Spider-Man 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Because of some erratic elements, I found it hard to sum up Spidey 2 but ultimately thought it merited a “B”.
Sharpness usually worked well. Sometimes I saw minor to moderate softness, particularly in wider shots. However, the majority of the movie produced nicely crisp and detailed images. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but some mild edge enhancement cropped up at times. Only a couple of print flaws materialized via specks, though parts of the flick showed a surprisingly grainy look.
Probably the strongest aspect of the picture stemmed from its colors. As one might expect from a comic book movie, Spidey 2 used a bright and varied palette, though it emphasized primary colors. The tones seemed vibrant and dynamic, though some interiors presented slightly murky skin tones. Blacks were deep and firm, while low-light shots appeared clear and smooth; no excessive opacity occurred.
Many parts of the movie looked excellent, but the mix of various issues meant that I couldn’t support a grade above a “B”. I almost knocked my mark up to a “B+”, but the transfer was too inconsistent for that. At least this meant the visuals improved a bit over the somewhat lackluster picture found on the non-Superbit edition of the first film.
On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Spider-Man 2 offered a repeat performance. It presented an experience that closely resembled what I heard during the prior film, though it was less ambitious due to the movie’s focus. The soundfield created a broad and engaging piece. Because the movie was often quite chatty, I can’t say that the audio cranked from all five speakers on a constant basis.
However, it offered a consistently good feel for its environment, and the action sequences made sure that it packed an impact. Those worked within the spectrum well and led us to sense the movement of the fights and other lively scenes well. Pieces zipped and zoomed around the room well, as the surrounds added a lot of useful audio to the package.
Audio quality always remained positive. Speech sounded firm and crisp, with no edginess or issues connected to intelligibility. Music appeared bright and bold, with tight highs and warm lows. Effects also presented strong reproduction. Those elements were clean and concise, and the louder pieces offered strong bass.
The absence of a consistently aggressive soundfield meant that I thought the audio fell into “B+” territory, down from an “A-“ for the first movie. Don’t take that as a negative, however. The audio worked well for the story. It just lacked the pizzazz to merit “A” consideration.
Like its predecessor, Spider-Man 2 comes as a two-disc set. Though the prior set’s extras disappointed, no similar problems occurred here, as the sequel offers a stuffed package with many good components.
On DVD One, we open with two audio commentaries. Entitled “Cast and Crew”, the first presents remarks from director Sam Raimi, producer Avi Arad, co-producer Grant Curtis, and actor Tobey Maguire. They split into pairs, both of which offer separate screen-specific, running commentaries. Raimi and Maguire match for one, while Arad and Curtis sit for the other.
A mix of topics pop up here. We learn about the movie’s script issues and abandoned concepts; for example, the story originally included the Black Cat as another villain. We hear about character and production design, stunts, locations, new elements in the sequel, approaches to the roles and their development, visual effects, trivia and general production subjects. Inevitably, some of the usual happy talk appears, but the participants usually concentrate on meaty material. I like Maguire’s notes on his work plus the interaction with Raimi, and we hear a lot of good information about a mix of areas. I also like Raimi’s discussion of all the antipathy generated by the Oldsmobile he uses in almost all his movies. While I can’t call it a great commentary, it works well and maintains interest.
Movie-making surprise: it sounds like Raimi never saw The Graduate. The movie’s ending connects to that film’s. When Raimi and Maguire discuss it, the actor has to describe it to the director in enough detail that makes it appear Raimi doesn’t know anything about the earlier classic.
Called “Technical Commentary”, the second chat features animatronics creator Steve Johnson, puppetmaster Eric Hayden, visual effects designer John Dykstra, visual effects producer Lydia Bottegoni, visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk, and animation supervisor Anthony LaMolinara. As with the prior track, this one splits into two different groups. Johnson and Hayden sit together, while the others converge for their own discussion. Both groups offer running, screen-specific commentaries that get edited together.
