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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Spider-Man 2.1 (DVD Double Set)

Spider-Man 2.1 (DVD Double Set)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



No doubt that the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films have been huge hits and people have been at least satisfied enough by them to see more films and more of them.  The question is, in the whole cannon of Spider-man on film, how do they compare.  That is the odd side question that surfaces when watching Spider-Man 2.1, a version of the first Spidey sequel that ads 8 minutes to the original theatrical release.  It is interesting and a nice change of pace, but does not make it a better film.


Sure, this is better than Spidey Super Stories on Electric Company because that was for educational fun and is better than the Nicholas Hammond TV Spidey series from the late 1970s since they have a better director, budgets and the ever-fetishized technology.  It is the best live-action Spidey to date because the material simply never got this kind of respect before, though many fans would argue that the 1967 animated series still has a few things on these big budget films and more than any of the later animated shows, but the Raimi films have been ambitious enough and they can build nicely on what they have done, which is why this is arriving a few weeks before the third film.


After spending time on his origins and showing his world in the first film, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has clearly fallen for Mary Jane (Kristen Dunst) but cannot share his secret identity yet.  Besides problems still lingering from the Goblin affair from the previous film, a likable, smart professor friend (Alfred Molina) is about to become Dr. Octopus when the artificial intelligence of his mechanical extensions go haywire.


That is a nice twist and like the Goblin from the last film, gives a more metallic, hardcore technological twist to the villain.  That matches Raimi’s approach, but I sometimes feel there is an interesting conflict in these films between the Raimi style and Marvel Comics style, which have contradictory points that make them cohere in odd ways, making these films more interesting that critics and film theorists might have first considered.


Raimi’s idea of a hero was more like the rough world of Darkman, a project that kept to his Evil Dead roots and can be found in most of his films subtly punctuates the Spidey films.  Part of this comes from the fact that the films are big productions that have more to do with the Action genre since the 1980s than the Raimi style or that of great Action/Horror films from the 1960s and 1970s that have much more to do with Marvel Comics than mall movies.


The series tries to have it both ways and has gotten away with this so far, but the biggest problem with this sequel in either cut is the dragging out of the origins form the first film that everyone who is a fan already knows.  It just becomes a matter of wanting and waiting to see them unravel in live action.  That can even be fun, but does not a whole film make.  Fortunately, Molina is a pleasant surprise as Ock, the scientist tragically done in by his own genius.  Previously, he was a character who laughed like The Penguin and fought Spidey often, but this new welcome layer to the character works and gives a skilled character actor like Molina some fine moments.


Also, the fight sequences can be imaginative and then comes the big surprise.  After Spidey has almost killed himself to stop a runaway subway train, the unknown and much maligned Spidey is grabbed by the passengers to help him back in a scene that is nothing short of remarkable.  It becomes the payoff of the series so far that the hero is reveled as human and connects with those around him in a way that poverty, circumstance, tabloid media and hate have prevented.


It also serves as a connect between hero and audience through the big budget, hype, advertising, merchandising and effects, as the Spidey the fans have put their money on all this time.  The screen audience/subway passengers confirm that what we believe is true and then it goes back to begin the action film intended.  It is, however, the most priceless moment in the series yet and shows its heart and soul in a way that is a step after Spielberg’s films that show a sort of progress in such matters.


Of course, it ends just enough to complete the film, but the soap opera lack-of-closure leaves the next film as the next step and we will see that soon enough.  This film is worth seeing again with the extra minutes and extras, but it holds up in odd ways that sometimes succeed and sometimes do not.  Calling it 2.1 almost makes it sound like the theatrical cut is replaceable or obsolete, but that is not the case.  It just offers a little more before that next big party film.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot in Super 35mm by Bill Pope, A.S.C., and looks good for the format.  However, there are some color limits and obvious digital work despite the immense amount of effort and high budget this film has.  I’ll be curious to see if the Blu-ray shows these CG graphics to better effect.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not bad, but limited by compression and no match for the DTS in theaters or on any DVD.  The Blu-ray will likely have PCM 5.1, but the film was made for 8-track Sony Dynamic Digital Sound presentations and those tracks were used for the IMAX presentation, so it might be a while before we get a definitive home mix.  Danny Elfman’s score is good, but could be much better and less predictable.


Extras include feature length audio commentary by producer Laura Ziskin & writer Alvin Sargent, Sneak Peek of Spider-Man 3, introduction with Avi Arad and Grant Curtis, Spidey Sense 2.1 factoid trivia tack with all-new branched video pieces that show up on screen as you watch the film, a multi-angle feature on Elfman’s score, VFX breakdown, With Great Effort Comes Great Recognition featurette, Inside 2.1 featurette on the new cut, Viewfinders: The Art of Storyboarding, Activision “3” game exclusive trailer & DVD-ROM link to demo.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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