It looks like Spider-Man 2 will be more of the same stuff we saw in Spider-Man — in the best way possible. After all, the first movie got so many things so perfectly right. Tobey Maguire is well cast as the wise-cracking, acrobatic hero, and perfectly cast as Peter Parker, the shy science nerd who’s suddenly granted strange powers. Kirsten Dunst brings depth and interest to Mary Jane Watson in a way that Marvel’s writers rarely could; Aunt May and Uncle Ben are just like we always knew them. And the dizzying aerial photography and cinematography made possible by modern advances in special effects bring Spidey’s acrobatic exploits to life with non-stop motion that’s impossible on a printed page.
So, when I predict that Spider-Man 2 will follow in the original’s footsteps, I think that’s a good thing. Since the release of Spider-Man, Marvel has lost its stride and stumbled with Daredevil, and then fallen flat on its face with The Hulk. But with the Spider-Man franchise (and the X-Men), they’ve figured out how to do it right: stay true to the subject matter, and give us well-made movies based around interesting, human stories.
So Spider-Man 2 seems to pick up about where the first movie left off. Mary Jane is trying to maneuver Peter into a relationship, guided by her very correct intuition that he’s in love with her. Peter’s trying to wiggle out of it, because he’s afraid that she’ll get hurt if she gets too close to him — and besides, who knows what the spider did to his genes?
This awkward personal trouble is derailed by the sudden appearance of Otto Octavius, quickly dubbed “Doc Ock” by the inimitable J. Jonah Jameson. (And really, who’d want to imitate him? Isn’t one enough?) Harry Osborne, son of the original Green Goblin, is still on the scene and still out for vengance against Spidey for killing his father. The stage is set for the same excellent plot balance we saw in the original: swooping, darting, superheroic action atop the skyscrapers of Manhattan on the one hand, while on the other, Peter confronts the true-to-life, everyday problems that being a superhero simply doesn’t fix.
From all appearances, Marvel realizes it’s got a winning formula on its hands, and isn’t about to mess with it. And it’s right: the first Spider-Man was a winning formula, for exactly the same reasons the comic has been one for over 30 years. If the sequel follows in its predecessor’s footsteps, as it seems it will, it should be just as much of a winner. Which is just what all of us always wanted for Peter Parker.
Kai MacTane is the Freak Nation’s webmaster. He can still remember back when he was five years old, and Spider-Man was his favorite superhero. He also remembers — with less fondness — being a shy, over-intelligent outcast in high school.