The Spider-Man Trilogy finally arrives on high definition Blu-Disc disc.
Spider-Man - The High Definition Trilogy: Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 (2002-07, Blu-ray)
Directors: Sam Raimi
Producers: Avi Arad
Writers: Stan Lee (Marvel comic book) and Steve Ditko (Marvel comic book) Spiderman: David Koepp (screenplay) Spiderman 2: Alfred Gough (screen story) & Miles Millar (screen story) and Michael Chabon (screen story) Alvin Sargent (scr
Features: Spiderman: N/A ** Spiderman 2: Extended Cut ** Spiderman 3: Two Hour Documentary, Blooper Reel, Music Video, Photo Gallery, Complete Ad Campaign, Two Commentaries
Tobey Maguire ... Spider-Man / Peter Parker
Kirsten Dunst ... Mary Jane Watson
James Franco ... New Goblin / Harry Osborn
Thomas Haden Church ... Sandman / Flint Marko
Topher Grace ... Venom / Edward 'Eddie' Brock
Bryce Dallas Howard ... Gwen Stacy
Rosemary Harris ... May Parker
J.K. Simmons ... J. Jonah Jameson
Alfred Molina ... Doc Ock / Dr. Otto Octavius
Willem Dafoe ... Norman Osborn/Green Goblin
Bruce Campbell ... Various
Spider-Man - The High Definition Trilogy: Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray Review
The “Spider-Man” films have been an entertaining series that has unfortunately imploded in terms of screenwriting. From the very first film, the series has continually written itself into traps that eventually lead us to the lackluster third entry. Here I will review each film and discuss the depressing wallow of this otherwise great franchise.
There was a lot of hype going into Sam Raimi’s first “Spider-Man” entry. It had been the long awaited arrival of a comic icon more than twenty years in the making. The closest thing to a film that we got was the TV movies of the webbed crawler that aired way back in the late 70s.
It was also fun because my friends and I were long time fans of Sam Raimi and Co. We had fallen in love with his earlier cinematic entries such as “The Evil Dead” trilogy, “Darkman” and even his newer stuff, “The Gift” and “A Simple Plan.” Seeing his name in the opening credits was like seeing your best friend’s name up in lights. It was awesome.
Unfortunately, the film fell short of the hype.
“Spider-Man” is not a bad film, it’s actually rather fun and lighthearted, but it’s a safe film. It takes all the safe routes to victory and never really attempts to be edgy or dark in the ways that made Sam Raimi great in the first place.
Tobey Maguire is perfect though as the title character, Peter Parker/Spider-Man. So is Kirsten Dunst as the lovable, but broken Mary Jane, despite the fact that she should have played Peter Parker’s first love interest, Gwen Stacy, and she should have died by the hands of Willem Dafoe’s brooding Green Goblin, but that’s exactly what I’m talking about. It was a safe move. She was Mary Jane instead and she didn’t die.
The effects of the film are somewhat dated today but they were quite extraordinary at the time adding to the zip-bang fun of the film. Raimi does sneak in a few characteristics that remind us of who he once was a film director and Danny Elfman’s score is a delight to listen to.
It’s a wobbly first entry to a series that continues to unravel. It writes itself into a few traps right from the get go, particularly the Mary Jane/Gwen Stacy error. It also sets up that Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin’s son will Harry Jr. (James Franco) will pick up where his father left off, a flaw that mars the third film of this series.
*Film Report Card*
As entertainment: A-
As a film: B-
This review has been slightly altered from my DVD review a few years back
The critics really loved “Spider-Man 2”. They adored it even. I see ads virtually every day in Variety--ads hoping to sway Academy voters to nominate “Spider-Man 2” for an Oscar. “Spider-Man 2”, it seems, is on top of the world. A comic book movie with real heart and real guts.
I tell you this--it’s all lies. All of it.
“Spider-Man 2” is the sort of film that will make critics swoon, but comic book fans moan. It’s a good movie padded with useless exposition and wacky over-the-top symbolism.
It all begins roughly thirty minutes into “Spider-Man 2”. Spidey is souring through the city after a night of crime fighting, when all of the sudden, his web slinging action gives out and he plummets several stories crashing into a large steel pipe. Now, the scene itself is a tad silly as no human, even a spider enhanced one, could survive the fall, but it is at this very moment, that the film ceases to be subtle.
