Tobey Maguire……….Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Kirsten Dunst……….Mary Jane Watson
Alfred Molina……….Dr. Otto Octavius
James Franco……….Harry Osborn
Elizabeth Banks……….Betty Brant
Bruce Campbell……….Snooty Usher
Rosemary Harris……….Aunt May
J.K. Simmons……….J. Jonah Jameson
Sony Pictures Classics presents Spider-Man 2. Produced by Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin. Written by Michael Chabon, Miles Millar, Alfred Gough and Alvin Sargent. Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Running time: 125 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for stylized action violence).
What makes a good superhero movie? Extravagant superpowers and special effects? Latex outfits? Not hardly. The character. The character makes the film. That’s why the first installments of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man were so successful. After time, however, studios would dilute the product – the result being a mediocre film or a total abomination. Thankfully, Spider-Man 2 doesn’t follow tradition.
For a solo comic book superhero movie it is the best sequel; and arguably the best superhero movie since the first Superman. In both films, viewers could identify with the characters. Neither one comes from a rich family a la Bruce Wayne. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) was once a nerdy high school student who was unprepared to assume responsibility of the powers he was bestowed. Clark Kent (Superman) is the alter ego Superman uses to blend in with the rest of society. Many people forget that Superman’s disguise is that of Clark Kent, not the other way around.
In Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is attending classes at Columbia University. That is, if he can make it to class on time. If that wasn’t hectic enough, Peter has lost his job as a pizza deliveryman, is still infatuated by Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) faces foreclosure on her mortgage. When his spidey outfit’s colors run together at the Laundromat, and his powers begin to fade, Peter decides to dish the outfit so he can have some “me” time.
When figuring out the life of a tree you count its number of rings. With superheroes you retrace the villains they have encountered. For this movie the villain is Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a character for which you can both loathe and feel sympathy. Peter Parker is a big enthusiast of the famous Dr. Octavius, a pioneer of fusion energy. To handle the dangerous materials of his fusion experiments the doctor creates four powerful tentacles that, when fused to his spine, absorb the incredible heat. There is a chip at the top of his spine that prevents the tentacles from generating a cyber-intelligence all their own. But, when the chip is destroyed in a fusion experiment, the benevolent scientist transforms into Doc Ock, a fusion of man and machine.
Despite this problem, Peter Parker has to deal with the realization that the lives of Mary Jane and his Aunt May could be jeopardized by Spider-Man’s enemies. Then there is the problem with Harry Osborn (James Franco), a friend of Peter who blames Spider-Man for the death of his father. Talk about your predicaments.
The key to Spider-Man 2 is the directing of Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan, The Evil Dead series). Dressed to the nines in a suit and tie and sitting in the director’s chair Raimi proves why he is an underrated director. (I mean how many directors wear a suit and tie to work?) The special effects are off the hook, but not glorified like other comic book fare. The script is much improved over the first Spider-Man film. It took four writers (one a Pulitzer Prize winner) to craft this feature. Usually when you see a script written by three or more people you think of re-writes and script polishing. Not in this case. The screenplay by Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People), and the story by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (TV’s “Smallville”) and Michael Chabon (author of Wonder Boys and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay) are leaps and bounds better than the first feature. Yes, I can even forgive them for the “go get them tiger” line.
The DVD’s video transfer does suffer from a little bit of edge enhancement, but the colors of Spider-Man’s outfit show nicely. The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Crank up your Dolby Digital receiver and listen to the train sequence in all its 5.1 glory! You can listen to the film in English 5.1 (Dolby Digital), English (Dolby Surround), French 5.1 (Dolby Digital), or Spanish 2.0 (Dolby Surround). You can also view the film with English, French, or Spanish subtitles.
Yeah, there are extras; about 10 Hours worth! There are two discs in this set that spread the wealth in the extras department. The first extra comes in the form of two screen-specific commentaries on Disc 1.
The first commentary is with director Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, producer Avi Arad and co-producer Grant Curtis. For this commentary all the persons involved take turns discussing the film. Pieced together in the editing room, the commentary goes back and forth between the four participants involved. Only Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi’s comments were recorded together. Tobey Maguire is soft-spoken, but highly enthusiastic about playing the Spider-Man character. While not a highly utilized feature, commentaries are nice to listen to, especially if it is a film you have seen several times. That way you already know what is going on and you can sit back and enjoy the comments.
