Outside of The Dark Knight, this is still the best superhero movie. 

The reason every other superhero flick since the Raimi trilogy has been politically focused, thematically, is because Raimi absolutely nailed the soap opera of personal superheroics. It’s cheesy, but it’s absolutely relevant in its era — right after 911: could any of us handle the weight of being heroic anymore?

Raimi is in peak form here. He takes absolute delight in the moments Spider-Man 2 descends into horror — the hospital sequence is one of the best things he ever committed to celluloid. The cinematography is tack sharp. I don’t know what cameras or film were used here, but apart from some obvious CG environment work, this looks impeccable on Blu-ray. 

The action is meticulous. The train sequence is so iconic, and so well-executed, that Homecoming — the 18th Spider-Man reboot in 15 years — emulated it with a similar boat sequence. 

But most importantly, Raimi nails all the character moments. Is Maguire the best Spider-Man? Who cares — his has something important to say. 

There are so many cheesy moments. It’s a soap opera, after all. If the third film goes off the rails because it takes it too far, this film is the utterly perfect encapsulation of superhero as soap. (A great side effect of this approach is that Spider-Man 2 carries all the emotional wallop of Endgame, without relying on 27 films of world-building and setup.)

Also, Alfred Molina and Rosemary Harris (in particular) are national treasures. Molina is the perfect foil to Maguire, an exceptional villain. He has the same motivations as our hero — to follow his dreams — and the same realization by the end that some dreams must be sacrificed to do what’s right. Black Panther is the only MCU movie that’s ever understood the parallel path of the villain and the hero. 

Finally, the scene where Peter visits the doctor, and the doctor picks up that Peter is Spider-Man and is super chill about it. That’s the best doctor right there. 

Raimi gets it. 

(A footnote: Admittedly, Kirsten Dunst is still completely and utterly terrible in these films. Honestly, she’s fine until she opens her mouth, which is terrible of me to say, but I just want Maguire to end up with literally any other woman in this series who has a speaking line. Maybe JJJ’s secretary? I don’t care.)

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