If it's crap ... We'll tell you
We catch up with Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) again two years after the previous film at a rough place in his life. He's jobless, friendless and hopeless, and his alter-ego is suffering due to his depression. He begins to question the ability to be happy having both worlds and if he will ever find happiness as Spider-Man. Meanwhile, the brilliant professor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) has become a raging monster and is terrorizing New York City. All of this and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is growing reluctantly apart from and frustrated with Peter. In short, things aren't looking up for Spidey.
It's interesting to note that while normally having multiple writers complicates a script to a point of unwatchability, Spider-Man 2 has four times as many writers as the first and it's able to come up with a far better and far more compelling story than writer David Koepp was able to do in the first. It's even more bizarre since three of the four writers have very bad track records, while the third guy is one of the greatest writers working today. Mind you, this movie is very flawed, but it has a charm and a lot more entertainment to it than its predecessor.
I think the biggest problem with the first Spider-Man is that the writer seemed to think of it as merely an origin story. Just setting up the basics so that a franchise could exist later on. So the entire story is overly long and drawn out, making any sort of emotion moot. Here we get a very new story using merely elements from the comics to concoct an interesting take on the duality of having a secret identity. The movie brings Peter through every way in which his life could have gone and shows him what he would be missing depending on which path he chose. Both sides have their perks but the consequences are tragic, leading him to not quite understand what he's supposed to do. It's very humanizing and does a lot to develop the character. They also spend quite a bit of time developing Mary Jane as well and showing the frustration and anguish that she goes through having to deal with Peter's inability to choose.
But then there's the downside in that the first half of this movie is almost unwatchable. It drags just as much as the first but it also throws in a lot of quirky moments and characters that feel like they're right out of one of Michael Bay's Transformers movies. The stuff they do with the extras throughout this movie is dumbfounding. They overact and mug for the camera, making it very awkward and difficult to stay within the movie. It just gets irritating because it's so constant and unbalanced. I guess somebody told them that the Spider-Man comics were usually rather comical (pun incidental), and so they decided to pepper the movie with worthless throwaway gags that almost never work. It's embarrassing to watch at times.
Ultimately, I feel like it's worth it to get through the really bad first half because the second half is very complex and has some seriously killer action, like watching a ballet with fists. It boils down to being a fun popcorn flick with a good story and great thrills, but one you have to earn.