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<i> Spider-Man 2</i> Takes Closer Look at Super Hero's Personal Life - 2004-07-07


The blockbuster Spider-Man holds a number of box office records which being shattered as the highly anticipated sequel to that 2002 comic book superhero adventure swings into theaters. Alan Silverman has a look at Spider-Man 2.

The original Spider-Man was a roller coaster action packed thrill ride; and this new chapter packs in more thrills and ratchets up the action. Tobey Maguire returns as Peter Parker who, bitten by a radioactive spider in the first film, gained amazing strength and agility which he has now mastered and uses to do good deeds.

The trouble is, all that saving people and stopping crime takes its toll on his personal life, from his schoolwork (he's now in college) to his relationship with Mary Jane Watson played again by Kirsten Dunst.

Tobey Maguire believes that, like the internationally popular comic book on which it is based, Spider-Man 2 presents a superhero that is really very human.

"I think what's interesting about this character and this movie and the choices that he has to go through aren't so much the extraordinary circumstances of him being Spider-Man and how that affects his personal life," he says. "I appreciate that, but what I like about it is that it really parallels a normal kid growing up and a kid's choices in terms of becoming an adult, how to live one's life, what choices to make and responsibility - being a giving person or contributing to society. Really, he's dealing with how to live a balanced life: how to do for himself as well as for others. I think his is a dramatic, conflicted path, but pretty basic."

Kirsten Dunst says her character, MJ, is also facing grown-up ... or growing up ... choices.

"In the first one she is young and in this one she's really the one motivating the love story. I'm not as screamy in this one. Of course, she is going to scream; but now that she's had the life-or-death experience already, it's not like it's something new for her," she says.

It wouldn't be a Spider-Man story without a fantastical villain and in this film that's English-born actor Alfred Molina as 'Doc Ock,' a scientist transformed by a laboratory accident into a freak with four deadly metal tentacles protruding from his body.

"The scale on which you work is very different. On a big movie like this where there is an amazing amount of special effects and technology, the actor's role is not quite as crucial," he says. "You have a different relationship to the material, somehow. In a way you have to surrender to that. You're suspended 60 feet [18 meters] up in the air. You've been up there for three hours and all the shot requires is that you have to react to being punched in the head. It's not a good time to suddenly say 'uh, can I discuss the inner-most motivations?' You kind of have to go with the flow a little bit; but it's fun."

Sam Raimi, the director of the first film, is back at the helm of Spider-Man 2 and, in fact, has also been signed, along with his lead actors, to make a third Spider-Man film. A longtime fan of the original comic books, Raimi believes in the advice that haunts his hero: with great power comes great responsibility.

"I don't want to ever say that anything I'm doing with these fantasy pictures has anything to do with real heroics," he says. "These are simple comic book fantasy stories; but that having been said, I think the value of any story of a hero is that it reminds us of the good that we can do in the world and it reminds us of what we are capable of."

"Maybe it's a growth of responsibility, like in this film;" he adds, "or maybe it's the ability to withstand more than they thought they could for the ones they love or to risk something for an ideal they believe in that's greater than themselves. When we see these stories, see these characters overcome these conflicts and grow as human beings, we are uplifted because we are reminded we are capable of that goodness too . . . and we feel touched and stirred when it works right. That's the value of these heroic stories: they show us the way and remind us of what we should be."

Spider-Man 2 also features screen veteran Rosemary Harris as Peter Parker's Aunt May. James Franco is back as his conflicted best friend, Harry Osborn; and J.K. Simmons reprises the role of Jonah Jamieson, the gruff editor and Parker's boss at the Daily Bugle tabloid newspaper.

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