Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 is a fine sequel to a fine superhero movie, and anybody who enjoyed Spider-Man will find more of the same pleasures here.

Taking care to preserve what made the first movie so special - comic book action taking a back seat to character - Spider-Man 2 further evolves the complicated story of guilt-plagued Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), whose dedication to fighting crime as Spider-Man is taking its toll on his everyday life, where he still needs money to pay the rent, still pines over Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), and still tries to do well in school. Peter's so neurotic that he even psyches himself out of his own Spidey-powers.

Enter a new reason to save New York from certain destruction: Dr. Octopus (the ever-serviceable Alfred Molina). But this story is actually something of a subplot, a device used mainly to showcase the special effects and juice up the movie with a bit of action. It's good stuff, but because Doc Ock has no secret identity, Spider-Man's battles with him lack the head games that they did with the Green Goblin (although the computer graphics for Ock's tentacles are much better than Gobby's cheesy design). In fact, Doc Ock doesn't even have that much use for Spider-Man; our hero is just a tool he uses to get what he wants.

But who cares? The true pleasures of Spider-Man 2 are in its charming details: Peter's skinny neighbor bringing him a piece of cake; a little girl Spider-Man saves from a burning building returning the favor by helping him over a perilous ledge; a couple of wonderfully awkward scenes with a guy in an elevator and a snooty theatre usher; and finally, great use of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" - complete with campy freeze-frame of a happy Peter Parker - when he decides to quit the hero business.

These are all touches that only a goofball like director Sam Raimi can bring to a movie like this, and they're what make it memorable, along with its message about the hardships and rewards of heroism that, while corny, is still refreshingly earnest. I was actually moved by a scene between Spider-Man and a subway car full of New Yorkers, and if a Hollywood blockbuster can touch my jaded heart, it means there's still hope for big summer movies.