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Published July 16th, 2004 | by Michelle Thomas

Spider-Man 2.1 Review

Another blast of a summer sequel! Spiderman 2 swings into cinemas giving the jolly green ogre a run for his money, and it’s a blast. I must just confess that I’ve always loved Spiderman, pre-disposed to enjoy a Spidey flick, and overlook any flaws. But Spiderman 2 is just an exhilarating joyful big summer picture, fantastic, fun, and funny. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, the elegant credits fill in the back story without the need to resort to a lame ‘previously on Spiderman’ voice-over and deftly remind you of the story’s comic book origins. Then we’re straight into the action, with Peter Parker (Maguire) struggling to cope with two full-time jobs and a college degree. He’s failing to please anyone, always late, always tired, and his professor threatens to fail him unless he pulls up his socks. Old friend Harry Osborn (Franco) offers to introduce him to Doctor Otto Octavius (Molina), a groundbreaking researcher for Oscorp, whose experiments with nuclear fission are the subject of Pete’s paper. Naturally, the experiment goes horribly wrong, leaving Octavius’ wife dead, and Octavius himself with a set of metal limbs with minds of their own.

Pete has reached crisis point. His unhappiness, exhaustion and lack of private life are affecting his spider powers, and when he lets MJ (Dunst) down, he decides he’s had enough. Freed of his responsibilities, he begins to enjoy himself, turning in good work at college and covering society events for the Daily Bugle. He also deals with some of his demons, finally telling Aunt May what really happened the night that Uncle Ben died. But though Peter relishes his freedom, he struggles with guilt at abandoning his calling. And when Doc Ock teams up with Harry Osborn to bring Spiderman down, Pete has to decide what matters to him most…

To say that I loved this film would be an understatement. I REALLY loved it! I wanted to be Spiderman, and I wanted Sam Raimi to hurry up and make Spiderman 3 so that I could watch it straightaway.

The thing about Spiderman is that he’s not an alien or a billionaire. He’s a bit of a geek, an everyman, struggling to deal with the responsibilities that have been thrust upon him, that he didn’t choose, or particularly want. So for all the cool webslinging and the fantastic action scenes, Spiderman’s story is also about his inner turmoil coming to terms with his identity. Sam Raimi, confident off the back of the first film, seems much more relaxed here, not afraid to slow the story down in the middle section, nor to insert some sly humour – there’s even a chainsaw gag. And then suddenly – boom – the third act is just brilliant, with a fantastic fight scene on top, inside, and under a speeding commuter train. The CGI has come on so much since Part1, and the big set pieces look great. I must add a word of praise for Doc Ock’s snake-like tentacles, which somehow conveyed a sinister intelligence. My only quibble was with MJ’s hair in some scenes – didn’t they have the budget for shampoo?

But (not entirely serious) quibbling apart, Spiderman 2 is my idea of a perfect summer movie. Great action, good characters, good acting, good villains, a good story: I came out of the cinema grinning with delight. Higher praise hath no man.

In the build up to the theatrical release of Spider-Man 3, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings us the two-disc DVD launch of Spider-Man 2.1: Extended Cut. This limited release features eight minutes of never-before-seen footage including two brand new scenes, plus an introduction by producers Grant Curtis and Avi Arad, commentary by producer Laura Ziskin and two-time Oscar winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent.

The all-new bonus disc is packed with added value, including the featurettes Inside Spider-Man 2.1 and the Villains of Spider-Man 3, as well as a sneak peek of Spider-Man 3.

Possibly one for Spider-Man completists only, but if you don’t already own Spider-Man 2 then well worth the purchase price. The new scenes don’t move the story along, so you can see why they were cut for the theatrical release, but they bring the story to life and flesh out Doc, Pete and Harry’s stories, as well as playing like an extended, wonderful trailer for Spider-Man 3, premiering in London tonight.

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