Today! Because you’ve stuck your webs into my business for the last time –
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Directed by Sam Raimi (x2)
Starring Tobey Maguire (x3), Kirsten Dunst (x2), Alfred Molina (x2), Rosemary Harris (x2), James Franco (x2), J.K. Simmons (x4), Dylan Baker (x3), Bill Nunn (x3), Willem Dafoe (x3), Cliff Robertson (x2), Ted Raimi, Donna Murphy, Daniel Gillies, Bruce Campbell (x3), Elizabeth Banks (x4), Joel McHale, Elya Baskin, Daniel Dae Kim, Hal Sparks, Emily Deschanel, Louis Lombardi (x2), Joey Coco Diaz, Mageina Tovah
If you cast your mind back to the early ’00s, when there wasn’t a new superhero movie released every three months, the medium – while popular – still wasn’t regarded as one reliable for great storytelling. Everybody likes fun action movies, right? Especially the relatively bloodless superhero kind. And that’s what we’d been getting, for quite a while, somewhat infrequently.
Then in a one-two punch, we got the first sequels to X-Men and Spider-Man in ’03 and ’04, and all of a sudden you could see fully what was possible in this genre on the big screen. Epic, complicated stories with conflicted villains bent on more than just world domination or chaotic jokery. These films were the dawn of the modern tights-and-capes era we live in, and the pinnacles of their respective franchises.
But (spoiler alert) more about X2 later – Spider-Man 2 takes everything up a notch from the very solid original film (see #381), introducing the far more compelling legendary villain Otto Octavius, everyone’s favorite human/invertebrate hybrid Dr. Octopus (played with a layered, damaged ferocity by the great Alfred Molina), while further complicating Peter’s relationships with Mary Jane, best friend/Green Goblin son Harry, and the city of New York in general. I swore in ’04 that they basically couldn’t make a better superhero film than this – and I was never a particularly big webslinger fan growing up. Little did I know we’d be getting dozens upon dozens of attempts over the next fifteen years, some indeed topping this marvelous (pun intended!) outing. If the Box Office Mojo is to be trusted (and I say it is!), as of this writing there have been fully 78 superhero movies released since June of 2004, whereas there were only 40 in the prior fifteen years, and that includes a lot of tenuous “superhero” flicks, like Tank Girl, Orgazmo, and Iron Monkey. Plus, if the schedule is to be believed, between this writing and when it gets published, there could be as many as ten more films! Stanley Martin Lieber, that’s a lot of movies!
The Visual Effects took home an Oscar, plus nominations for Sound Mixing and Editing, and similar below the line technical stuff, all fully warranted by this gorgeous CGI fest of punching and swinging and metal tentacles. But nowhere was the honor bestowed Best Random Cookie Delivery, as Peter’s neighbor Ursula (Mageina Tovah) just stops by with the best neighborly gift a person could carry. Yes, this is directed at any of my neighbors who may be reading.
Pretty much everyone is in a guild or advancing today, thanks in some part to the original film returning plenty of actors – Dunst, Franco, Harris, and Robertson – along with other new Two-Timers Molina (#328 The Man Who Knew Too Little) and Boardwalk Empire great Louis Lombardi (#260 The Usual Suspects). There are also four new Three-Timers from the original film – Maguire (with #397 Wonder Boys), Dafoe (#267 The Life Aquatic), Campbell (#287 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), and Nunn (#308 New Jack City), plus Dylan Baker, of #326 Delirious and #373 Planes, Trains, and Automobiles fame. We also ring the Four-Timers up to fourteen in total with two original film cast members – J.K. Simmons, also appearing in #295 The Music Never Stopped and #377 I Love You, Man and more importantly our first female Four-Timer Elizabeth Banks (Finally! Sorry, ladies!), from #322 Role Models and #289 The Hunger Games, and clearly today’s spotlight!