Spider-Man 2 is a superior film to the first. While it is rare for sequels to live up to expectations, there are rare moments in film history when the sequel may even surpass the first film’s quality. The Godfather Part II and Bride of Frankenstein are two well known examples. But for Every T2 there are usually 20 Jaws 3-D’s. Doc Ock was the perfect choice as the story’s villain; Alfred Molina was a wonderful selection to bring this fan favorite to life on the big screen. Peter Parker’s life is more multi-dimensional…here. It’s about time a superhero film showed us this kind of impact a hero’s choices make on his life. The f/x are nothing short of a miracle. I was a bit skeptical going into the theatre originally. It would have been too easy for Doc Ock to descend into camp or outright silliness. Of course, there are moments where the glimmer of camp shows its ugly head. I’m not sure what the bank was doing with all of those gold doubloons.
It was good to find Tobey Maguire back in action as Spidey. A fall during the filming of Seabiscuit caused severe enough back trauma that the film’s production was stalled as long as possible. It was so close that Kirsten Dunst’s real-life boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal was cast as an emergency replacement. Dunst is still the weak link in the cast. J.D. Simmons continues to nail J. Jonah Jameson perfectly. Sam Raimi manages to work in cameos from the deceased members of the first film, and let’s not forget another cameo by Raimi’s Evil Dead partner, Bruce Cambell. If you blink you’ll miss the traditional cameo by Spider-Man creator Stan Lee.
If Spider-Man 2 has a flaw, it’s that too many people learn Parker’s secret in this one. Raimi elected to remove the mask far too often for it to have any effect.
Peter Parker’s life is falling apart. Aunt May’s house is about to be foreclosed. He’s failing at school. He can’t seem to hold a job. His best friend hates him for protecting Spider-Man. Even the love of his life, M.J., is about to marry another man. He even seems to be losing his super powers. Parker decides it might be time to hang up Spidey. Enter a new super-villain, Dock Ock (Molina). Parker again finds himself trying to save the world, or at least M.J.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is superb. Ambient sounds are cleverly mixed into the sound to create some wonderfully atmospheric moments. The action is brightened by the resounding score. Lows rumble to life at just the right moments. There is never a feeling that the mix is being overdriven. Dialogue is crisp and clear.
There are two commentary tracks included on this disc. The first, and most worthy, is a collection of principals: Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, Avi Arad, and Grant Curtis. This is an absolutely fun track to listen to.
The second commentary features techno guys with little new to offer that isn’t covered in the features on Disc 2. It would have been far better to use this bit rate for the video presentation.
Spider-Man 2 is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The print is very clean. I could find no specks or print artifacts of any kind. The real problem is the transfer itself. There are too many digital artifacts from the compression. Much of the film appears a bit overexposed, most notably the first act. Contrast is quite inconsistent throughout. Blacks are not near as convincing as they should have been. There is a Superbit version of the film. I hope that it fixes many of these flaws. Overall this print is a bit of a disappointment.
Disc One contains the film and commentaries.
- “Blooper Reel” is exactly what it sounds like. Out-takes and flubs from the set.
- “Spidey Sense 2” allows you to view facts and trivia while watching the film.
- “Web-I-sodes” are 3 minute interviews from the film’s website.
- “Ordinary” is a music video by the band Train.
Disc Two contains the meat of this releases extras.
- “Making The Amazing” is a terrific 12-part documentary of the creation of the film. Very similar in style to the Lord of the Rings features you’ll get a range of topics from pre-production to marketing of the film. With an almost 2 hour running time, this is a great feature.
- “Hero In Crisis” Stan Lee and other original Spidey artists discuss the early ideas for Spidey and his troubled teenage alter-ego: Peter Parker.
- “Ock-Umentory: Eight Arms To Hold You” Is a wonderful look at the transition of Doc Ock from comic favorite to film super-villain.
- “The Women Of Spider-Man” might be the least interesting feature. It looks at M.J., of course, but also Aunt May, and the Parker loves not yet explored in the film series.
- “Enter The Web” delivers on one of the oldest promises we were made by DVD. You actually get to watch the climax from 4 different, selectable angles.
- You’ll also find a promo for the Spider-Man 2 game and a generous collection of gallery photos.
I guess what impresses me the most out of both Spidey films is how well the character of Parker and Spider-Man are fleshed out. We live in a day where computer magic can pretty much show us anything we want to see. It’s getting harder to impress an audience with visual wizardry anymore. Sam Raimi shows us that within the context of a rollercoaster ride of amazing f/x and explosive action there is plenty of room to explore a character. Perhaps we’ve stumbled into a new kind of hero movie. After all: “Everyone needs a hero”.
Special Features List
- Commentary by director Sam Raimi, actor Tobey Maguire, producer Ani Ahrati, and coproducer Grant Curtis
- Technical commentary
- “Spidey Sense 2” pop-up trivia track
- Blooper reel
- Four Web-isodes: original online featurettes
- Train music video: “Ordinary”
- “Making the Amazing”: 12-part documentary
- “Hero in Crisis”: a deeper look into Peter Parker and his personal battles
- “Ock-umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You”
- “Interwoven: The Women of Spider-Man”
- “Enter the Web”: groundbreaking multi-angle look behind the scenes
- Art gallery
- Behind-the-scenes look at the Activision game