Like its illustrious predecessor, Spider-Man 2 begs the question: Why aren't more big-budget, mass-appeal movies as smart and satisfying as this one? It's not that director Sam Raimi has developed some kind of foolproof formula. Rather, his feel for comic books in general and Spider-Man in particular allows him to pull disparate elements together and make it all look easy.
With this installment of the webby saga, Raimi ups the ante with a fresh palette of dazzling visual effects and a script that deepens Peter Parker's budding angst. If there's a misstep here, it's that Parker and his beloved Mary Jane are given one too many scenes of unfulfilled love. But then it's the humanity of these characters that gives the series its universal appeal.
In an era when many blockbuster films are delivered flawlessly on DVD, Spider-Man 2 still comes off as something special. Bold colors and extraordinary detail are the order of the day. The backgrounds for Spidey's action scenes are amazingly sharp and clear. (They were created not with digital effects but with the movie's secret weapon, the "spyder-cam," which can swoop dozens of stories in a few seconds to gather realistic footage.) And the soundtrack is blessed with uniquely organic effects, realistic enough to make you forget you're watching a movie.
There's no shortage of extras in this two-disc set. Endearingly, star Tobey Maguire practically conducts an interview with Raimi in the cast-and-crew commentary, just as any true Spider-Man fan would. [For our own interview with Raimi, see "BackTalk" - Ed.] And the technical commentary lives up to its name with mountains of detail on the creation of movie magic. Almost three hours worth of documentary material covers every possible aspect of the production. Only the pop-up trivia track and a blooper reel fall flat. But all the extras will make you impatient for Spider-Man 3. [PG-13] English, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround; French and Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.
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