How ‘Spider-Man 2’ Is the Epitome of the Mid-2000s

20 years after it came out, Spider-Man 2 is basically a time capsule. For those who have forgotten about the original Sony Spider-Man films in the hullabaloo of The Amazing Spider-Man the MCU trilogies, there’s nothing quite like the original. Starring Tobey Maguire in the titular role, he brings the teenage awkwardness while director Sam Raimi brings the horror. Of course, there’s also a little bit of romance with Kirsten Dunst’s MJ, as well as Aunt May’s journey of grief. Some could argue Spider-Man 2 is the best in the Sam Raimi trilogy.

But in many ways, Spider-Man 2 is truly the epitome of the mid-2000s. With its 2004 release, it was at the backend of the early aughts and the forefront of later trends. But between the fashion, the music, and other aspects of storytelling, it fully captures the essence of a time many of us wish we could go back to — when pop-punk was cool and low-rise jeans were in.

The Music

Think back to 2004 and any former outcast can name at least three pop-punk bands. For some reason, the angstiest and most emotional of them all, Dashboard Confessional, became a mainstay in the Spider-Man soundtracks. Of course, it also features Yellowcard, Taking Back Sunday, Jet, Midtown, and the Ataris in the realm of “angry [boy] music of the [punk] rock persuasion.” But the mid-2000s were also an era of “sad boy pop. It was the rise of Maroon 5, the peak of Train, the tailend of Hoobastank’s era—all of whom were featured on the epic soundtrack.

But beyond the needle drops, even the score harnesses a certain je ne sais pas of the mid-2000s. Composed by Danny Elfman, his score’s style is akin to the My Chemical Romance emo vibes of the era. A frequent Tim Burton collaborator, Danny’s melodies capture the whimsical darkness that filled the hearts of skater kids and emo wannabes who found solace in Spider-Man’s tale.

The Nod to Horror

Some people might think, ‘Why would horror be emblematic of the mid-2000s?’ To that, I’d list Final Destination, Saw, The Ring, Jennifer’s Body, The Hills Have Eyes … It was the golden era of horror films. Considering the rise of emo music, this makes sense somehow. Sony’s choice to hire Sam Raimi, a known horror filmmaker, as the director was definitely an intentional one.

When Doc Ock wakes up in the operating room, it is true horror. Bloodcurdling screams come out of the doctors’ mouths as shards of glass fly at them. The shots throughout the movie cause jump scares, tension, and even the gore of movies considered more classically horror.

Cheesy Quotes

Name any mid-2000s movie and you’ll more than likely be able to repeat a quote. From Mean Girls to Love Actually, hilarious and cheesy quotes are a trademark of the genre. Spider-Man 2 has some true gems, such as Doc Ock’s thesis line that comes back in the end: “Intelligence is not a privilege, it’s a gift.” But to add to the film’s emo vibes, we can’t forget Spider-Man saying, “Punch me, I bleed.” It sounds like an MCR lyric!

The CGI

Any action movie needs CGI, and even today in 2024, many movies use CGI effects. CGI-animated films rose to the forefront of Pixar with films like Finding Nemo, and CGI-created creatures, such as Gollum in Lord of the Rings, were becoming a mainstay. Before the 2000s, almost all effects were practical to a degree, but Spider-Man 2 made use of CGI. From Spider-Man’s webs to car chases to the fusion reactor, CGI plays a major role in Spider-Man 2.

The Friends-to-Lovers Subplot

No mid-2000s film is complete without a little bit of romance, but especially the friends-to-lovers plot. It’s like the trope from 1999’s She’s All That continued to play out through the 2000s, when a man and a woman are supposed to just be friends, but then they realize that they actually belong together. As Peter Parker goes on his journey of self-discovery, MJ has her own realization that she would prefer her half-available risk-averse unreliable best friend over a kind, rich, handsome astronaut.

But we support her! Because the romance of falling for your best friend because of shared trauma is the greatest kind of pre-therapy mid-2000s romance there is. That’s what all the songs are about anyway, isn’t it?


About the author

Jamie Lerner

Jamie Lerner is a writer, comedian, and musician who’s been writing about television and movies since she reviewed Mean Girls for her fifth-grade school newspaper.