When a movie is as big a hit critically and commercially as the original Spider-Man was, one wonders if they can go anywhere but down.
Down in quality, or even down in box office gross. I thought the original was a good, fun movie, worthy of * * *. Whether Spider-Man 2 can
match its predecessor's huge box office numbers or not, it is certainly not a step down in quality. In fact Spider-Man 2 is a rare sequel that
actually outdoes the original.

Returning director Sam Raimi scores huge points for not falling into the obvious sequel downfalls of too much action and too little
character. In fact, character drama dominates most of the film.

This movie is more about the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson than anything else. This really adds depth the
characters and how you feel as an audience member towards them. The only problem with the emphasis on the love story is that one can't
help but think they could have used some of that time to develop the villain, Doctor Octopus.

Alfred Molina plays Doc Ock, but lacks the wild intensity that Willem DaFoe exuded as the Green Goblin.

Despite the disappointing villain, the cast is excellent. Tobey Maguire is the perfect Spider-Man.

Although there is a lot of drama, Sam Raimi is able to strike a great balance between comedy and the more serious stuff.

Drama, Drama, Drama... What of the action?

The action in Spider-Man 2 is fantastic, the spectacle being the incredible fight with Doc Ock on top of an elevated train. This easily ranks as
the best action sequence of the year.

Although Spidey 2 is a better movie than the original, one of my main problems with the original remains. The special effects aren't very
good. Although, some of the action scenes are definitely an improvement in animation quality, some of the CGI is still wincingly bad. How
about ponying up a bigger effects budget for Spidey 3, guys? It's not like they don't have the money.

I was also disappointed by Danny Elfman's rehash of a score. The music sounds like it was a cut and paste job from the first movie.

Those minors quibbles aside though, Spider-Man 2 is a very good film. It exceeds its already high quality predecessor and earns a place as
one of the best comic book movies ever made.

* * * 1/2
(out of four)
SPIDER-MAN 2
Directed by: Sam Raimi

Written by: Alvin Sargent

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco,
Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons

Cinematography by: Bill Pope

Music by: Danny Elfman

Released: June 30, 2004; 127 Minutes