A more human superhero

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“Spider-Man 2” opens on June 30, the film to beat this summer, and the word so far is positive…

At the very least, a movie audience brutalized by dumb, loud and cynical blockbusters can always stand to be reminded of what vibrant, intelligent and sincere popular filmmaking looks like. Directed by Sam Raimi, “Spider-Man 2” is full of bright colors, emphatic noises and elaborate special effects. That much is to be expected.

But its distinguishing features, I’m happy to report, are strong characters and honest feelings. This sequel, freed from the dreary burden of exposition, is better than its predecessor, and also superior to most other comic-book-based movies. It has a more credible (and more frightening) villain, a more capacious and original story and a self-confidence based not only on the huge success of the first “Spider-Man” but also on Mr. Raimi’s intuitive and enthusiastic grasp of the material.

The opening credit sequence is a beautiful montage of comic-book drawings in which the only photographic image is that of Ms. Dunst. This makes sense, since it is Mary Jane who gives this superhero allegory its surprising emotional realism. Her renunciation of passivity and longing is the key to Peter’s transformation into a more human superhero. This second phase of Peter Parker’s coming of age is about overcoming loneliness and the need for solace and recognition as well as about selfless, heroic purpose. Of course we need Spider-Man; the revelation of “Spider-Man 2” is that he needs us, too.

From The New York Times

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