough. Check our listings in this week's TimesLedger film timetable.