The technical crew (i.e., special effects coordinators, puppet masters, etc…) provides their two cents for the second commentary track. If your interests pertain to the art of special effects wizardry then by all means listen to this commentary track. Puppet master Eric Hayden is interesting to listen to, like when he ponders why Sam Raimi wanted puppets in Spider-Man 2. (The puppets provide better feedback.)
If you have ever seen any of the movies associated with AMC’s “DVD on TV” then you know about the factoids track. Titled Spidey Sense 2, this feature takes you deeper into the world of Spider-Man. As you watch the movie, factoids and trivia will appear in real time. (Note: this option deactivates any feature subtitles.) If you don’t enjoy listening to audio commentaries this is the next best thing. When you watch the movie a blue box will appear below the screen and overwhelm you with information like how much weight Tobey Maguire lost to play Red Pollard in Seabiscuit, what Doc Ock did to Peter Parker’s Aunt May in Spider-Man #54, and other asinine facts.
Disc 1 also includes the music video “Ordinary” by Train, three Web-i-sodes that appeared on the Internet, a blooper reel, and trailers for: Spider-Man; Spider-Man 2; Christmas with the Kranks; Spanglish; Hitch; Seinfeld; The Forgotten; White Chicks; and the 3-Disc Director’s Cut DVD of Hellboy.
Moving on to Disc 2
The big feature is Making the Amazing – A 12-part documentary from pre-production to the Hollywood premiere. By selecting the “Play All” feature you can sit back and watch all 12 features. Running a little over two hours you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Spider-Man 2 and more. The documentary is shot in full frame with widescreen shots of the film. Watch how the story and character developed, see Sam Raimi in a nice suit, learn about the visual effects and stunts, and the lessons learned from shooting the 200-plus-million-dollar feature.
In addition to the 12-part documentary are three separate featurettes: Hero in Crisis, Ock-Umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You, and Interwoven: The Women of Spider-Man.
Hero in Crisis (14:47) – explores the idea if Peter Parker enjoyed being Spider-Man. Included are sound bites by Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, producer Avi Arad, and Tobey Maguire. Topics include the decision to have Peter Parker quit being Spider-Man in issue number #50.
Ock-Umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You (22:07) – examines the character of Dr. Otto Octavius. Stan Lee gives his two cents on Doc Ock and why he created him. The dynamic of Dr. Octavius is dissected by the likes of Joe Quesada, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, J. Michael Straczynski, writer of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and Alfred Molina.
Interwoven: The Women of Spider-Man (15:25) – like it implies, this feature discusses the women in Spidey’s life. First is the relationship between Peter Parker and his surrogate mother Aunt May. Then Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst reflect on the love story between Peter Parker and Mary Jane. A couple of lesser-seen females: Betty Brant, who is Jonah Jameson’s secretary, and Ursula, the daughter of Peter Parker’s landlord, get more screen time in this feature than they did in the entire film. Gwen Stacy, a character who hasn’t appeared in either of the Spider-Man films, and who was actually Peter Parker’s first love, is also talked about.
Enter the Web is an interesting special feature because it is a unique look behind-the-scenes captured in real time. By pressing the “Angle” button on your remote control you can toggle between different cameras. Four scenes (two are from the final showdown between Doc Ock and Spider-Man, the other two on blue screen soundstages) are shown.
When you enter the Gallery you can view a series of paintings artist Alex Ross was commissioned to create. These paintings are in the opening credits for Spider-Man 2. There are 17 paintings in all.
Rounding out the second disc is a trailer for the Spider-Man 2 video game and a short behind-the-scenes look at the making of Spider-Man 2: The Game.
DVD-ROM EXCLUSIVES: To PC or not to PC?
When you plug the second disc into your personal computer there are a few more extras. You can access press reviews, content for your mobile phone, play the Web of Words online game, and countdown to Spider-Man 3.
THE INSIDE PULSE
There is no question that Spider-Man 2 is one of the best superhero films of all time. Is it the best film of the year? No. Is it one of the best movies of the summer? You bet. It’s not everyday that a summer movie has both a story and special effects. It was if Sam Raimi and his crew had a purpose with this film. They wanted it to be more than it should be. They succeeded.