Spider-Man 2.1 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer consistently looked great.
Sharpness worked well. Virtually no instances of softness occurred. Instead, the movie produced nicely crisp and detailed images. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I also detected no edge enhancement. One or two specks popped up, but otherwise the movie looked clean. Only a smidgen of grain became obvious during a few low-light interior shots.
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. Blacks were deep and firm, while low-light shots appeared clear and smooth; no excessive opacity occurred. I found virtually nothing about which to complain during this excellent transfer.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Spider-Man 2 offered solid performance as well. 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 well within the spectrum 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.
How did the picture and audio of Spider-Man 2.1 compare to the two prior releases of Spidey 2? Picture quality definitely improved over the erratic ”standard release” of the theatrical cut, but it looked about the same as the excellent Superbit transfer. As for the audio, all three offered very similar Dolby Digital tracks, but the DTS mix on the Superbit DVD was a little stronger. Nonetheless, this one’s Dolby Digital audio seemed more than satisfactory. The Superbit continues to offer the best picture and sound for Spider-Man 2, but 2.1 comes very close to that level of quality.
This Spider-Man 2.1 set comes with a mix of new extras. On DVD One, we open with an audio commentary from producer Laura Ziskin and screenwriter Alvin Sargent. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They discuss story and character issues, elements cut from the original script, moving along the series, and general production subjects.
Though married in real-life, Ziskin and Sargent don’t show lots of sparks via their interaction. Ziskin strongly dominates the chat, as she provides most of the info and needs to prompt Sargent to get him to say much. We get a fair amount of dead air throughout the piece and not a whole lot of insight. This turns into a mediocre chat.
DVD One also includes a trivia track called Spidey-Sense 2.1. It presents the usual mix of factoids. We learn about the production, cast and crew, characters and story, connections to the comics, and other related elements. Plenty of good details emerge, and these turn “Spidey-Sense” into a useful extra, though some moderate amounts of movie pass without information.
In addition to the text, “Spidey-Sense” integrates occasional pieces of behind the scenes footage. Periodically through the film, the movie image shrinks down and moves to the lower left-hand corner of the screen. We see material from the set fill most of the TV. These bits come without unique audio, as we still hear the flick’s soundtrack. They give us some fun elements from the shoot, though, and are a nice little bonus.
Over on DVD Two, two featurettes launch the disc. Inside Spider-Man 2.1 runs 13 minutes, 35 seconds and mixes movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from producer Avi Arad, co-producer Grant Curtis, editor Bob Murawski, visual FX supervisor Scott Stokdyk, color and lighting TD John Haley, cloth and hair TDs Hector Tantoco, Arturo Aguilar, and 2.1 animation director Spencer Cook.
“Inside” looks at changes made for Spidey 2.1. We get info about the alterations and see how they were rendered for the updated version. This is a helpful program, though it doesn’t detail all the differences.
For the seven-minute and 52-second With Great Effort, Comes Great Recognition, we hear from Stokdyk, visual effects supervisor John Dykstra, and animation supervisor Anthony LaMolinara. “Effort” looks at the visual effects and their success at the Oscars. Though this comes across as a little self-congratulatory, it mostly gives us an interesting glimpse behind the scenes. We see the process through which flicks get chosen for VFX Oscars in this informative piece.
Next comes a Visual Effects Breakdown. This splits into five different parts; all together, they fill 32 minutes, 36 seconds. We get comments from Dykstra, LaMolinara, Stokdyk, VFX producer Lydia Bottegoni, VFX editor Kevin Jolly, and miniatures supervisor Eric Durst. Essentially a collection of five featurettes, we learn about the use of actors vs. CG, challenges related to Doc Ock and capturing CG skin, motion capture, depicting the pier climax, creating the train sequence, and the connections between VFX folks and editors on Spidey 2.
Though rather dry at times, these components give us a solid look at the visual effects. They cover their issues in a thorough manner and usually stay reasonably interesting. Like I said, they can become somewhat stiff on occasion, but they provide good detail and usually entertain as they inform.
Another featurette follows. Danny Elfman Scores Spider-Man 2 lasts five minutes, 10 seconds, though the inclusion of two separate angles makes the potential viewing time twice as long. Actually, Angle One appears during both versions; Angle 2 adds a small inset box through which Elfman discusses his work. The main image shows the recording and mixing processes. We get a few nice insights about the scoring side of things here.
We find the inevitable Spider-Man 3 Sneak Peek. This two-minute and 32-second clip obviously exists to promote the new flick. It may do so well, but since I want to avoid spoilers, I won’t watch it until after May 4th!
Finally, we get a collection of Trailers. Here we discover ads for Spider-Man 3 and Spider-Man 3: The Game.
If you want to see the best version of Spider-Man 2, stick with the theatrical cut. While the extended Spider-Man 2.1 is fun to see for fans and works pretty well on its own, it doesn’t seem as tight and coherent as the original version. The DVD offers excellent visuals, very positive audio, and some reasonably good extras. Serious Spidey fans will want to check out version 2.1, but most folks will remain happiest with the original theatrical Spider-Man 2.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of SPIDER-MAN 2