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Wicked Web

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he first Spider-Man was candy-store sweet, cartoon romantic, and one of the best adrenaline spikes in recent summers. In Spider-Man 2, director Sam Raimi is still painting with primary colors — bright red and sharp blue, heart-crushing love and bone-crunching evil — only this time, with some help from comics lover-turned-novelist-turned-screenwriter Michael Chabon, the plot turns dark. Suddenly, our hero is a tabloidized criminal, slacker student, bad friend, and worse nephew. He’s an irresponsible impotent who’s so depressed he can’t even shoot wrist spunk anymore. But even his depression is played with comic book overstatement — and largely for laughs, as Spidey delivers pizzas, crashes his bike, loses his ability to climb walls, and takes the elevator instead. In costume. When a guy on the elevator tells him his suit looks uncomfortable, he agrees: “It itches,” he complains. “And it rides up in the crotch.” This Spidey is flat-out funnier than the first and faster — the effects set new standards — but the major upgrade is Alfred Molina as Doc Ock, the scientist whose experiment with fusion energy doesn’t exactly work out for the best. In the first film, Willem Dafoe had the chiseled, sinewy look the Green Goblin required, but none of the fire; he was cashing checks and hamming it up, a Dad trick-or-treating with a goofy mask. But Molina, an incredible actor even with tentacles, is still hungry. You get the sense that when he shouts those Marvin-the-Martian threats about destroying the world, he means them. And that’s what’s so attractive about these earnest Raimi adaptations: for all the camp and cheap laughs, you believe every word.  

  ©2004 Nerve.com.