Australian Council on Children and the Media

Spider-Man 2

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Short takes

Not recommended under 15 (Viol./Horror/Themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Spider-Man 2
  • a review of Spider-Man 2 completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 June 2004.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Based upon the violence, horror and adult themes presented in Spider-Man 2 is not recommended for children under the age of fifteen years. Some children aged 13-15 may be ok to view this movie, depending on their previous exposure to horror and violence of the type presented in Spider-Man 2. However, they may find the dialogue uninteresting.
Children over the age of 15 Most children over the age of 15 would be fine to see this movie.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Spider-Man 2
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Low level violence
Length 127 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Spider-Man 2 is a fantasy action film staring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker (Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius, James Franco as Harry Osborn and Rosemary Harris as Aunt May. The film was directed by Sam Raimi of Evil Dead fame.

Parker is a university physics student, who, in connection with a University assignment, is introduced to his idol Dr. Otto Octavius; a brilliant scientist currently working on a fusion project designed to produce cheap clean power. To handle the dangerous materials in the fusion experiment, Dr. Octavius fuses to his spinal column four artificially intelligent mechanical tentacles. The tentacles are governed by a control chip preventing the tentacles from taking control of Octavius’s mind. However, a trial experiment goes drastically wrong—Octavius’s wife is killed and the chip controlling the cyber-intelligent tentacles is destroyed. The tentacles take control of Octavius’s mind and he is transformed into Doc Ock, a sinister Cyborg capable of throwing people and cars around as though they were toys and killing without remorse.

Octavius, or Doc Ock, goes to rob a bank, where by coincidence, Peter Parker and his Aunt May are doing some banking. Parker does battle with Doc Ock and saves Aunt May, but after the fight, his powers appear to abandon him. Peter decides to forgo his life as a super hero, throws away his costume and for a time resumes a normal life. However, he soon learns that he is unable to turn his back on those in need; gains back his super hero powers and once again dons his spider costume.

Meanwhile, Doc Ock makes a pact with Harry Osborn to capture Spider-Man in return for some Tritium required to fuel the experiment. Osborn wishes Spider-Man great harm in retaliation for his father’s (the Green Goblin) death. Doc Ock captures Mary Jane Watson to use as bait, captures Spider-Man and hands him to Osborn in exchange for the Tritium. Osborn unmasks Spider-Man, but on finding the super hero to be his best friend Peter Parker, he is unable to kill him.

Peter convinces Osborne that bigger issues are at hand, and Osborne then lets him go to rescue Mary Jane. Spider-Man arrives to find Mary Jane chained to a post and Doc Ock in the midst of a second experiment gone haywire. He must then try to save Mary Jane and New York from Doc Ock’s latest experiment.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The violence portrayed by both super-hero and villain is nearly always successful and glamorised. The super hero is young and physically attractive, and the villain is presented as very powerful and intelligent.

In terms of both super hero and villain, there are no real life consequences resulting from violence, neither receives so much as a scratch wether falling off of a skyscraper, or being run over by a car, the worst result is a torn costume. The same cannot be said for the non-hero type. Dr. Octavius’s wife along with hospital staff are killed, however, even though people are thrown around like rag dolls and hurled against brick walls, not a drop of blood is seen on screen, nor none of the resulting injuries that you would expect to occur.

At times, the consequences of violent acts are presented in a comical manner. For example, when aunt May is dropped by Doc Ock off of a New York skyscraper, she plummets to the ground, but some how manages to escape death by attaching herself to a statue via her umbrella. And when the umbrella finally gives way, aunt May begins to plummet to the ground only to find a ledge inches from her feet.

Male characters carry out all of the violence presented in Spider-Man 2, even those that are not super heroes with the victims mostly female. Victims of violence receiving the most on screen time include Aunt May and Mary Jane.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Frightening visual images of most concern to children under the age of five years are:

  • the tentacles attached the spinal column of Dr. Octavius. They are extremely large, fast moving, skeletal in appearance and very deadly, resembling the tail section of the creature from the Alien movies
  • the actual scene where the tentacles attach themselves to Octavius’s spine in which a series of needles are embedded into Octavius’s flesh
  • people being flung through the air as though they were rag dolls, crashing into walls, being thrown through windows etc
  • Aunt May being grabbed by a tentacle carried and then dropped from a sky scraper
  • a car being thrown through a restaurant window narrowly missing Mary Jane’s head
  • car chases involving cars crashing into one another, overturning and crashing into people
  • a collapsing burning building with a small child trapped inside
  • glass from a shattered window flying into the body of Octavius’s wife
  • tentacles grabbing throats and heads
  • an elevated train, running out of control towards a dead end bridge
  • gun fire
  • explosions
  • masonry from buildings falling onto people
  • a man being bashed by thugs in an alley
  • Spider-Man falling off of buildings

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Most, if not all, of the scary images listed for children under the age of five years would also be scary for children under the age of thirteen, particularly Octavius’s tentacles. The short term impact on children closer to the age of thirteen would be dependent on the child’s level of exposure to screen violence of this type.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger adolescents in this age group may still have trouble with the scary scenes mentioned above. As the level of graphic on screen violence is minimal (no blood or gore), children fifteen years of age and over should be able to cope with the violence in Spider-Man 2.

Sexual references

There are no sexual references in Spider-Man 2.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is no nudity or sexual activity in Spider-Man 2.

Use of substances

During one scene, Peter Parker’s friend, Harry Osborn is seen consuming alcohol and appears to be intoxicated. As a result of the intoxication, Harry becomes aggressive towards Peter, verbally abusing him and slapping him several times across the face.

Coarse language

There is no coarse language in Spider-Man 2.

In a nutshell

Besides the very obvious message of good triumphing over evil, there are a number of positive take home messages that parents may wish to encourage including:

  • The manner in which Peter Parker strives to find a balance between his responsibility to humanity and his own needs and happiness.
  • Peter Parker’s selflessness and empathy towards others whether friend or stranger
  • The manner in which Peter Parker deals with his own insecurities relating to inter-personal relationships
  • The manner in which Perter Parker endures adversity and cope with the responsibility of being a superhero
  • The manner in which non-superhero people stand behind Spider-Man and are willing to lay their own lives on the line to protect Spider-Man from Doc Ock

Values that parents may wish to discourage include:

  • The use of violence to solve conflict
  • Unequal gender roles—there where no female heroines, and females were presented as victims in need of rescue by males

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