Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 ★★★★½

Time has been so kind to Raimi's trilogy in part because despite the heavy and obvious links between Peter Parker and New York City, this trilogy exists completely outside of the post-9/11 reaction that turns Aughts cinema paranoid and sour. Where the subsequent superhero explosion took root later in the decade in a context of paranoia, suspended morality and an increasingly desperate search for figureheads of power who were at least honest about their violence, here is an enduringly optimistic, human film, grounded in Peter's money woes but uplifted by the way that Spider-Man will always be driven to help out in even the smallest case. There are scenes here more poignant than almost anywhere else in superhero cinema: Aunt May firmly pressing a measly $20 into her nephew's protesting palm for his birthday, breaking down as she refuses to let him return it; a train full of passengers given a full view of Peter's face but so awed by his heroism that they earnestly swear to keep his identity a secret. Even Doc Ock is rendered more tragic than sinister, a Gothic figure whose loss and subservience to his own creation drives him to a brink that only Peter, and not Spider-Man, can bring him back from. The completely coherent, enduringly entertaining action almost feels like a cherry on top rather than the heart of a blockbuster