Spider-Man 2.1—Sony Pictures

The Spider-Man film franchise has millions of satisfied fans, which is quite an accomplishment by the filmmakers, considering the persnickety nature of comic-book devotees and the quality of most sequels. These fans must be confused by the apparent eagerness to modify one of the great superhero movies of all time, but they need not fret. Sony Pictures’ re-edited Spider-Man 2.1 preserves everything we enjoyed theatrically and on DVD in 2004, plus it offers about eight more minutes of footage, every second of it enjoyable in its own right.

Technically, this new version is seamless, which is no small feat, considering the remarkable number of small scene extensions that have been woven back into the story, often for laughs. (Not to be missed is a too-funny moment with blowhard J. Jonah Jameson and the discarded Spider-Man costume.) It’s impressive that this version enhances the drama with which we are already familiar and includes many new bits during the big set pieces, which required matching digital effects. Surprisingly, even the opening titles have been modified with the “.1” suffix.

The colors are wonderfully rich and pleasing, not just in the classic red and blue of the Spider-suit, but throughout Sam Raimi’s vision of New York City. The outstanding image detail is evident in the actors’ faces in close-ups, despite the presence of some occasional, faint, twitchy graininess, and the many computer-generated and -augmented shots have a warm, natural look. The presentation is in 2.40:1 anamorphic with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Don’t let the title fool you: You will need more than two satellites and a subwoofer to properly reproduce the soundtrack. Doctor Octopus’ four mechanical arms and Spidey’s webbing are the real stars of the surrounds. Their lively sonic presence helps to sell the illusion of such fantastic accessories. The action sequences, meanwhile, are punctuated by precise, impactful low-frequency beats.

The new bonus materials on this two-disc set are many, and, as such, collectors should consider this release a complement to, not a replacement for, the original Spider-Man 2 DVD. Kudos are still merited for those who hired two-time Academy Award–winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent to give the Spider-Man trilogy its unique voice. Here, he takes part in a new audio commentary. The 2005 Oscar win for Visual Effects occurred too late to be noted on the first DVD release, so a new featurette explores that honor. There’s also further coverage of the special effects, a multiangle/multiaudio study of Danny Elfman’s music scoring, as well as an overview of the thinking behind this new edit and the work needed to make it a reality. Of course, there are movie and video-game trailers for Spider-Man 3, along with a promotional video that manages to go on for two-and-a-half minutes without really saying much of anything. Only in Hollywood.