You don’t win a prize if you figure out that this track will concentrate on technical elements. Johnson and Hayden go over everything related to Doc Ock’s tentacles. We learn a ton about how the filmmakers brought those limbs to life. The other group deals with everything else in the visual effects domain, so we hear a lot about computer imagery and other forms of work. I liked the technical commentary for the first movie, and this one proves equally effective. It gives us a rich examination of all the work required to bring this effects-heavy flick to life, and it does so in an entertaining way.
Just like the prior package, this one includes a subtitle commentary. Here they refer to it as Spidey Sense 2 and it promises “factoids and trivia”. We learn about the film’s actors and other filmmakers, various “nuts and bolts” issues like visual effects, locations and costumes, connections between the two movies, and lots of fun information about the comics. Many general Spidey facts appear and we get some useful notes about how the movie takes liberty with the source. We even get a history of Spider-Man merchandise through the years. Inevitably, some of it is redundant after the first film’s subtitle track, but it’s still another very good piece, and the vast majority of the material is new.
We also get a supplements sequel with four Web-I-Sodes. These featurettes cover “Costume Design” (83 seconds), “Comic-Con Q&A” (two minutes, 26 seconds), “J. Jonah Jameson” (108 seconds), and “Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson” (two minutes, 36 seconds). The clips include comments from Raimi, Arad, Maguire, costume designer James Acheson, assistant costume designer Paul Spadone, actors JK Simmons, Kirsten Dunst and Alfred Molina, visual effects designer John Dykstra, executive producer Stan Lee, producer Laura Ziskin, We learn a little about minor costume changes between the two flicks, the use of Doc Ock in this movie, Simmons’ approach to the role, and the relationship between Pete and MJ. These originally appeared on the movie’s website, so expect a promotional emphasis. A few very minor moments of interest arise, but they exist mainly to tout the flick.
Note that unlike the first package, this one only presents the pieces from a menu; the previous release also offered them as a branching feature accessible during the movie. That’s fine with me - I don’t like branching elements anyway.
Next we see a music video for “Ordinary” by Train. It lives up to its name with a mediocre combination of lip-synch and movie clips. The DVD also offers a blooper reel. The seven-minute and 29-second piece presents the usual kinds of shots, though we get an emphasis on technical mishaps as well as the standard goofs and giggles. I usually dislike bloopers, but this segment actually offers some interesting stuff because much of it falls into the “behind the scenes” category.
When the DVD opens, it presents an ad. We get a clip for Hitch. This also appears in the Previews area, where we find additional trailers for Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spanglish, White Chicks, The Forgotten, Hellboy, Seinfeld, and Christmas with the Kranks.
Over on DVD Two, we launch with a multi-part documentary entitled Making the Amazing. Split into 12 segments, it lasts a whopping two hours, six minutes and two seconds via the “Play All” option. It uses the standard format with movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We find notes from Raimi, Ziskin, Arad, Dunst, Maguire, Molina, Curtis, Acheson, Spadone, Simmons, Dykstra, Bottegoni, actors James Franco, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rosemary Harris, Stan Lee, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, comic book writer Jeph Loeb, illustrators Alex Tavoularis and Wil Madoc Rees, production designer Neil Spisak, art directors Steve Saklad and Tom Wilkins, visual effects art director Tom Valentine, set designer Jeff Markwith, additional suit designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., specialty costumer Shownee Smith, editor Bob Murawski, executive producer Joe Caracciolo, location manager John Fedynich, motion control supervisor Nic Nicholson, stunt coordinator Dan Bradley, fight coordinator Dion Lam Tat Ho, co-stunt coordinator Scott Rogers, special effects supervisor John Frazier, visual effects editor Jody Fedele, animation supervisor Anthony LaMolinara, digital effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk, visual effects supervisor Eric Durst, sound designer Paul Ottosson, sound re-recording mixers Kevin O’Connell and Greg P. Russell, foley artist Gary Hecker, and composer Danny Elfman.
The program goes through a mix of subjects. We learn about the success of the first movie and a little about the comics’ legacy, the sequels story and script, its characters and their development, the movie’s look and design, sets and locations, costumes, Raimi’s directorial style and the atmosphere on the set, shooting Spidey’s web-swinging scenes and other visual effects photography, stunts and fight sequences, practical effects, editing and cut footage, visual effects and digital elements, audio elements and the score, and some summarizing remarks.
