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Two years have passed since the mild-mannered Peter Parker walked away from his longtime love Mary Jane Watson and decided to take the road to responsibility as Spider-Man. Peter must face new challenges as he struggles with "the gift and the curse" of his powers while balancing his dual identities as the elusive superhero Spider-Man and life as a college student. Peter's life-long yearning for M.J. becomes even stronger as he fights the impulse to abandon his secret life and declare his love. In the meantime, M.J. has moved on with her life. She has embarked on an acting career and has a new man in her life. Peter's relationship with his best friend Harry Osborn has been overshadowed by Harry's growing vendetta against Spider-Man, whom he holds responsible for his father's death. The relationships Peter holds most dear are now in danger of unraveling as he clashes with the powerful, multi-tentacled villain Doctor Octopus aka "Doc Ock". Peter must now learn to accept his fate and harness all his superhero talents in order to stop this diabolical madman in his octagonal tracks.
For more about Spider-Man 2 and the Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray release, see Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 7, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, Donna Murphy
Director: Sam Raimi
» See full cast & crew
Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray Review
Better than the first, and now with incredible PQ.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 7, 2013
I believe there's a hero in all of us.
Director Sam Raimi has accomplished something special with Spider-Man 2. He's taken a successful formula -- everything that made his first Spider-Man so great -- and improved upon it. Hooray for continuity, vision, commitment, and fantastic source material. All are critical in pushing the franchise forward and making it better, not so much significantly but rather subtly. At its core, the two movies are largely the same on the outside, but it's what develops under the surface that makes this sequel a real winner. And without the need to establish the character origins and the universe, Spider-Man 2 finds itself in a position to more fully explore all that those characters and that universe have to offer. And even considering the greater thematic underlay, Spider-Man 2 still amps up the energy, excitement, and fun factor in its action sequences. In short, it's moviemaking at its best, perhaps not the finest in any one area -- there have been better action spectacles and superior character dramas -- but very hard to top when all the pieces are considered in sum.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) can't seem to find much order in his life. His everyday identity is constantly interrupted by the requirements of his alter-ego, Spider-Man. He's been fired from his pizza delivery job and he's in danger of flunking out of school. His last, best hope for college might be in a research paper he's writing on Oscorp's most brilliant scientific mind, Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and there's nobody better to introduce Peter to him than Peter's friend and Oscorp's own, Harry Osborn (James Franco). When Octavius' experimental fusion reactor goes haywire, his wife is killed and his special four-armed mechanical suit becomes fused with his body. It alters him into a psychotic villain who will stop at nothing to continue his work and collect the tritium his reactor requires, even if it means destroying the city and battling Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Parker's inability to control his emotions and balance his life leaves him vulnerable and powerless, forcing him to find that balance -- and fast -- or give up his identity as Spider-Man once and for all.
Watching Spider-Man 2, one cannot help but to notice that, superficially, this is nearly the exact same movie as the first. Sam Raimi did something similar with his Evil Dead and Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn films, in essence recreating the first film in the sequel. Spider-Man 2's similarities aren't quite so drastic, however, but see if these plot points sound familiar. Peter Parker chases Mary Jane, but wrestles with whether he can have her, now not because he's a geek but because he's Spider-Man. Mary Jane still secretly pines for Peter but still plays the field, this time with the Bugle chief's son. The film's villain is a gifted, highly intelligent, and more or less likable (though not so much as Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn) scientist whose experiment goes terribly wrong and transforms him into a super villain. What sets Spider-Man 2 apart, then, is what goes on underneath all the noise. In essence, the real villain in the film is Peter's own struggle to come to terms with who he is, what he can be, and where his life is headed. He slowly grasps the true meaning of "with great power comes great responsibility," learning that uncontrollable emotions and a fragile psyche mean a powerless superhero. Though he physically battles Doc Ock, he emotionally battles the realities of his own life, and it's in his inner struggles -- finding a balance between the man in the suit and the man out of it, drawing on the strengths both offer him, and emerging a stronger man and a greater superhero -- that the film finds its greatest success and its separation from the first picture.
Again, Raimi directs an excellent cast. Maguire plays the lead part very well, depicting the emotional turmoil perhaps not with the sort of nuance it might have benefited even more from but well enough to get the meaning across without being blunt about it. Where Maguire shines brightest is in his ability to show Peter Parker at his most vulnerable, not only physically but emotionally. The extremes are where the film finds its most impressive feeling of significance, and Maguire shows himself to be up to the challenge of portraying an outwardly wounded and inwardly wayward superhero. Just as important, he still shares that unmistakable spark with Kirsten Dunst, whose role feels a bit more out of the way in this film, no less critical to the story of Peter Parker but not quite so much up front, at least not in a physical sense. Alfred Molina makes a quality Doc Ock, slipping into the costume and supportive effects very well. The character feels somewhat relegated to a supportive element, a necessary outward foe for Parker to battle rather than a more fully developed villain, but Raimi makes excellent use of character to construct some amazing action scenes, all of which are smartly choreographed and expertly photographed.
Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony's commitment to releasing the finest Blu-ray products is evident with every spin of a Sony-branded disc. The consistency of product -- from the latest blockbusters to the most cherished classic titles from years gone by -- is arguably tops in the entire industry, and why shouldn't it be; Sony was a lead Blu-ray design and advocacy outfit, its PlayStation 3 console offered disc playback and instant wide format adoption, and the first wave of titles released back in 2006 bore the Sony label on the spine. Since then, and through a few growing pains and spurts -- a bloody format war, a misstep or two, the transition from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD Master Audio -- the studio has emerged as the most trustworthy in the industry when it comes to its Blu-ray product. When it says Sony, chances are extremely high that the movie is going to look (and sound) about as good as the format allows. Now, Sony is recalling the days of its "Superbit" DVD releases with the emergence of "Mastered in 4K" (*) Blu-ray discs. The new transfers are sourced from 4K masters but here's where the giant asterisk comes in: they're then downscaled to standard Blu-ray 1080p resolution. That means buyers can enjoy them on their regular old Blu-ray players and their regular old HDTVs -- no fancy new hardware required. The downside is that viewers aren't really seeing the material in 4K; even those who shell out the large sum of cash for a new 4K TV will be treated only to an upscaled presentation, much the same way today's regular old TV/playback 1080p device combos upscale standard definition DVDs.
Watching the "Mastered in 4K" transfer in 1080p does yield some benefits over the standard 1080p Blu-ray releases, even if it's not a true 4K experience. The discs take advantage of a significantly higher bitrate than regular old Blu-ray discs, meaning more muscle to produce the finest picture quality, revealing superior details and showcasing that perfect cinematic, pleasing grain texturing for pictures photographed on film and more accuracy for those photographed in the wholly digital realm. "Mastered in 4K" discs also promise superior color balance and accuracy, reproducing a more faithful-to-the-source palette that will reveal the sort of natural shading and subtle nuance even the best of 1080p Blu-ray cannot match. More, Sony promises enhanced viewing on its own line of 4K TVs thanks to a proprietary upscaling algorithm that's designed to squeeze the most out of the "Mastered in 4K" line of Sony discs, above and beyond what any competitor's display can offer. Makes sense considering some branch of Sony is at work along every step of the process. Unfortunately, one of Sony's shiny new 4K televisions was not available for review purposes, but suffice it to say that either of the launch displays -- the 55" and 65" XBR-labeled sets -- will undoubtedly offer the best consumer viewing picture to date, whether joined with a Sony "Mastered in 4K" disc or a regular old Blu-ray from any studio.
Sony really isn't fooling around with these releases. Spider-Man 2 spins out a gorgeous high definition transfer, positively one of the finest the format has ever seen, and that's watching it on a regular old 1080p TV, not one of Sony's upscaling sets (how great would it look on that?). This is picture quality perfection. First of all, and most importantly, it truly replicates a cinematic feel in the home. The image is beautifully defined at every turn, in each shot, no matter the place, lighting, or style. Light grain accentuates the transfer's best characteristics and solidifies its filmic feel. Details are astounding. The image clarity and definition truly excel. Facial features appear perfectly defined, the Spider-Man suit reveals every small nuance, the Doc Ock tentacles show every nook and cranny and bit of wear, and cityscape shots showcase the finest in urban jungle texturing. Sharpness is consistent and natural, and the viewer is sure to become absorbed in the astonishing level of detail. Just as important, colors are excellent. The palette is rich and vibrant, whether the most gentle shades or the boldest Spider-Man costume reds. Balance is superb; there's not a hint of dullness, excess vibrancy, or bleeding. Black levels are perfect, and flesh tones never appear pasty or anything less than natural. In essence, the picture looks straight out of the theater in the home. That's the highest compliment one can pay to a Blu-ray, and it defines this experience.
Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Spider-Man 2's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack dazzles nearly as much as the picture. Nearly (it's hard to top that PQ). As one might rightly expect, the track is a dynamic powerhouse that enjoys precision from the gentlest dialogue moments to the most energized Action scenes. City ambience is well integrated and natural; it's amongst the first things the audience will hear as Peter rushes to work and attempts to beat the clock to deliver pizza. All the traffic, congestion, and the general din of the streets are all nicely implemented around the entire stage. Musical delivery is accurate and pleasing, again from the most subtle notes to the most dynamic score. Spacing never feels cramped, surround use is well implemented and naturally enveloping, and the low end proves expertly balanced and supportive. Action scenes, of course, steal the show. Crunching metal, speeding trains, and all variety of mayhem push the sound system to its limits but plays with impeccable clarity even in the busiest scenes. Bass is potent, but it never drops into the murky, rattly territory where it becomes raw power and noise rather than precision-tuned support. Dialogue plays smoothly an evenly from the center, the final piece to a very big and endlessly exhilarating sound presentation.
Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray release of Spider-Man 2 contains no supplemental content. An Ultraviolet digital copy code is, however, included in the box.
Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Spider-Man 2 is, in essence, the perfect sequel, following to a "T" that old adage that says the finest sequels simply take the best of the original and improve upon it. It may have been outdone in the years to follow by films that managed to be more purely entertaining or more dramatically satisfying, but Sam Raimi's web-slinger sequel is still a gem of a movie, a perfect popcorn film that also manages to find a current of humanity and thematic relevance under the costumes, visual effects, and explosions. It's a movie in perfect harmony from start to finish that should serve as a model for all others that aspire to comic book movie greatness. Sony's "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray release of Spider-Man 2 features incredible video -- amongst the finest the format has ever seen -- and equally astonishing audio. As usual, no supplements are included. Recommended on the strength of the film and for the showroom-worthy picture quality.
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