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Spider-man 2.1Spider-Man 2.1 on DVD  

Spidey's back and more angst-filled than ever in this extended version of the first Spider-Man sequel.

2.1 adds some eight minutes of previously unreleased footage. The box says it's "never before seen" but someone must have seen it or they couldn't have dug it up for this release….

The story picks up some time after the first movie ends, and it actually gives you a pretty good primer on Spidey during the opening credits, which feature comic book-like drawings of events from the first film. But now Peter Parker a.k.a. Spidey, is in college and working freelance as a photographer for J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle as well as being a pizza delivery boy, er, person.

But Spider-man is destroying his life. After all, it's pretty tough to keep up with your life and your responsibilities when you're being called upon constantly to bust some low life, save some pussycat from a tree, or do whatever other task super heroes do willingly. So his studies are going badly and he's in danger of flunking out, and only a couple of minutes into the film he gets fired from his pizza delivery job for not being dependable.

Then there's Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the love of his life he dare not love lest his enemies use her against him. She has an acting career that seems to be going well and, much to Peter's chagrin, a relationship with an astronaut who also happens to be the son of editor Jameson (J.K. Simmons, repeating his terrific, over the top performance from the first film). He just can't give her the support she wants and needs – and he knows she loves him but just can't respond lest he endanger her.

It's a tough spot for any love stricken guy to be in.

Further complicating things is Harry Osborn (James Franco), Peter's lifelong friend but a guy who wants to kill Spider-man for apparently murdering his father – though as anyone who saw the first film knows there was a lot more to it than that. And his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) is about to be thrown out of her house via foreclosure.

Can anyone not understand why he'd be fed up with his Spider-man blessing/curse and want to be just a regular guy?

As events unfold and Spidey is doing his thing, his angst starts affecting his powers, making them unreliable. And of course this happens just as another super villain appears on the scene, threatening Spidey's ability to keep New York safe for humanity.

The villain's a delicious one: Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), who was a kindly but driven nuclear scientist in the employ of Harry Osborn until his fusion experiment went bad and the robotic arms he used took over his body and his brain. Now he's a maniacal villain as befits such a film, and it's all Spidey can do to defeat him – especially with powers that are only working sporadically.

But you knew all that from the original Spider-man 2 DVD. What's new in 2.1 that's worth your while?

Well, the extra eight minutes give you some new special effects scenes and they're worth seeing. Other than that, some of the new material is actually inferior to the original film/DVD's – specifically the great scene where a suddenly powerless Spidey is forced to take an elevator to the surface and has to interact with another passenger. Apparently, they filmed several versions of this scene, basically as improv, and the one they chose for 2.1 is longer and a lot less funny than the original. Too bad.

We get the impression this is yet another attempt by Hollywood to dip yet again into the wallets of a public the industry generally treats like walking checkbooks (criminal walking wallets, actually, what with the anti-piracy warnings and copy protection every disc contains). We'll admit that, other than the elevator scene, the extra stuff was cool, but not cool enough for us to recommend you buy the disc if you already have the original DVD release.

On the other hand, we never got the original DVD (though we've seen it) and because of that we think there may be a reason to get this version: its spectacular picture quality. The DVD, featuring anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) video, looks fabulous. The picture is sharp and clean and colorful – we'd rate it reference quality and for that reason we're thrilled it's now in our library.

The audio is also first rate, though we were disappointed that there's no dts track available. dts would have been another incentive to buy, for people who love a good dts track, but such was not to be.

On the other other hand, there's a pile of extras here to sweeten the deal. Here's a quick list of most of the added stuff:

  • Commentary featuring producer Laura Ziskin & screenwriter Alvin Sargent
  • Spidey Sense 2.1 trivia track with integrated pop ups
  • Sneak Peek of Spider-Man 3
  • Inside 2.1 - Featurette on the new cut
  • Multi-angle: Danny Elfman's score
  • VFX breakdowns
  • "With Great Effort Comes Great Recognition" feature
  • And more

So if you haven't already bought Spidey 2, or want a disc you can use to show off your home theater, this may be a good bet.

Spider-man 2.1, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
136 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris
Produced by Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad
Written by Alvin Sargent, Directed by Sam Raimi

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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