Spider-Man 2 is a movie that has received praise from critics, won an Oscar, and appeared on many superhero top 10 lists on YouTube. I watched this movie for the first time when I was seven years old and still love it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the excellent character analysis Sam Raimi created with Peter Parker. In this article, I will discuss how Raimi used anxiety and depression to develop Peter’s struggles as a superhero.
The Beginning of Spiderman 2
At the beginning of the film, we see how Peter deals with his actions from the first movie. He feels guilty about Norman Osborne’s death, which affects his relationship with Harry. Peter wants to be with Mary Jane, but he chooses not to because she would be in danger. Peter sums it up perfectly: “She only knew how I felt about her. She can never know. I made a choice once to live a life of responsibility, a life she can never be a part of. Who am I? I’m Spider-Man.”
Given a job to do, Peter prioritizes being Spider-Man and helping those around him over holding a stable job. He gets fired from Joe’s Pizza and only makes a measly $200 being a part-time photographer. In fact, he cannot even afford the perfect apartment, even though it has the sickest view ever.
Sacrifice plays a massive role in Peter’s life. He can’t make time for class, show up to Mary Jane’s play, pay his rent on time, or give the people he loves the most the time of day. His inner struggle between what he wants and his responsibilities leave him pondering whether it’s worth it to be the hero. This is where his anxiety and identity crisis catalyze.
Humanizing Spider-Man: Sam Raimi’s approach to personalizing a superhero’s identity crisis
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The common symptom of identity crisis syndrome is questioning your value or self-worth, and Peter questions his self-worth a lot. He thinks being Spider-Man provides more value than being Peter, which causes him to start losing his powers. He wants to be with the girl he loves and be an average guy, but he is unsteady because he has always followed Uncle Ben’s words without considering what he wants.
Sam Raimi constructs a personal script that many audience members can see in themselves. When you see your heroes struggle immensely like Peter throughout the movie, you feel a sense of personal connection. When you see that a superhero faces anxiety and a lost sense of direction, you realize that heroes can be human like us too. This engagement with Peter’s struggles makes viewers root for the hero to come back stronger.
Sam Raimi and writer Alvin Sargent do a phenomenal job at humanizing Spider-Man by stripping him down and making him suffer. Peter’s sacrifices have taken their toll, and Peter is pushed to his limit. He tries to console his best friend Harry Osborne, but Harry publicly humiliates him in front of everyone at a party. Peter’s actions have complicated Mary Jane’s emotions, and she realizes she must leave her relationship with Peter to move on from the uncertainty. For her, that means marrying John. For Peter, that means losing the woman he loves the most.
This scene is the tipping point for Peter’s identity crisis and depression because Sam Raimi takes his hero and strips him away from everything he holds dear. His friendship is ruined, he’s forced to watch the woman he loves get engaged to another man, and he can’t even get a decent meal or a good photo. Peter admits that he can’t sleep anymore without having bad dreams, and his doctor confirms his mental problems.
The Dream Sequence and Raindrop Scene in Spider-Man 2: Symbolism and Character Development
The dream sequence is written so well because it takes Peter’s feelings and turns them into actual words between two people. Uncle Ben is Peter’s Spider-Man identity and Peter is his true identity. He’s been beaten down to his absolute lowest by being Spider-Man, which hasn’t brought him any sense of peace. Uncle Ben hits Peter with those famous lines, “With great power comes great responsibility.” While Peter doesn’t want to be that guy anymore, he’s Spider-Man no more. Rain, just like the guy who’s beat up too big for his bed, nothing seems to fit.
The raindrop scene may look like the best time of Peter’s life and it may seem that way because he can get to class, see Mary Jane’s play, and spend more time with Aunt May. But in reality, it keeps him from doing the one thing he loved the most and that’s helping those that couldn’t fight for themselves. Seeing Spider-Man disappearing is just another selfish act Peter must learn from and Sam Raimi uses that for Peter to move the character forward and make the choice that Spider-Man is the path he must follow.
Saving the child in the burning building gave him that sense of responsibility he learned about from the first movie. Still, some poor soul got trapped on the fourth floor, never made it out. If he had his powers, he could have done more and he could have saved everyone. When confronted with Aunt May, she inspires him to embrace the identity of Spider-Man because his encouragement to the people of New York to be their best selves gives them hope. I believe Sam Raimi wrote this to build up our hero and is a complete antithesis to Green Goblin’s speech in the first movie. The one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die, try in spite of everything you’ve done for them. Eventually, they will hate you. Why bother? While Aunt May turns it around by saying, “Everybody loves a hero. People line up for him, cheer them, scream their names, and years later they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them to hold on a second longer.”
Although Aunt May gives him the passion to try and become Spider-Man again, it is not until pressured by losing the girl he loves the most and it dawns on him that he must be Spider-Man. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is a movie that not only entertains us with its special effects and Toby Maguire’s performance but also gives us a deep insight into the struggles of a hero’s life. He uses anxiety and depression to develop Peter’s character, making him more relatable to us. He shows us how Peter is a layered man, struggling against personal issues and how he must make the ultimate sacrifice, thus making Spider-Man 2 the pinnacle character piece on Peter Parker.