Ah, yes, I forgot that we open with Peter Parker, Spider-Delivery-Man, with The Daily Show‘s Aasif Mandvi as his pizza shop boss. Oh, and Bones (Emily Deschanel) is the smart-aleck receptionist, with Elizabeth Banks as Miss Brant, Jameson’s assistant. Already I’m having fun just seeing what these folks looked like eight years ago. (On Blu-ray, my first reaction is “tired”.) Later, Joel McHale turns up as a banker.
Spider-Man 2 is immensely faithful to the comics. It captures Parker’s struggles to balance friends, family, secrets, school, and a job in such a way many can relate. That’s one of the many reasons Spider-Man was truly something new when he was created — he was distinctly working-class with money struggles that none of the others had, most of whom were playboy millionaires or alien royalty.
His relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is uncomfortable, here, as he turned her down at the end of the last movie in order to protect her. They still clearly care for each other, but things are even more complicated by the burgeoning success she’s having in her modeling/ acting career. Plus, Peter is having confidence problems while heroing, running out of web fluid at key times and eventually determining to give up his secret identity in a powerful scene inspired by John Romita’s comic art (with the suit left in a trash can).
The villain this time around is Dr. Otto Octavius, played well by Alfred Molina, in a story full of examples of how we hurt most those we love. His experiment kills his beloved wife, Spidey puts MJ in danger, and Harry Osborn (James Franco) has gone bonkers over trying to surpass his father’s legacy. That helps balance out the weird way that Spider-Man and Doc Ock keep running into each other, as when the bad guy just happens to be robbing the bank where Peter and his aunt (Rosemary Harris) are trying to get a loan and she happens to be the one kidnapped. The resulting fight scene is pretty dynamite, though, with them crawling all over the buildings.
Still unanswered from the first movie is exactly what Spidey’s webs are attached to when he’s swinging madly through the city, but they’re such great images. Best part of the film is still J.K. Simmons as the larger-than-life J. Jonah Jameson, especially when they’re trying to name the new super-villain or in the costume scene (only in the extended version). This second time through, I enjoyed it more than I did previously, probably because my expectations weren’t as high and I could take it for what it was.
The Blu-ray has the choice of watching the theatrical or extended version. The latter has about eight more minutes, as detailed here, including a completely different elevator scene with Hal Sparks and more on MJ’s love life in a conversation with a friend.
There are three commentaries available, one on the extended version with producer Laura Ziskin and screenwriter Alvin Sargent. The other two are for the theatrical version. The “cast and crew” one has star Tobey Maguire; Sam Raimi, director; and producers Grant Curtis and Avi Arad. It was recorded in 2004, just after the movie opened in theaters. The technical commentary has Steve Johnson, who runs the company who created the animatronic aspects of Doc Ock’s tentacles and is credited as Special Effects Supervisor, with Eric Hayden, puppetmaster for the film.
The “Spidey Sense 2″ trivia track from the Widescreen Special Edition DVD is not included, same as with the first movie Blu-ray. Also missing from the Blu-ray are a music video for Train’s “Ordinary” and four webisodes (from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes), on costume design, a comic-con Q&A from 2003, a spotlight on J. Jonah Jameson, and exploring Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson together.
Carried over from the previous edition to the Blu-ray are a 7 1/2-minute blooper reel and these featurettes:
- The 12-part “Making the Amazing”, over two hours of behind-the-scenes information
- 15 minutes of “Hero in Crisis”, about how sucky Peter’s life is, featuring comic commentary by Stan Lee, John Romita, Jeph Loeb, and J. Michael Straczynski (the latter two credited merely as writers of Spider-Man comics back then), as well as the movie actors telling us what happens in the film
- “Ock-Umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You” (22 minutes) about the origins of this movie’s villain, plus Albert Molina talking about his take on the character and lots of special effects information
Left out was “Interwoven: The Women of Spider-Man”, a DVD extra (15 1/2 minutes) exploring how Peter interacts with Mary Jane, his aunt, Miss Brant, and other women in his life, including the goofy landlord’s daughter. It has lots of comic information and a focus on the love story part of the movie. Stan is particularly entertaining talking about the differences between MJ and Gwen Stacy. The point is made that it took comic readers a long time to accept Mary Jane as the “right” girl for Peter, especially in the face of Gwen’s martyrdom (where she died a perfect sacrifice), and yet MJ is the one in the movie.
There’s also a gallery feature on the DVD allowing you to see more of the Alex Ross paintings used in the opening credits to sum up the previous movie and “Enter the Web”, a feature that allows you to choose different camera angles for the filming of a scene taking place in the sunken lab. The two Easter Eggs, jokes involving Molina, are also missing. In one, he performs “If I Were a Rich Man” with the aid of his tentacles. The other has a special guest showing off how to act with the arms.
New to me on Blu-ray was a five-part Visual Effects Breakdown, over a half-hour in total with John Dykstra, but I admit, I didn’t watch it, since by this point, I was kind of extra’d out. I used to be so excited to see behind the scenes of cool films, but there’s only so much new information any of them can provide once you’ve seen a lot of them. (The studio provided a review copy.)
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