This sequel is more than equal

Spider-Man 2

Sony, $30

Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina

The Web: “Spider-Man 2" marks one of the rare times when a sequel is better than the original. Thanks to a strong script credited to Oscar-winning veteran Alvin Sargent -- author and comic book expert Michael Chabon also had a hand in the writing -- the addition of one of Spidey’s most famous nemeses, Doctor Octopus, and improved special effects, “Spider-Man 2" really soars.


This time around, Peter Parker (the wide-eyed, young Jimmy Stewart-esque Maguire) is dealing with the tremendous responsibility of being Spider-Man. He’s making ends meet as a pizza delivery boy and by selling photos of himself as Spidey to the paper, and he’s going to college as well as trying to get over his love for Mary Jane Watson (Dunst). All the while, he finds himself going head to head with the mechanically tentacled Doctor Octopus. Molina not only makes a great, colorful villain, but he also manages to infuse his performance with pathos and sympathy.

The Tony Award-winning British actress Rosemary Harris also is given more to do this time around as Peter’s widowed aunt, who is going through a financial crisis. Of course, a great deal of the credit for the success of the film goes to director and comic book aficionado Sam Raimi, who also helmed the first blockbuster.

Extras: The two-disc set certainly doesn’t skimp on the extras -- and most of them are far superior to the usual mini-documentaries featured on DVDs. The first disc includes fact-filled and entertaining commentary with Raimi, Maguire, producer Avi Arad and co-producer Grant Curtis. Raimi and Maguire have a disarming chemistry; Maguire asks Raimi a lot of questions about the production and in turn, Raimi asks Maguire if he remembers the first time he fell in love. But Maguire can’t. The reason?: “I’m getting old,” he tells Raimi.

The technical commentary track is less dry than the usual techno-speak tracks, and there’s a fun trivia track, along with an above-average blooper reel.

Most of the bonus features appear on the second disc. “Making the Amazing” is a comprehensive 12-part documentary that chronicles the course of “Spider-Man 2" from preproduction to the Hollywood premiere. It’s chock full of interviews with the cast, crew and “Spider-Man” creator Stan Lee, plus behind-the-scenes footage that illustrates the complexity of the production.

Other documentaries on the disc include “Hero in Crisis,” which explores Peter Parker’s dilemma; “Eight Arms to Hold You,” an examination of the genesis of “Doc Ock” from the Marvel comics to the big screen; and “Interwoven: The Women of Spider-Man.” Other goodies include “Enter the Web,” a multiangle look at the climactic pier sequence, a gallery of Alex Ross’ paintings featured in the film’s opening credits and four little features that first appeared online when the film was released.

-- Susan King