As you can tell from the long list of subjects covered in “Amazing”, it covers a wide variety of topics related to the movie. As you can assume from such a long program, it does so in a detailed and incisive manner. I think a few too many movie clips pop up, but those don’t cause substantial distractions. Instead, the interviews and archival footage help offer a rich examination of the film’s creation. It spends much of the time on nuts and bolts, and I would’ve liked more notes of the creative side, with more information about the script, story and characters. Nonetheless, it usually delves into the subjects well, and it offers a lively and entertaining look at the material.
A collection of three featurettes pops up next. We find “Hero In Crisis” (14 minutes, 48 seconds), “Ock-Umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You” (22:08), and “Interwoven: The Women of Spider-Man” (15:25). “Hero” presents information from Maguire, Lee, Raimi, Dunst, Ziskin, Loeb, Curtis, Arad, Harris, Quesada, comics artist John Romita, and comics writer J. Michael Straczynski. They discuss character issues, with an emphasis on all the problems that confront Peter Parker. Some decent introspection appears here, particularly when the comic book folks discuss Spidey’s history.
”Eight Arms” includes chats with Lee, Molina, Romita, Quesada, Straczynski, Arad, Ziskin, Acheson, Curtis, Spisak, Dykstra, Frazier, Steve Johnson, Eric Hayden, art director Jeff Knipp, and animatronics producer Heide Waldbaum. This show goes into all things Ock-related. We learn a little about the historical character, Molina’s take on the part, effects and visual design, and making all the components work. Inevitably, some of the information repeats from elsewhere, particularly about the tentacles and other effects elements. Nonetheless, the program gets into the issues well, and it’s good to see the bits in action. “Eight Arms” offers a nice neat look at the relevant Ock issues.
Finally, “Women” gives us statements from Dunst, Harris, Raimi, Maguire, Curtis, Ziskin, Quesada, Lee, Arad, Straczykski, Romita, Loeb, and actors Donna Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, and Mageina Tovah. It goes through character notes about Aunt May, MJ, Betty Brant, Gwen Stacy, and Ursula. It resembles “Hero” in the way it looks at the various roles. It’s sporadically interesting, and again, the notes about the comics are the most compelling.
Enter the Web presents a multi-angle feature. It presents views from the filming of the movie’s climactic action sequence on the set, and we see some bluescreen photography too. In addition to the four angles, we can also look at a screen with a composite of all four. (One of the angles pops up infrequently, but the other three are there at all times.) Each angle lasts 14 minutes and 15 seconds. I love this sort of raw footage, and this extra offers an excellent way to get behind the scenes.
During the movie’s opening credits, we watch character paintings from artist Alex Ross. These show up on their own in the Gallery. We find 17 stills in this nice little collection.
The Interactive domain looks at some videogames. We get a trailer for Activision’s Spider-Man 2: The Game that lasts two minutes, 11 seconds. We also see “Spinning Movie Magic Into Game Magic”, a three-minute and 32-second featurette about the videogame. It includes information from creative director Yoshitomo Moriwaki, and chief animator James Zachary. They provide a decent look at the challenges presented by the game. It’s not much, but it gives us a couple of good insights into the game design process.
In the Easter Egg department, go to the first screen for “Making the Amazing” and click up to highlight a Doc Ock tentacle. Press “enter” and you’ll see a 71 second snippet in which a special guest star shows Alfred Molina how to perform a scene. I’ll leave that person’s identity a secret, though they allude to this gag in the documentary.
Another egg can be found in the “Gallery” section. Click up from “Proceed” to accentuate Spidey-Sense waves. Hit enter to watch Molina break into “If I Were a Rich Man” on the set.
Some will argue that Spider-Man 2 outdoes its predecessor. I loved the first movie too much to agree, but I also can’t find too much fault with those thoughts, as the sequel works awfully well. It presents a lively, vivid, funny, dramatic and touching experience that continues the series brilliantly. The DVD’s picture quality is erratic but generally good. Audio appears positive, and the collection of extras offers a great deal of terrific information. I wholeheartedly recommend Spider-Man 2.