Spider-Man 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Virtually no issues occurred during this terrific presentation.
Sharpness worked well. The movie consistently displayed solid delineation, as even the widest shots boasted solid clarity and definition. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws were also a non-issue, as the flick lacked obvious defects. It also toned down the heavy grain of the first movie; this time grain seemed within normal limits.
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. Across the board, this was an appealing image.
I also felt very pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Spider-Man 2. 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, but the mix used the speakers to good advantage when appropriate. 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. This was an impressive soundtrack.
How did this 2012 Blu-Ray compare to the original 2007 Blu-ray? Both seem pretty similar to me. While the Spider-Man Blu-ray delivered upgraded visuals, the 2007 Spidey 2 BD already looked and sounded great, so there was little room for improvement. This was essentially a lateral move; the only semi-notable change stemmed from the shift from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD MA here.
While the prior Blu-ray included no extras, this 2012 release boasts most of the bonus materials from earlier DVDs. That means we get three separate audio commentaries: two for the theatrical version of the film and one for the extended cut. 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 pops 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, as this movie’s ending hearkens back to that film’s finale. 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.
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.
To accompany the film’s extended cut, we go to 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.
After this, we head to a multi-part documentary entitled Making the Amazing. Split into 12 segments, it lasts a whopping two hours, six minutes and 26 seconds. 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.
Two featurettes pop up next. We find “Hero In Crisis” (14 minutes, 50 seconds) and “Ock-Umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You” (22:10). 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.
The seven-minute, 31-second Blooper Reel 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.
Next comes a Visual Effects Breakdown. This splits into five different parts; all together, they fill 32 minutes, 38 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.
The disc opens with an ad for The Amazing Spider-Man. We also get Previews for Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance, Men in Black 3, Starship Troopers: Invasion, and the Resident Evil: Damnation video game.
Does the Blu-ray drop anything from prior DVD edition? Yup – quite a lot, in fact. We lose a mix of featurettes and trivia tracks, among other items. Viewed objectively, this Blu-ray still has a strong roster of extras – with three commentaries and an excellent documentary, we find tons of material – but it disappoints me that the set omits so much previously-released footage.
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 Blu-ray’s picture and audio quality are consistently top-notch, and it also boasts an engaging set of supplements.
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray lacks many extras found on the old DVDs, so fans who own those will need to hold onto them. If you already have the 2007 Blu-ray and either own the bonus features from the DVDs or don’t care about those materials, there’s no reason to upgrade; the 2012 Blu-ray demonstrates picture/audio that seem similar to the earlier release. If you don’t possess the 2007 BD, though, you might as well spring for this one, as it’s the most complete Spidey 2 Blu-ray to date.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of SPIDER-MAN 2