See, “Spider-Man 2” begins with Peter Parker, a boy almost intoxicated with hero syndrome. He wants to be everywhere all at one time. He also wants to be Peter Parker, college student. We see a perfect example of this roughly twenty minutes into the feature. Peter Parker visits the Laundromat to clean some clothes. When he goes to remove the clothes, he finds that the Spider-Man costume has bled into his whites. This is subtlety. This is symbolism. And it’s obvious enough that comic book fans and action fans probably get the point.
It’s only moments later that the film loses this subtle mentality when these small brush strokes turn deafeningly broad. There is scene later in the film where Parker is hit with about five different social problems all at once, all of which have been caused by his alter-ego. I was honestly waiting for someone to come up to him and tell him that construction workers have just poured wet cement on his car out back and that his Aunt has died because he is Spider-Man. Alas, that does not happen, but with this scene, I assume Peter gets the point. He needs to stop being Spider-Man.
Am I right? Nope.
For probably fifteen more minutes, we are hammered with more scenes like the one above. If someone were to re-cut “Spider-Man 2”, it would not be very difficult. Simply slice these scenes out. They are unneeded.
This is only my first issue with “Spider-Man 2”. My next issue is one I’m sure comic book fans totally hated. This problem being: the strength and ability of our webbed hero. This guy is thrown into solid brick walls. He’s holds up a 4000 pound steel wall. He falls hundreds of feet several times. He slams into cars. His head is struck by blunt objects. He stops a train. He is electrocuted.
Who is this guy...Superman?????
No, no he’s not. He’s Spider-Man, but it would appear as though writers Alfred Gough, Miles Miller and Michael Chabon forgot that little reality. Spider-Man does things here that defy the logic of his own comic world. This, of course, is a huge comic no-no.
There are hundreds of other complaints about “Spider-Man 2” that I could voice. It’s not just a weak film. It’s offensive to the fans that made its formation possible. It’s not a good movie folks. Ignore the positive critics. It’s pretty entertaining, this is true, but I ask this…at what cost?
How many times can Spider-Man fall before we start to ask that very question? How many of Peter Parker’s friends will be put in grave danger before we start asking that question? How many life reason ponderings must take place before we ask that questions? How many?
“Spider-Man 2” is not really for diehard comic fans nor is it for the hardcore Spidey fans. Rather, it’s for the MTV/Jessica Simpson underage generation--a group of fun seekers hoping to jump on the next fad. It’s a film that tries to pass itself off as thoughtful despite its clichéd and age old story (originally seen in “Superman II”). It’s a mess of a movie that only re-cutting could save.
*Film Report Card*
As entertainment: B+
As a film: D+
And now we’re at Sam Raimi’s latest debacle, “Spider-Man 3.” In truth, “Spider-Man 3” is probably the most entertaining of the whole bunch. There are loads of action sequences, most of which are quite dazzling. There are also several villains that Spider-Man must go head-to-head with and again, all of those fights are fun to watch.
But the film is one giant screenwriting trap, caused by the safeness of the first film and general laziness and overly emotional nature of the second film. “Spider-Man 3” is sappy at times, weirdly dark at other times and over-the-top almost all the time.
The third entry has Peter Parker fitting quite nicely into his costume now. He’s balancing being Spider-Man with school and his girlfriend, Mary Jane. That is, of course, until he’s attacked by Harry Osborn, discovers that his uncle’s killer is still on the loose and comes in contact with a strange alien goo that turns his suit black and releases his angry inhibitions and once he gets rid of the goo, he must face off against the bastard creation the goo left behind, Venom.
If that sounds like a lot to you, I’ll assure you, it is.
Gwen Stacy is introduced for no real reason at all other than to cause yet another love triangle between Mary Jane, Harry Osborn and Peter Parker. Characters are given hardly any screen time, particularly Parker’s Aunt May (who delivered a terrific speech in “Spider-Man 2”). Other characters are given too much screen time and bog down the entire film (i.e. Mary Jane).
