Like so many Spider-Man villains (see also the Green Goblin and the Lizard), Doc Ock started out as a well-meaning scientist who made the mistake of subjecting himself to his own experiment. (Given how many of these self-made monsters, all of them mentors of a sort to Peter Parker, it’s a wonder that Pete still maintains his enthusiasm for applied science.) Even after Dr. Otto Octavius’ (Alfred Molina) fusion-energy experiment goes horribly awry, killing his wife and fusing four tentacle-like arms to his spine, even after he embarks on a crime spree and starts robbing banks, he’s still primarily motivated by a desire to continue his research into the elusive nature of energy. Of course, energy, in Spider-Man 2, becomes a metaphor for power, which can turn against those who wield it carelessly.
Physically, Dr. Octopus is one of Spider-Man’s most daunting adversaries. (Under Sam Raimi’s direction, the darting, malevolent tentacles recall the rapist tree limbs of Raimi’s debut feature, Evil Dead.) But Spidey’s even more difficult challenge is to get Octavius to rediscover his soul, the selfless part of his spirit that the electronic arms have shorted out. Like General Zod in Superman II, Octavius unwittingly reminds Parker that he can’t just hang up his webs and live a normal life; there will always be threats that only Spider-Man has the power to thwart, and as Pete’s Uncle Ben famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
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