Spider-Man 2 (2004) has all the elements of a good, but not great, superhero motion picture. It picks up a couple of years after the conclusion of the original Spider-Man. The costumed alter-ego of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has become a New York City legend. Despite being decried by the Daily Bugle as a “menace,” Spidey is as big a hero to some as he is a villain to others.
In staying true to his calling as a crime fighter, Peter must stay away from the girl of his dreams. Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) loves Peter, and Peter loves her, but he can never let her know because he’s afraid his enemies would use that information against them.
Meanwhile, a brilliant physicist named Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), who is working for Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborne (James Franco), has mastered a way to generate a controlled fusion reaction that can provide energy in abundance. Using mechanical arms grafted into his spinal column, he begins to manipulate the mini-sun he creates, but things go disastrously wrong and when the dust has settled, Doc Ock is no longer the man he was – he’s insane and obsessed, and determined to rid Manhattan of Spider-Man.
Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock stands out because of the way he’s written, but even more so for his charismatically tragic performance. Even though it’s really just your typical scientist gone mad idea but juxtaposed with Peter’s struggling personal life, it plays extremely well.
We’ve seen superheroes do a lot of stuff since Spider-Man 2 first swung into theaters 17 years ago today. We have also seen Spidey himself go through a lot, including two reboots. He’s won an Oscar, repped for Queens on the battlefield, died in Iron Man’s arms, and performed one infamous dance number. He’s also fought Venom, Sandman, Lizard, Electro, Green Goblin (again), half the Avengers, Vulture, and Thanos.
One scene that still stands out all these years later, possibly better than any other in the spiderman franchise, new and old, is the Subway train save in Spider-Man 2. The fight between Spider-Man and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus atop and around a runaway subway train is the heart of the movie. The scene represents the very best we’ve seen of Spider-Man on the big screen, with an excellent build-up and even better aftermath.
The film works hard to set up that being Spider-Man is a thankless job, but it does so in a way that is utterly engrossing and entertaining. Peter must remain anonymous and he must stay away from Mary Jane. He just can’t catch a break, right down to stopping off at J. Jonah Jameson’s office to retrieve his suit at the exact right moment to confirm all of the editor’s biases about him.
Spider-Man fought Doc Ock on top of a train and the mad scientist broke the brakes. Boom, you’re done, you’re into it the thick of it now. What follows is pure Spider-Man, the distillation of everything that makes the character work.
Director Sam Raimi wisely had Spidey’s mask damaged during the melee, which means we get to see Maguire’s average Joe mug while he tries to halt impending doom. The pain pays off and the train stops. A totally spent Spider-Man crumples, ready to drift off the unfinished track like a falling leaf. But he doesn’t fall. He’s caught, protected, by the hands of the New Yorkers, he just saved.
He is gently carried back into the carriage by the grateful passengers, Spider-Man’s identity is revealed to a carriage full of strangers. “He’s just a kid,” one of them observes. “No older than my son.” Everything about this very moment works. For the entire film up to that point and the film before, Peter’s secret double life has caused him problems and then he’s outed to a bunch of grateful random New Yorkers. One of them says “we won’t tell nobody” and is a peerless emotional payoff to that very thread.
Spiderman 2 was directed by Sam Raimi and written by Alvin Sargent from a story by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and Michael Chabon. Starring Tobey Maguire alongside Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, and Donna Murphy.
The Stopping the Train Scene in Spider-Man 2 (2004)
- The train sequence, it's intense and a fun ride.
- Tobey Maguire is magnificent in this movie and he plays so well off of all the other actors in the movie. Alfred Molina is great as the villain and, as always, J.K. Simmons steal every single scene in which he is present.