Buy movie posters at AllPosters.com
125 minutes | Rated: PG-13
WIDE: Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Directed by Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Elizabeth Banks, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Dylan Baker, Donna Murphy, Vanessa Ferlito, Ted Raimi, Bill Nunn, Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee (cameo)
This film is on the Best of 2004 list.
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 25%|
WIDESCREEN: A MUST
This movie's action and character drama will play well on the small screen, but with its spectacular visuals, if you don't get the widescreen version you're wasting your money.
VIDEO RELEASE: 11.30.2004
The big bonus on this extensive two-disc DVD package is "Making the Amazing," a feature-length making-of special (in 12 chapters that can be cued up separately). While it is engrossingly in-depth at times (story development, set creation, practical effects & CGI planning, stunts, editing, sound, music and foley), this "documentary" is the polar opposite of "Spider-Man 2" in creativity -- a completely prefabricated effort comprised of autopilot interviews coupled with behind-the-scenes snippets and clips from the movie. It's the kind of promo run between shows on HBO, just stretched to two hours. An accompanying feature about the evolution of Doc Ock is better, but another about "the women of Spider-Man" is pure filler.
Slightly more effort goes into a multi-angle feature showing the filming of a climactic moment from three on-set cameras, and from the actual takes that would appear in the film. This extra really gives one the sense of how tediousness some effects work must be for actors like Kirsten Dunst, who is shown hanging (and hanging, and hanging) in the air against blue screen for a brief shot of her falling.
The two commentary tracks might make good company-keepers while doing chores some lazy Saturday afternoon, but they're not interesting enough to justify their own sit-down viewing. On one track, Raimi and Maguire delve into character development and abandoned story ideas, and give each other a good ribbing. Their track is intercut with one from producers Avi Arad and Grant Curtis, who still seem to be trying to sell the movie. The second commentary track features F/X designer John Dykstra, his crew intercut with a pair of guys who worked on creating and puppeteering Doc Ock's tentacles. It's pure geek fare, but if that's your cup of tea, it's certainly worth a listen.
OTHER NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
Trivia subtitle track, making-of about the tie-in game, middling blooper reel, trailers and an art gallery of the cartoon paintings used in the title sequence.
SOUND & PICTURE
Some bonus features have some imperfect resolution, with digital-artifact lines that dash by on hi-res screens. The film itself looks a little soft, but it sounds spectacular.
RATIO: 2.40:1 (16x9 enhanced)
DUBS: French, Spanish
SUBS: English, French, Spanish
DVD RATING: **1/2
OTHER REVIEWS/COMING SOON
Spectacular action is just the beginning of character-driven superhero sequel that improves on 'Spider-Man' in every way
Here's why Toby Maguire's Spider-Man is the greatest superhero in movie history:
Maguire so completely embodies the character's unique yin and yang -- the joyous, daredevil confidence of Spidey and the sweet, self-doubting young chump that is Peter Parker -- that the exhilarating action in "Spider-Man 2" is less interesting than his inner turmoil at being torn between doing what he's compelled to do and having the life he wants.
It rips Peter up inside to lie to Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) -- the girl he not-so-secretly loves and who not-so-secretly loves him back -- in order to protect her from the horrors that could befall a superhero's girlfriend if any super villains knew who she was. It hurts him to know that his best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), wants to kill Spider-Man because Spider-Man killed his father (the first movie's Green Goblin).
He's not a superhero who loves his job, like Superman. He's not a psychologically pent-up billionaire who works out his demons as a vigilante, like Batman. Peter Parker is an insecure kid who would be just an insecure kid if he didn't believe, as his uncle said before he died in Peter's arms from a carjacker's bullet, that "with great power comes great responsibility."
And here's why "Spider-Man 2" is one of those rarest of cinematic gems -- a sequel that bests its predecessor: None of this complexity takes a back seat to commercialism or clichés. There's no soundtrack-selling cameo by Macy Gray and no villain with an evil cackle eating away at the movie's surprising soul this time. Returning director Sam Raimi breaks more rules than he follows and the resulting depth will improve the film's shelf life. 2002's "Spider-Man" was good bubble gum, but this movie is a Willie Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper.
In "Spider-Man 2," Peter Parker has become tormented by living up to the responsibilities of his secret life, and that has made his personal life a wreck. He's failing his beloved science courses at college, he can't pay his rent to his crazy Russian slumlord, the bank is foreclosing on the house he grew up in with his warm and loving aunt May (Rosemary Harris), and since Mary Jane has become an actress and a model, he's haunted by her beautiful visage on perfume billboards all over New York.
Worse yet, the stress has taken a toll on his super powers. Faced with the possibility of losing MJ forever (she's engaged to marry an astronaut), he's just about to ashcan the Spandex for good when one of his scientific mentors, Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), who has been working on a breakthrough in fusion, falls victim to a lab accident (this happens a lot to Parker's scientific mentors). He becomes fused to a set of creepy, snake-like robotic arms -- harnessed to his back to help him manipulate his unstable fusion experiments -- and soon the single-minded artificial intelligence that controls the arms is manipulating him instead.
Suddenly determined to see his dangerous experiments through at all costs, the now-psychotic Doc Ock becomes a menace to the city -- and to Peter in particular since he knows Spider-Man is the only one who can stop him from essentially creating a small sun that could consume Manhattan.
Raimi packs this sequel with ante-upping, white-knuckled action scenes that are wildly imaginative -- even reinventing the anachronistic train-top fight sequence on an elevated subway with spectacular results. (Nevermind that New York doesn't have elevated trains, let alone one with unfinished tracks that teeter over the waterfront.)
He improves enormously on the first film's mediocre web-slinging special effects. He peppers the picture with his uniquely, charismatically cheesy sense of humor (one of Spidey's stress symptoms is a loss of web fluid, forcing him to take an elevator from a rooftop in one amusingly awkward scene) and with insider homages to his B-movie beginnings.
Raimi also shows great respect for comic-book lore while having a little ironic fun at the format's expense. "A guy named Octavius ends up with eight limbs! What are the chances?" barks vein-popping, cigar-chomping J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), tight-fisted editor of the trashy tabloid for which Peter freelances as a photographer.
But most of all Raimi demonstrates a gift for melding overblown big-budget action into what is, at its heart, a character-driven drama of human conflict built upon almost profound performances.
Meeting Maguire on every level, Kirsten Dunst once again brings out the depth and emotional puzzlement of Mary Jane, who is constantly on tenterhooks over the pain she feels when Peter pushes her away despite a magnetism between them that is overwhelming. The actress also understands what it takes to be a great damsel in distress, adding fantastic tension to the movie's climax.
Alfred Molina ("Frida") lends Doc Ock a surprising touch of heartbreak as somewhere inside his besieged mind he recognizes that he's destroying his dreams -- and potentially killing millions -- but is not able to stop himself. Rosemary Harris has this wonderful way of hinting very, very slightly at Aunt May's suspicions of her dear nephew's secret identity -- even when she's saddled with some badly over-scripted sagacity.
Only James Franco doesn't rise to the occasion, seeming shallow and pouty as Harry -- but maybe that's more the character than the actor. He is, after all, the spoiled but unloved son of a dead millionaire.
"Spider-Man 2" has its share of nagging imperfections -- not the least of which is the fallacious (if not impossible) solution to the movie's action climax. But with the triple-whammy finale that follows, I guarantee you'll be left breathless -- and downright ravenous for the next installment, which unfortunately isn't due until 2007.
(Although I do think the end could have been better... -- but this link contains spoilers, so consider yourself warned!)