Why Spider-Man 2 is one of the greatest superhero movies ever created.
Superhero movies have been around for a very long time:
The first one I know of is called "The Mark of Zorro" (1920) which was based on a character who gave us Batman. Jumping ahead to 2018, superhero movies have become epic Hollywood box office machines that bring in a massive amount of currency for the studios involved with their production... But there is a problem.
Its all the same:
A superhero's power doesn't change the fact that in the end they win. Its not even the winning that bothers me. As a fan I would tell you that I like Superman, Dr. Strange, Hulk, etc. But as a film lover I would tell you the formula for these movies is done... Even if the production is on point, and the story is executed "correctly." I. Am. Tired. So, I thought I would share with you what I find to be one of the most over looked superhero movies of any fan, and film person objectively. Spider-man 2.
Superhero movies, like most other movies, are good or bad depending on who is involved. Superhero movies have struggled many times in the past with movies like Thor 2 and Batman Forever. Yet when Disney bought Marvel Studios back in 2009 they have had a consistent feeling across every Marvel film. They have created a massive universe that has brought us several great films like Black Panther, and Thor Ragnarok. I'll give the genre that much. Yet I'm still not convinced of their quality. One of the core values of our superhero movies is being watered down where Spider-Man 2 thrived. This is called...
The Human Condition:
"The Characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence." - Wikipedia Definition
Peter Parker is not without his flaws. Being Spider-Man takes a toll on his personal life. He lets people take advantage of him, he strives to live a seemingly normal life yet the city calls for his aid. He loves a girl he never connects with, he's always tired, money is in short supply, Uncle Ben (father figure) is gone and he blames himself, his Aunt (Mother figure) can't seem to take care of herself, his best friend hates Spider-Man and doesn't know that it's him, and he has no one to talk to about his abilities. He is absolutely and totally alone, but to turn the wheel once again, a new villain comes around, Dr. Octavius.
The world can wait:
Parker is unhappy, and yet, like a savior, he chooses to be Spider-Man. He puts others before himself... Until he doesn't. "With great power comes great responsibility." - Uncle Ben, Parker, remembering that conversation; says "I am Spider-Man, no more." He walks away from his calling to pursue his personal needs (A very hard choice). He excels in school, and has more time to see Marry Jane (Love interest) and even though there is crime, it is not his problem.
This is a normal superhero movie plot:
The film was done exceptionally well, and like most superhero movies Spider-Man wins; but he does so with conviction. Unlike most superhero movies in recent years we don't see Superman kiss Lois Lane and erase her memory of his true identity. We don't watch Mr. Incredible keep secrets to protect his family. We don't see Marry Jane standing in Parker's doorway. We see this.
This shot is cool, the action is "exciting," but I don't care who lives, or who dies because of what I'm about to explain.
Parker tells Aunt May about Ben's death and why it was his fault. She leaves unhappy, and Marry Jane gets engaged to another man right in front of him. His heart is broken, and with his choice to leave the suit behind, nothing has changed.
Later on, a fire breaks out in an apartment complex and people are screaming in pain. The fire department has their hands full. He has a choice to make. Save the people or walk away. He chooses to save them, but he still doesn't want to be Spider-Man. His conflict rises into the moment he speaks to his Aunt one last time. They discuss a neighborhood kid named Henry who looked up to Spider-Man and is helping her move.
"Everybody loves a hero. People line up for 'em, cheer them, scream their names, and years later they will tell stories of how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who told them to hold on a second longer. I believe there's a hero in all of us. Keeps us honest. Gives us strength. Makes us noble... and finally allows us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most... Even our dreams. Spider-Man did that for Henry, and he wonders where he's gone. He needs him." - Aunt May
Our Hero Wins:
Peter answers the call. He defeats Octavius, and saves Marry Jane once again but this time it was at the cost of her finding out who he is. On her wedding day she leaves her fiance at the alter and runs to Peters apartment. All ends well, but what makes this movie so effective?
Trials purge like fire:
The draw to this film is Parker's struggle to find balance. He cannot deny who he is, yet it costs him everything to be that person. The basic concept of overcoming trials causes us to long for our characters victory. Where we see evil lurking we do not question if Spider-Man can handle it. We question how he's going to feel the next day when he's at school, or if the love of his life will see him for all that he really is. What ever the conflict may be, we must feel connected to our characters. Because if we can fly, control the whether, or shoot lasers out of our eyes, one thing doesn't change. We are human.