Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films never aspired to any gritty realism or a dark, brooding tone. They were bright, colourful, cartoony, gloriously silly comic-book flicks with the principal goal of just being loads of fun. And no matter how dumb the films got, they were always entertaining.
So after Spider-Man 3, the franchise's jump-the-shark moment, and before the eventual reboot I thought I should check out the best film of the trilogy to see if it still holds up. And you know what? It really does. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not flawless: you do get some very goofy moments here and there and the film could have been trimmed a tiny bit but, on the whole, this is one surprisingly solid Spidey movie which fixes most of the first film's shortcomings and is all the better for it.
For one thing, you've got a good villain in Alfred Molina's Doc Ock. With the Green Goblin's tight rubber suit far from sight, Molina makes Dr Octavius appropriately geeky and harmless enough so that when he does become Doctor Octopus, there is a genuinely tragic element there to hold onto. The transformation scene is particularly great and is worthy of Raimi's own Evil Dead 2 as we see those metallic tentacles take out a group of doctors in a surprisingly brutal way. As for Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker, there's a lot more for him to worry about: MJ, debts, work, losing his powers... the guy is overwhelmed making his exploits all the more heroic.
Making the Spider-Man films over-the-top was never a problem, the comic-books were always pretty out-there, but you had to feel the filmmakers were at least taking their craft seriously. And this is why Spider-Man 2 works so remarkably well. Yes the mostly impressive (for the time) effects and action sequences have a lot to do with it but it's in the writing and approach to the characters and their conflicts that you feel real efforts were made to tell a story with heart as well as making an entertaining blockbuster. Spider-Man 3 lost us because it just felt like literally no-one was taking anything seriously making the film almost a parody of itself.
As uneven as Sam Raimi's superhero franchise was, at least we can say we had one genuinely good Spider-Man flick to sit through.