Everything is illogical and childish too. Mary Jane seems incapable of just telling Peter Parker what’s wrong; instead she hopes that he asks the right questions. Harry Osborn’s character serves a strong importance to the film’s central message, but he’s forgotten in the second and third act until he is needed and his resolution is staggeringly lazy. Evil Peter Parker is devilish in some ways and just downright silly in others. I particularly liked when he gets Eddie Brock fired for photoshopping his images. He used journalistic integrity and ethics--ooooo, how evil.
Then there’s the Sandman, the supposed killer of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. The Sandman is a cool character but he’s given absolutely nothing to do in the film. He just enters the action sequences and hulks around. His resolution, like everyone else’s, is slim-lined to an annoying degree. His final sequence hardly makes sense.
And finally, there’s the real reason why people came in droves to see “Spider-Man 3”, Venom (formerly Eddie Brock). Venom is given less than 15 minutes of screen time and is reduced to a lame third act villain with very little to do. He’s offed in the final moments too leading most to believe that he won’t be back for “Spider-Man 4.”
In truth, the first film should have had Gwen Stacy, this way she wouldn’t be crammed in so forcefully here. Mary Jane should have never gotten with Peter Parker in the second film, leaving him saddened in this film and giving him a third film goal. The Sandman should have been the primary villain and Venom should have been a post credit cookie for fans, getting us pumped for a fourth entry. Harry Osborn’s Goblin (whose costume is so poorly designed it’s laughable), should have been a first act conflict that’s resolved long before the finale.
As it stands “Spider-Man 3” is a very entertaining film marred by its own incoherent glue. There are a lot of great ideas here, but everything is thrown together and while it works to some degree, it could have stood to be an hour or two longer and more like a miniseries event. The final act is literally thrust upon us in a contrived news sequence that sets up the events. And I thought the second film was lazy.
*Film Report Card*
As entertainment: A
As a film: D
This review is for the stand alone Blu-ray release of “Spider-Man 3” and the Blu-ray boset, “Spider-Man - The High Definition Trilogy”, which includes the following titles: “Spider-Man”, “Spider-Man 2” and “Spider-Man 3.”
The first film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, and encoded in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video. Of the three movies, I found the picture quality to be the best here. Black levels are dead-on and the film is bright and cheery, lending itself well to high contrast and sharp images. Fleshtones are a little off during daylight sequences leaving characters with an orange, saturated look, but this was only really noticeable during the first Green Goblin attack on New York City (the sequence with the street fair). The film has a slight amount of grain, probably the film stock itself, but this film has never looked better on any previous format.
The second film is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen, and encoded in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video. I assumed that because this film was shot with a much better stock, it would look better, but I’m saddened to say that this isn’t the transfer I had hoped for. Black levels appear to be off, with blacks bleeding into one another. Fleshtones are more accurate than the first film, but everything is sort of muted as well, with lower contrast than a lot of other films on the format. This just isn’t up to par with Disney’s catalogue titles like “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
The final film is also presented in 2.40:1 widescreen, and encoded in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video. This one fairs much better than the second film, but I still preferred the first film’s overall look (though I wish all of aspect ratios matched up). Black levels are much better here, but a new problem arises. During several daylight sequences, most notably the armored car chase sequence, the natural light is far too in bright, washing out character’s faces. Fleshtones are once again good and the muted look of the second film is not present here. It’s odd that these transfers would be so inconsistent given that they were, I assume, done at virtually the same time and place.
I found it odd that inside the box, there was a card touting Sony’s PCM uncompressed tracks then I saw that the first film and second film are presented in Dolby TrueHD only. What gives? The mix is rather atmospheric with a nice enveloping experience. Nothing is muffled or washed out, but where’s my PCM track?
Again, we’re presented with a completely competent Dolby TrueHD track only. I’ve got nothing to complain about again. This is a booming, crystal clear track.
Ahh, here’s the uncompressed PCM track and a Dolby TrueHD track. When comparing the two tracks, I found that the TrueHD track was more precise than the PCM track, but I generally preferred the PCM track as it had a more enveloping feeling about it. Again, surrounds thunder across all five channels without a single moment of muffled dialogue or oversaturated surround effects. If you’re looking for a demo disc, this is it.
