With Spider-Man 3 just around the corner, I find myself remembering with pleasure Spider-Man 2. It was an astonishment — a Hollywood blockbuster that was decent, humane and morally complex . . . all the while delivering stupendous action sequences and state-of-the-art special effects.
Peter Parker’s superpowers didn’t solve his generation-next existential dilemmas involving being fatherless and then (in this second film of the series) even father-figureless. They didn’t even really help him on his voyage to manhood, since his very potency as a hero threatened the safety of those he loved and complicated his puzzlement about the love of his life. But Peter grew up in this film . . . not by accepting his destiny as a crime fighter but by accepting the autonomy of Mary Jane — letting her decide what kind of jeopardy she was willing to risk for true love. In the process they both became real superheroes — in the emotional and moral realm inhabited by all of us every day and which asks of us a kind of courage far beyond that required to swing recklessly through the vertiginous canyons of Spider-Man’s New York.
Tobey Maguire gave a wonderful, quirky, nuanced performance as the troubled Spidey, as did Alfred Molina as the equally troubled villain Doc Oc . . . and Kirsten Dunst was simply riveting, enchanting beyond words, with an honest, down-to-earth intelligence and sexiness that went way beyond the typical ingenue glamor of this degraded age.
Spider-Man 2 is a film that will be remembered and watched for generations and is a genuine paradox of our time — a mega-budget work of art.