Can't put this off any longer...
I have been avoiding this review. I saw the movie a week and a half ago, enjoyed it in fact, and simply refused to write a word.
It must be these lingering concerns. I had some reservations after seeing the first one as well. There it had more to do with the plotting of the film, which was forced and pushed the limits of believability, even for a comic book. The thing was, I had enjoyed the film as well in the theater, but had that nagging "it felt better than it was" feeling. Which harkens back to the question of whether good art is necessarily well crafted art. Or even if I am trying to hammer a square art peg into a round entertainment hole...
Regardless of your underlying theory, or lack of one, the sequel is profoundly better constructed than the original. In retrospect, the first Spider-Man works better as an introduction to a series than a standalone film - but that doesn't absolve that flick of its issues.
Now that the characters and their relationships are established, the script doesn't have to try so hard to fit everything in. A new villain is introduced, Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), and we relax into the notion of what it means to be a hero, even a super one. Even the villain's storyline reflects the general contemplative mood of the film, pushing us more into the territory of a standard drama than a typical action piece. I like the decision in general, but the message come in a bit heavy at times. They may be playing for the masses here, but there could have been a little more finesse in the process.
The graphics has improved substantially over the first film. Where the web-swinging was so artifical and we could tell almost the exact moment when Spider-Man became animated before, now it's all a lot smoother, and the cringing that's-so-fake moments are far fewer. I wonder how close the requisite Spider-Man 3 will come to erasing the reality/animation barrier absolutely.
I don't want to get into the details of the plot or the acting or the cinematography, so I'll just wrap it up now. It's a big, big Hollywood film, and we know what to expect. The only thing to really know is that it's not just a knock-off of the original, but an improvement. Perhaps, again, this time it'll be better in the theater. But no matter what, if the first one was your bag, this one will be too.
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