Spider-Man 2 - Up until 2019, I considered this to be the greatest comicbook movie ever made. As it stands, it is still the greatest singular superhero effort. This film took the elements that worked with the first film and elevated them far beyond where that film took them, all the while channeling the conceptual narrative established with Superman 2 but bending them into the modern era. What graces the screen is less a standard superhero movie and more of a character deconstruction which lends itself to reaffirm the heroes journey.
Borrowing heavily from The Amazing Spider-Man #50 - Spider-Man No More and coupling that scenario with the origin of Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man 2 finds rich drama wherein to unfold a morality tale about the reluctance of being a hero. This is all accomplished without sacrificing any action and still offering plenty for the actors to perform with. This film has some honest and earnest weight to it, and this all soars with exceptional performances from Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst (who has an honest to gosh role in the film....until--you know--they damsel in distress-a-fy her), Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons. It is James Franco's dark and moody performance that steals the show and ensured his star power. And, while all these people really make the film soar, it is minor performances and walk on roles that secure the film's fun buoyancy. It never gets too weighted with drama because an excellent bit of--often--reactionary humor adds levity. Joel McHale, Bruce Campbell, Hal Sparks, Emily Deschanel and Ted Raimi all have incredible beats of comedy and all of it is brought forth from and in influence of further providing character advancement in our main players.
Raimi really honed in on what made Spidy work in the first outting and constructed a thrilling character drama. He also made a far more cinematic presence with this outting that still feels grand by today's standards (albeit with some, now, clunky CG). The action of this film works and Raimi really was able to master swinging from genre to genre with ease. At times it feels like a broad comedy, but then it becomes a horror film before being a heartfelt drama about a young man breaking his mother figure's heart, and then it is a hard hitting actioner. It is this film that really established the current Marvel tone that later films like Iron Man, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy would harness into Box Office gold.