And so it begins. With the theatrical release of Spider-Man 3 less than a month away, the marketing campaign is rolling out in full force and the re-cut, re-packaged and re-released Spider-Man 2 gets tossed to us as Spider-Man 2.1. Unlike the Spider-Man re-release for Spider-Man 2’s theatrical release, I’m have to admit that Spider-Man 2.1 might actually have some valid substance worth checking out. Although there is no free ticket to Spider-Man 3, which is a bit of a bummer—you’d think free tickets would sell DVDs faster (only reason I bought the previous three-disc set of Spider-Man).

This cut of Spider-Man 2, dubbed Spider-Man 2.1 (oddly enough there was a storyboard in the background of a special feature on this disc which called the new footage part of Spider-Man 2.5…but I guess that was too similar to what Fox did with X-Men), throws in some new footage and recut scenes into what we previously saw on theaters in 2004. In addition to all-new footage previously unseen, we get new SF/X work done, as well as a completely alternate version of the elevator sequence with Spider-Man (in this version, Hal Spark’s character believes it’s really Spider-Man next to him, not a man in a costume).

The new footage ranges from subtle (extra dialogue in the pizza shop), to completely new (Peter exit from delivering pizza’s to the receptionist [Emily Deschanel of Bones], Jameson in the Spidey suit). I actually found myself really enjoying this cut of the film, with the only scene I felt that dragged with the new footage was Peter’s discussion with the doctor about his “friends dreams” of being Spider-Man. The extra dialogue from the doctor just adds more weight to an already slow scene, dragging it along more than it needed to. One of the funnier additions of dialogue was the discussion Mary Jane and Peter have in their back yards. In the film, when Mary Jane says she’s seeing someone, we get Peter’s immediate sad-faced reaction, whereas in this cut he quips back with “Ah. Therapy.”

I remember hearing that the new Alex Ross paintings in the opening film credits were supposed to be revamped for this 2.1 cut, though I didn’t recognize anything as new—maybe subtle changes, but it could just be me miss-remembering what was originally there.

Nothing in this cut is going to change anyone’s opinions about the film—it’s just Spider-Man 2 with more of the same action going on. I’m finding myself conflicted on denouncing or recommending this film though, as it’s really part of an overall DVD package. Before I recommend this cut of the film, let’s see what the rest of the DVD has to offer.

Spider-Man 2.1 comes in a two-disc amaray case with a cardboard slip and no inserts. The first disc art is rather eye catching, with an image of Spider-Man I’ve never seen previously (a rather zoomed-out shot of Spidey shooting webbing—looks cooler than I described it, honest). Disc two features a generic shot of Doc and Spidey fighting atop the train for disc art and menus mirror that of Spider-Man 2’s release.

The first disc in this set houses the extended cut of the film, audio commentary with producer Laura Sizkin and screenwriter Alvin Sargent as well as a “Spidey Sense 2.1” trivia track that is integrated into the film.

The Spidey Sense 2.1 trivia track is a real waste of time to watch. While it may offer one or two interesting tidbits, most of the information seems to just be culminated from the comics, stating who appeared where and how the film mirrors the source material it came from. Shocking! In addition to that, there are some behind-the-scenes video we see that shows some footage of the scenes we see on-screen being shot, even with lined-up dialogue.

Audio commentary is…wow, was it dull. As with most commentary tracks, a few interesting things pop out in the two hours it runs, but for the most part it’s boring with a lot of dead areas thrown in. This is a very, very uneventful and boring commentary track that I recommend you skip—go listen to one of Spider-Man 2’s multiple commentaries if you want to listen to something entertaining, just don’t listen to this.

Disc two houses a pitiful amount of special features, making me question why this was even a two-disc set (aside from it being more attractive to the consumer, who will think two-discs means loads of extra content). “Inside 2.1” is an overview of what’s new in the film (though it only shows clips of the major scene additions, not the subtle ones) and features interviews from Marvel film extraordinaire, Avi Arad, as well as other Spider-Man 2 staff. This is more promotional fluff and doesn’t really tell you anything about the recut of the film—although a producer says at the end that the version of Spider-Man 2 everyone will remember is the theatrical. Not only does this make it feel like a waste of time to have watched that, this featurette literally ends with him saying that, off-screen—I half expected it to continue after the fade to black, but instead it just took me back to the menu.

Two other 2.1 centered featurettes are on the disc, with the first one titled “VFX Breakdowns” which showcases some of the new scenes and the visual effects work done on them. This is the only interesting featurette on the disc, as the “With Great Effort Comes Great Recognition” is just a back-patting featurette about how Spider-Man 2 won an Oscar for visual effects. While it’s wonderful these guys were recognized for their impressive work, I don’t think I needed to see a featurette on this, as it really has nothing to do with 2.1, as the visual effects work they won for were in the original Spider-Man 2 cut.

“Sneak Peek: Spider-Man 3” is more promo fluff that offers up a small bit of cast interviews (this is the only time on this two-disc disc set we see new interviews with Sam Raimi) and a few new scenes from the film I hadn’t seen in trailers prior. On top of that are two trailers, one for Spider-Man 3 the movie and one for Spider-Man 3 the video game.

Video on this release is identical to that of Spider-Man 2. The extra scenes don’t stand out at all, visually, and integrate well into the overall feel of the film. Audio is strong as well, with a decent 5.1 mix that gives the satellites some audio to throw around the room, while the subwoofer gets some thump work in with Doc Ock’s trillium machine’s moans and grunts.

Overall I’m still conflicted. On one hand it’s a valid cut of the film that Spidey fans should see, but for the average movie-goer the first two-disc release of the film offers so much more. Aside from one VFX featurette, the special effects are all worthless. If you’re a hardcore fan of Spidey or just want to see more of the film, I Recommend this release—if you own the previous and only enjoy the film, then Rent It. The extra footage is worth seeing, so I can’t feel comfortable telling anyone to skip it—while the DVD may be only a cheap marketing tool, this cut of the film is not. It feels natural and adds a bit of freshness to the repeat Spider-Man 2 viewing experience and is worth at least one viewing.

Spider-Man 2.1 arrives on DVD April 17th.