Overview: Peter Parker must choose between having a normal life and being Spider-Man in this superior sequel. Columbia Pictures; 2004; Rated PG-13; 127 Minutes

Past, Present, Future Spider-Man: Spider-Man 2 wisely starts off with opening credits that recap the original movie. A lesser movie would have suffered the burden of awkward expositional dialogue. Peter Parker is now struggling to balance his normal life with the extraneous crime fighting. It’s not working out well. Whether it’s his friends, teachers, or bosses, Peter is disappointing everyone around him. This is where the character of Spider-Man is at his best. When Peter has to deal with ordinary life dilemmas amidst extraordinary situations, he has to take into account what’s important to him. Can he handle being Spider-Man and Peter Parker?

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Is Spider-Man no more?

Friendly Neighborhood Actors: Tobey Maguire has more to play with this time around with Parker fully submerged in an existential crisis. Maguire displays Peter’s inner turmoil without getting too distraught (after all, he’s not Batman). Helping matters is Kirsten Dunst as the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson. MJ cares deeply for Peter and it’s clear she knows how he feels as well. She’s also not going to wait around for him to make up his mind either. Bolstered by sizzling chemistry and a refreshing take on the will they/won’t they trope, this is the all-time treatment this romance deserves from a movie. The relationship evolves with logical progression. James Franco’s Harry Osborn is the flipside to all that progression. While Peter and MJ go through changes, Harry refuses to grow out of his vendetta against Spider-Man. Franco is sympathetic, angry, and a joy to watch onscreen.

Dr. Otto Octavius finds himself stuck with four mechanical limbs after a science experiment gone wrong. Alfred Molina is devilish here. Pre-accident, Otto is a gentle scientist who wants to change the world for the better. As Dr. Octopus, he’s grown a dark sense of humor, and a single-mindedness toward completing his experiment. Just like Peter and Harry, Otto is battling his own demons.

The Amazingly Entertaining Spider-Man: Raimi’s character work s great, but this is just an all around entertaining movie. Spider-Man swings through New York with gusto. A decade after its initial release, the action is still superior to most superhero movies. The extreme kinetic movement is interlaced with both practical effects and skillful CGI, making even the most ridiculous sequences feel grounded, natural. Paired with a comfortably silly tone, the action will have you grinning from cheek to cheek. Yes, the movie is silly, (a montage set to BJ Thomas song practically screams “Camp!”) but that’s part of the charm. From an era inundated with dark and grim reboots, it’s refreshing to see the rise of a superhero movie with a sense of humor about itself.

Great Rating, Great Responsibility: By focusing on the “Hero” portion of “Superhero” Spider-Man 2 stands the test of time as a definitive entry in the superhero genre

Grade: A