Friday, April 20, 2007

From the Archive: "Spider-Man 2.1" Extended Edition DVD Review

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original DVD review of “Spider-Man 2.1."

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Spider-Man 2.1”
DVD Review - Originally published April 20th, 2011

Film Rating: A+ (Original Theatrical Version: A)

Technical Ratings:
Video: A-
Audio: A
Extras: C

Spider-Man 2 holds a special place in my heart.  It was the first film I ever reviewed for the Colorado Kids, and to this day is one of the best I’ve ever reviewed.  (I have reviewed, at the time of this writing, 64 films for the Colorado Kids.)  Spider-Man 2 was the first press screening I attended, and I remember every little detail of the screening.  It was at the UA Continental Theater in Denver, it was at 7:00, I got there 45 minutes early, and they had not booked the correct amount of press seats.

As a result, I was put in the very back row of the auditorium, where the comic book geeks were sitting.  There was this man who kept making motions with his hands, acting like Doc Ock, and he was beyond weird.  Thankfully, he stopped before the screening started, but I got a small glimpse into the world of comic book geeks (and it is not a pleasant world). 

I remember all this not because it was weird, but because the film was so immensely powerful that I remembered every detail of the evening.  Spider-Man 2 hooks you from the first scene and never lets you go until the credits roll.  You are on the edge of your seat in the action moments as well as the quiet, introspective moments.  The film is not just an action/superhero movie.  It a deep, emotional drama; it’s a coming of age story; it’s a comedy.  It combines many different genres into one film, and performs each one as masterfully as the next.

You can tell lots of collaboration went into the project; after all, that’s how a good movie is made.  The directing, the writing, the cinematography, the special effects, the acting, the music, the editing; all these equally important pieces are preformed as excellent as the next, and it makes for what is possibly the greatest superhero movie ever made.  Spider-Man 3 looks good, but I just don’t believe it can top Spider-Man 2.

I saw it again with the rest of my family that weekend, and it was as unbelievably good then too.  It retained its power on DVD, and when I heard an extended/re-cut edition was coming out, I was ecstatic.  Of course, extended editions are a hit and miss game, the best in the category being The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions.  Those were so good that there’s no way any extended edition could ever be as good as them, and so, going into Spider-Man 2.1, I kept that in mind. 

The final verdict: Spider-Man 2.1 is no Lord of the Rings Extended Edition; but it does make an already excellent movie even deeper and better.  It’s one of the best Extended Editions I’ve ever seen.  It doesn’t add any new, big scenes; instead, it extends scenes subtly and gracefully, and makes the movie flow better and feel even more emotional and deep.  It’s not just extended, though; some scenes use alternate takes or are re-cut in such a way to make them new to the viewer, and it works extremely well.

The best changes are in the first hour.  The first change is in the scene where Peter delivers the pizzas to the office building.  When he arrives, there’s a five second edition where he pulls web off the top of the pizza box.  Subtle, yes, but adds to the scene quite a bit.  The birthday scene is heavily extended and re-cut.  Harry and Peter’s conversation is longer, and explains Harry’s motives much better then the theatrical cut did.  Aunt May has a little more screen time here, introducing her better, and finally, Mary-Jane and Peter’s talk outside is comprised of different takes and dialogue.  It sets up there relationship much better then in the theatrical cut, and starts the romance part of this movie off on a better foot.

The awkward scene in the elevator, when Spider-Man is having trouble producing web, is comprised of a completely different take.  In the theatrical cut, I believed that the scene was superfluous and silly, but the scene is lots of fun in this version.  I won’t spoil it for you.

In the first hour, not five minutes go by where there isn’t a small change or addition, the most noticeable being an extended version of the scene where Peter “talks” to Uncle Ben before giving up his life as Spider-Man, and an extended version of his talk with the doctor, which sets up some of Peter’s lines later in the movie.

The last hour’s additions are mostly to the action sequences.  The fight on the train near the end is about two minutes longer, and really adds lots of tension to the scene.  There’s also a new scene with J. Jonah Jameson and the Spidey Outfit that I won’t spoil for you, but trust me, you’ll be rolling on the floor laughing.

The best thing about all these changes is that they feel very, very natural, like they were always there.  If you go back and watch parts of the theatrical again, it feels a bit choppy compared to the 2.1 edition. 

In my book, an A rating for a film is the equivalent of 4 stars.  An A+ is a 4-star film that goes the extra mile, and while the theatrical cut of Spider-Man 2 is easily an A, 2.1 is an A+, just as easily.  It expands on the film in a way I didn’t think possible.

The presentation on this 2-disc DVD is excellent.  The picture is subtly better than the original DVD’s, as is the audio.  The colors are a bit more vibrant, and the audio is a bit more powerful.  However, if you only want this set for better picture, don’t spend money on it.  The picture and audio isn’t enough improved to merit buying this set all on its own.

Neither are the Extras.  I wasn’t expecting much, so I wasn’t disappointed.  I have the theatrical cut DVD, and it has a nice long 3 hour documentary on the making of the film, so I really don’t need anything more.

What we do get is a short featurette about making the 2.1 version.  It’s very disappointing, and doesn’t give much insight into the making of the extended version.  The other featurette is about the awards the film has received.  It’s short, but sweet.  There’s also a VFX breakdown, the best feature on the disc, that is a cool watch, especially for special-effects lovers.

Finally, there’s a multi-angle featurette about Danny Elfman’s score, the other best feature on this set.  It’s a fun watch, especially if you love film scores.  Finally, there’s the theatrical preview for Spider-Man 3, and a three minute featurette about the film, previously seen on the “First Look” program at Regal, AMC, and Century theaters.  It gets you pumped for what is shaping up to be an excellent follow up to the first two films.

Additionally, though it’s not an extras, the menus for the two discs are the same from their respective discs in the original set.  It’s cool, because if you own both versions, it’s like owning a big 4-disc version. 

So, in short, buy this set if you’re a fan of the film.  The extended version is worth the price, (12-14.99 at most stores) and while the extras don’t wow, they are worth a look.  If you only want this set for the extras, I suggest you pop in disc two of the first set again instead of paying more money. 

Also, while the 2.1 version is Unrated, know that it contains no content above a PG-13 rating.  It’s fine for kids over 9 or 10.  

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