Spider-Man: Superbit DVD Review
PictureMy point of reference for this review is the R1 NTSC edition of Spiderman, released last year and a disc which wasn't overly bad in its presentation. The image however was not all it could have been with none of the polished look promised from such a big blockbuster and there were a few problems with grain, colour noise and compression artefacts. So how does this high bitrate version look?
As with the Japanese Superbit edition I am afraid it is more of the same really, there is still grain present in the print throughout with darker scenes (i.e. where they try to hide the bad CGI effects) looking washed out and lacking any shadow detail. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image presented on this superbit does however produce some benefits over the R1 Standard edition. Close ups on faces do look that little bit more detailed and have a slightly sharper feel to them, with some exterior shots of New York benefiting from the sharpness offered. However these differences are very slight and only noticed with comparing the same scenes a few times over.
Colours are rich and well saturated with very little in the way of problems, only one scene where the suit is first shown displays any noise in the print. The movies darker scenes look murky and green. There is none of the polished glaze that recent superheroes flicks have displayed and shadow detail is non existent with blacks varying throughout. Some of the blacks also displayed some macro blocking effects where used against any kind of bright light, with some areas looking blacker than black.
So it is really a bit of a mixed bag from Columbia, the source material is clean and without any damage, but the picture fails to add any real improvement over the already available release and still contains many of the problems associated with the earlier DVD versions. There is a slight improvement with detail and sharpness, but certainly nothing to get excited about.
SoundThe real reason for taking an interest in this superbit release will be the inclusion of the DTS soundmix. The movie certainly sounds like a blockbuster release with excellent dynamics and range. The soundmix is not overly aggressive but good use is made of the split surrounds and the LFE channel to underpin on screen action with some clever panning used.
The front sound stage in particular is wonderfully spacious and clear with some excellent use made of effects and score. Dialogue sounds rich and detailed and never gets buried under the soundtrack, even when things get very noisy. The effect placement is also very good with the Goblins attack on the gathered crowd at the rock show and the board of directors. The surrounds and front sound stage are used to create some excellent placement of the power glider flying around the sound stage with explosions and crowd noise adding to the confusion. But every sound is easy to localise and pick out and use of the split surrounds helps to place the glider even when the camera is focussed on Mary Jane. Excellent stuff.
So how does the Dolby track stand up to the DTS variety. Well rather well to be honest, there is very little to actually separate the two soundmixes. The dts track does handle effect placement with that little bit more accuracy and this is noticed in the office scene with Norman Osbourne as he fights his alter ego. The voice of the Goblin appears right back, then left front to left back panning to right back and then back to the front soundstage. It sounds very good in Dolby Digital but the rear pan falls flat a little, it is obvious that the voice is coming from the speakers. Switch to DTS and it sounds more fluid, localised yet the voice tends to hang in the air around you with the rear pan working very well indeed. LFE also tends to overshadow that used in the Dolby mix with a nice deep extension which on a few occasions actually moved my insides, where the Dolby equivalent just sounded boomy.
So the DTS track does have its subtle nuances when compared to the Dolby track and switching between the two shows a marked increase in volume in the DTS favour. However apart from small differences in placement effects and LFE there is not a great deal in it and if you don't have DTS decoding you are not going to miss out on too much.
ExtrasUnusal for a superbit title we are given what is described as an exclusive commentary track with Tobey Maguire and JK Simmons. The commentary is interesting with discussion on the stunts and other production stories. If you want even more extras there is also a 3 disc special edition released on the same day as the superbit.
VerdictA good comic book adaptation played well by the actors with disappointing picture quality and good sound. Not a huge difference between this and the already available R1 disc apart from DTS sound which does make a slight difference to the soundtrack. It's a tough call and will come down to how much you want that DTS track.
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