Now here’s where things get a little disappointing.
Despite having a wealth of special features at their disposal from the DVDs, Sony has decided to present “Spider-Man” as a bare bones Blu-ray disc. Not even the commentary tracks survived. Disappointing.
Again, with literally four discs of special features at their disposal, Sony gives us only one major special feature, the extended cut of the film, available via seamless branching. I prefer the extended cut of the film over the theatrical baring only one sequence—the alternate take of the elevator scene. The new take deletes the “Ride in the crotch” comment Spider-Man makes, my favorite joke in the film. It adds, though, a few more moments of action during the train sequence, making up for that grievous error.
Thankfully we’re presented with the same special edition being released on DVD. This is Sony’s first double disc Blu-ray and while it’s hardly a ‘Blu-ray exclusive’ presentation, there are two commentary tracks (found on disc one) and a documentary, broken up into several parts, that’s nearly as long as the film itself.
First up, I’ll discuss the first disc. Here we are presented with two commentary tracks. The first is the party track, and the more entertaining listen of the two. It features Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Topher Grace, Dallas Bryce Howard and Thomas Hayden Church. I rather enjoyed this track as I’m a pretty big fan of cast tracks despite all the back-patting that takes place.
The second track features Producers Avi Arad, Grant Curtis and Laura Ziskin as well as Editor Bob Murawski and visual effects supervisor Scott Stokoyk, This is an edited track with very little in terms of entertainment value. This is a more straight forward track. I’ve listened to quite a few tracks featuring Avi Arad and I’m not a big fan of his droll, boring tone. The information presented is interesting, but the track was hard to get though.
Also on disc one was a music video, extensive photo galleries and a quick moderately amusing six minute bloopers reel.
Onto disc two. As stated above, there’s an incredibly informative two-hour documentary included. Broken into several featurettes (and thankfully available separately and via a ‘Play All’ function), they include: "Grains of Sand: Building a Sandman", "Re-Imaging the Goblin", "Covered in Black: Creating Venom", "Hanging On: Gwen Stacy and the Collapsing Floor", "Fighting, Flying and Driving: The Stunts", "Wall of Water", "Cleveland: The Chase on Euclid Avenue”, "New York: From Rooftops to Backstreets", "Tangled Webs: The Love Triangles of 'Spider-Man 3'”, "Inside the Editing Room" and "The Science of Sound.”
The documentary perfectly sets up the story and pre-production aspect and takes you to production and finally post. I rather enjoyed most of these supplements, particularly the technical ones and the villain documentaries. My favorite was the Cleveland featurette, but I’m biased. As a Clevelander, I found it fun to watch how they transformed Euclid Avenue into New York City.
Probably the lamest of the featurettes is the “Love Triangles” featurette. It was sad to see everyone point out the weakest spot of the third film and tout it as though it was fresh and original. Regardless, I suggest watching all of the featurettes via the ‘Play All’ function. They’re incredibly informative and give you an inside look at what a $250 million dollar production looks like from the reverse end.
Finally, rounding out the second disc is an awesome ‘Complete Ad Campaign’ presentation featuring posters and trailers for the film from the U.S. and international territories. I’ve always wanted to see this and hope that Sony continues this trend with their other discs in the future.
Unfortunately, Sony didn’t put any Blu-ray exclusive special features on any disc. What a missed opportunity.
The “Spider-Man” films are rather entertaining despite themselves so if you’re a fan of the character or the villains, you’ll likely find something to love about this wayward, messy series. The high definition presentation is not the best however, if only because of the slightly darker than expected transfers and the lack of ported over special features from the special edition DVDs. However, if you own the previous discs, I’d still suggest picking this boxset up and keeping your old discs, or, if nothing else, buying the stand alone two-disc version of “Spider-Man 3.” These discs are easily the best audio and video presentations of these films available. Perhaps Sony will revisit this set when “Spider-Man 4” inevitably hits the big screen.
*Blu-ray Report Card*
HD Content: N/A
Overall Value: B+
HD Content: N/A
Overall Value: B+
Overall Value: A-
On Blu-ray Disc: October 30th, 2007
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----R. L. Shaffer