Review for Spider-Man 2
I don’t know why I like Spider-Man. He’s certainly not my favourite superhero, and I never bought into the comic books or any of the tie-ins. Yet for some reason, I like the Spider-Man movies (although I am yet to see the most recent live action iteration). I think it’s because of the entire pantheon of comic book cape-wearers, Spider-Man is the most human. His powers aren’t infinite, he’s vulnerable, and his abilities never help his personal life. That’s a character that is a lot easier to invest in emotionally. Anyway, I am now double-dipping the first Spider-man movies to Blu-ray, although I draw the line at Spider-Man 3. Those original DVD discs were loaded two disc editions, so it’s hard to see what else the Blu-ray of Spider-Man 2 can add aside from better picture and sound. It turns out that it can add a whole lot; namely another version of the film. You get the theatrical cut of Spider-Man 2 on this disc, and Spider-Man 2.1, an eight minute longer cut. For the purposes of this review, I watched the latter.
Most people can balance work and life, but for Peter Parker he has work, life, school, and being a superhero to deal with. His relationships with his friends and his Aunt May are suffering, he can’t hold down a job, he’s falling behind on his classes, and his performance as Spider-Man is starting to suffer. Forget about having a love life with Mary Jane Watson! He is going to have to make some hard choices about what to keep, and what to sacrifice. He does have one opportunity to earn some brownie points with his physics teacher. He’s got the chance to interview the cutting edge in nuclear fusion research, Doctor Otto Octavius. Octavius believes that he can safely contain a fusion reaction, by means of four invulnerable robotic tentacles grafted onto his spine.
Spider-Man 2 gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround French, Italian and English Audio Descriptive, and DD 2.0 Stereo English, with subtitles in these languages and Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, and Swedish. Aside from what looks like enough DNR to minimise the grain without introducing waxiness, Spider-Man 2 looks pretty decent on disc, clear and sharp, and with bright, vivid colours. Detail levels are excellent, but the 2004 era CGI hasn’t dated well at all, and is all the more obvious on Blu-ray. It feels like the film switches from live action to animation and back during the action sequences. The audio on the other hand can’t be faulted, effective and immersive, making the most of the action sequences while appropriately emphasising Danny Elfman’s score. The dialogue is clear throughout as well, even during the most strident action scenes.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray, wrapped in an o-card slipcover. There is also some art on the inner sleeve. The disc autoplays with a trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man (the one with Andrew Garfield) before booting to an animated menu.
It turns out that not all of the extras on a 2-disc DVD release could make it to a single disc Blu-ray, but you do get a hefty chunk, and a little extra for the 2.1 version of the film.
There are three commentaries for the film, a Cast and Crew Commentary, as well as a Technical Commentary on the Theatrical Version. There is a commentary with Laura Ziskin and Alvin Sargent on the Extended Version.
Making the Amazing is a 12-part making of which lasts 126:26 in total.
Hero in Crisis lasts 14:50.
Ock-Umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You lasts 22:10.
The Blooper Reel lasts 7:31. This was left off the UK DVD to get a PG rating.
Visual Effects Breakdown lasts 32:38 (I think this was a multi-angle thing on the DVD).
All of these video extras are in SD. The 2-disc DVD had even more featurettes, a subtitle trivia track, Easter Eggs and music videos, so you might want to hold onto that set if you double dipped.
I do recall that at the time, Spider-Man 2 was held up as one of the best superhero sequels ever made, with fans favourably comparing it to Superman 2 and Batman Returns. I can’t quite see that, and I’m not sure I ever did, although I do recall saying that Spider-Man 2 was a sequel that was better than the first film, and surprisingly good for a second film in a series. Of course since 2004, Hollywood seems to have figured out how to make superhero sequels that don’t suck. There is that added benefit to these original Spider-Man movies that you don’t have to subscribe to a whole cinematic universe to get the most out of them, which for me is a positive. Sometimes I just want to watch a movie. But I have to admit that Spider-Man 2 isn’t as good as I remember it to be in the cinema.
A lot of that is down to the CGI effects shots. Nothing dates faster than computer graphic imagery in cinema, and whereas at first I might have been able to suspend my disbelief, today I can’t help but see the seams where the movie switches from live action to CGI and back again. I kind of want them to go back and redo the effects so that Doc Ock stops looking like a plasticine figure. But with hindsight, I can start to see some of the flaws that so hamstrung Spider-Man 3 creeping into Spider-Man 2.
There is definitely a parallel with the Superman films which doesn’t help either, with Spider-Man giving up his powers for love before taking them back, a little obvious, even if it’s psychological rather than through material intervention. I also still don’t appreciate the goofy humour, with the film’s constant painting of Peter Parker as a loser, as an eternal victim of the world’s woes as overdone, especially in the 2.1 extended version which has even more of this. It’s hard to be emotionally affected by the downs if there are no ups to contrast with. All of this pales in comparison with the film’s goofy science, which I know I complained about when I reviewed the DVD way back when. They get nuclear fusion so wrong here, that I can begin to understand why they dumbed down the Star Trek movies so much afterwards; Red Matter and Magic Blood are harder to pick nits at than anything resembling actual science.
All of that whined, Spider-Man 2 is still a whole lot of fun to watch, action packed and entertaining, and the extended version does much to expand the characters and give some more depth to the story, even if as mentioned it does mean the story dumps even more angst on Peter. The film constantly skates on the verge of self-parody without slipping over, and it’s in this that the fun lies. When it comes to Spider-Man 3, it went completely over the edge, but that’s a matter for a Blu-ray review I have no intention of ever writing. Although rumours are that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-man. With the next MCU Spider-Man movie casting Jamie Foxx as Electro, there are suggestions that we’re going to see a live-action Spider-verse, with Maguire and Garfield on screen in the spider-suits alongside Holland.
This Blu-ray is of excellent quality when it comes to audio and visual, even if the visual shows up the flaws in the CGI even more, although you might be disappointed that not all of the DVD extras make it to the HD release.