Spider-Man 3 Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Three's a crowd
Raimi's second Spider-sequel derails the previously tremendous franchise not least with its overabundance of villains.Reportedly franchise helmer and co-writer Sam Raimi was all set and ready for an entire six-film saga, with production well underway on a fourth film before he pulled the plug on his participation in the franchise and forced Sony to reboot the series far too early in the game and deliver its own also abortive Amazing Spider-Man franchise. Raimi's reasoning was that he wouldn't be able to meet the film's release deadline and do it creative justice, but his artistic integrity was already compromised during the production of Spider-Man 3, with producers insisting on the use of certain villains - including the (mis-)use of fan-favourite Venom (now finally getting his own movie with none other than Tom Hardy portraying him) - as well as the introduction of vying love interest Gwen Stacy.The Spider-Man saga had already established plenty of ongoing character arcs, including the birth of the New Goblin here which had been brewing across all three films, and there was just too much going on to split the dynamic between him, a sympathetic escaped convict-turned-Sandman, and an extraterrestrial symbiote who has to first bond with Spider-Man to make him 'dark' before eventually becoming Venom in his own right. Even beyond the trifecta of villains, there were competing love interests to juggle, and Raimi's packed feature just buckles under the strain, delivering 'more' for your buck, but forgetting the 'bang', with zero pacing, and all-over-the-shop editing, bringing the highs of Spider-Man 2 crashing down to to the ground with a franchise-killing thump.
Picture QualitySpider-Man 3 spins an elaborate web on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presented in 3840 x 2160p with a widescreen 2.4:1 aspect ratio, using 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range(HDR), encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. The UHD Blu-ray was reviewed on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
As with the previous two movies in the trilogy, Spider-Man 3 looks glorious in full native 4K, and, rather frustratingly given the fact that it's easily the weakest entry in the franchise, looks the absolute best of the lot.
Frustratingly given it's the weakest entry, it looks the best of the lot
As with the first two, this third film's presentation is founded upon the solid work done for the Mastered in 4K Blu-ray line a few years back, only here proudly presented with the added enhancement of HDR and WCG, so not only do we get a sometimes staggering level of fine detail on offer courtesy of the native 4K source, but also we get a wonderfully rich colour scheme breathing new life into the visual zenith of the trilogy, which sports easily the best effects.
From Sandman to Venom, the villains may not be afforded much room to breathe, but they are sure delivered with some impressive visuals, and never look better than here in 4K with the added benefits of WCG. Spider-Man himself, though, provides the highlight, with the shots of him and his opposite 'reflection' amidst the high points in the entire Spider-Man franchise, and not just Raimi's trilogy, and the textures and style of the suit more refined than ever before. Again, there's grain throughout, but it's finer still, much like the suitably filmic sheen on the second movie, giving further texture to the piece, whilst the black levels and shadow detail impress courtesy of strong HDR implementation. Not just another impressive film-based 4K release, but the best looking title in the entire Spider-Man line-up.
Sound QualitySpider-Man 3, again as with the previous two entries, also gets a decent upgrade on the aural front, with a fabulous Dolby Atmos track built on an already impressive Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track which, in its own right, is reference material. Although the Spider-Man 2 track was outstanding, technological improvements and a fine attention to detail leave this third entry the one to beat, delivering near aural perfection.
Near aural perfection
Dialogue gets given clear and coherent dissemination across the frontal array, taking priority where necessary, although clearly frequently taking a back seat to the explosive effects and dynamic score. Lapping up the dynamic action scenes with aplomb, the track delivers fabulous coverage of the effects, afforded discrete prioritisation, and boasting both power and precision. Even the villains get their own aural signature, with Sandman's particle-based design and Venom's more slick alien feel both creeping across your surrounds. Even the new Goblin leaves the effects design of the old Goblin in the dust on the aural soundstage, and this is a fantastic, demo and reference track.
ExtrasOut of all three Raimi movies, it's the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Spider-Man 3 that proves the most controversial on the extras front. Sure, Spider-Man 2 only delivered the 2.1 cut on the accompanying Blu-ray, and sure neither of the first two movies ported any of the extras over onto the Ultra HD Blu-ray discs themselves, but Spider-Man 3 not only relegates the extras to the accompanying Blu-ray, but also leaves some of the new extras for an entirely separate disc - one which is only available on the Legacy box sets. The standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Spider-Man 3 doesn't even bother to include the new 3.1 cut which is a real shame and pure laziness on top of the paramount laziness already shown towards not putting any of the extras on the actual Ultra HD Blu-ray. It's not like fans even needed the 3.1 cut in 4K (although that would have been a nice option), but to not include it at all in the standalone release is just lazy.
To not include the 3.1 cut in the standalone release is just lazy
The remaining extras are still strong, albeit entirely legacy, with two Audio Commentaries, the first with Raimi and almost his entire headlining cast (Maguire, Dunst, Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace and Bryce Dallas Howard) and the second, more technical one, with the Producers, Editor and VFX expert. The old Featurettes include ones on Sandman, Venom, Goblin, the Wall of Water, Gwen Stacy and the Collapsing Floor, The Stunts, the Love Triangle, the Editing, Sound, Bloopers, Music Video and Trailers.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictBringing the highs of Spider-Man 2 crashing down with a franchise-killing thump
Sony's release the first five Spider-Man movies arrives in a variety of different packages, including a 5-movie set, and separate 3-movie and 2-movie sets, with the UK's individual releases arriving in January. If you want almost every extra available the Legacy Collections are your best bet because, in addition to providing everything in these standalone releases, they offer two further Blu-rays with extras, the big hitter being Spider-Man 3.1 on Blu-ray, a slightly better tuned cut of this, the weakest of all of the Spider-Man films.
At least Spider-Man 3 looks and sounds spectacular, the best in the entire franchise despite being the worst entry, with the native 4K presentation looking tremendous and impressing - as with so many films from this era do - even in comparison to its later digital peers, ironically limited with their 2K DIs and a tremendous Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The only disappointment comes in terms of the lazy treatment of the extra features, with all the new extras - and the new 3.1 cut - left off this standalone release and not even included on the accompanying Blu-ray. Ultimately if you want the film in 4K, the standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray release will suffice, but if you want the complete extras package, you'll have to stump up for one of the Legacy box sets.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £29.99
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