Mad scientists mark a stream of bad luck for Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire). As if the steroid popping alter ego of Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) was bad enough, Spider-Man 2 has the web-slinging wunderkind square off against Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a man inevitably tied to octopus-like villainy considering both his surname and forename start with an “O”. But the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is burnt out. Smart scientists are here to blow up the city, but the twenty-nine-year-old teenager has other issues at hand. He has lost his job, no longer providing people with any form of pizza time, and his relationship with everyone around him is fraught with grief and an inability to focus.
That is the beauty of Raimi’s direction here. He depicts Parker as a superhero that can be beaten down rather easily, not physically, but mentally. Those realisations of his power and how Spider-Man is portrayed is effective and well-handled. Guilt for those who are harmed by villains is what brings him back, but he personally is shown to not want or need the Spider-Man persona. That is a far better reach of quality than the other iterations of this hero can offer, and it has yet to be topped. Each character is enjoyable, yet personally flawed. They are all reacting and interpreting the events of the first film far better than the following films ever did, and the strength is the trust Raimi has in these supporting moments. James Franco and Kirsten Dunst, in particular, are given a tad larger scope, and when trusted with that, they distract from the similar notions and build-up that provides Spider-Man 2 with strong villains.
Where Osbourn was displayed as harnessing evil as an alter ego, there are glimmers of villainy already lingering in Octavius and his pursuit for fusion power. There are creaky barns and abandoned shipyards available to those who wish to pursue evil, and that is where Octavius finds himself. Another case of split personalities. If the system is not broken for how villains are crafted, simply do not fix it. Raimi needs no change. His pacing is as superb as it is in Spider-Man, with a seamless blend of underlying subplots, a comedy that breaks the tone nicely, but a darker period that envelops these moments. Its desire is clear, and it gives its audience a rewarding experience, one that has aged quite well both visually and topically.
Hold onto the moments Molina gave us here. The realisation that self-worth and villainy can be overcome with responsibility and an active desire to do good in retaliation to bad actions. That will be retconned. He never learned anything. Audiences didn’t either. We had it good with Raimi at the wheel, and that is not just nostalgia talking. His ability to combine scenes from his first feature to set up the third, and alongside that run plenty of independent subplots that begin and end here is an asset and tool that is now lost to the modern universe tie-in standard. Shameful, and sad, too, that Molina will now rent himself out to the highest bidder. But who can blame him? As he told The Guardian in 2015; “I’ll do anything. I’m a bit of a slut that way.” Dream big. He has earned it. Trust Doctor Octopus out of that watery grave and peddle his wares to the highest Mickey Mouse-eared bidder. After all, he was a villain all along.