Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray Review
Presented at 1.85:1 and coded at 1080P MPEG4 AVC, this movie has never looked better to my eyes. I had the misfortune of seeing at the cinema in a multiplex during the summer holidays with a bunch of school kids. The print had worn out by then and was scratched to pieces. The projectionist hadn't done a brilliant of spooling the reels together either and it all left a sour taste in the mouth.
Looking forward to the SD DVD for that in your home experience, I was again disappointed. Peering through the grain in a lot of scenes, the colours were off balanced and the edge enhancement was the sharpest thing on the screen...
New technology, new print - completely new experience. Sony have dug deep to find a pristine copy of the movie and it is immaculate. No scratches or marks to be seen anywhere. The level of detail is incredible. For example, once you have watched this and move onto Spidey 2, on watching this again, you notice the changes that were made to Spider-mans costume in the latter movies. It's subtle, but the detail on offer brings it to the foreground.
Colours are solid - looking for colour bleed? Look elsewhere I'm afraid. The artist on this comic doesn't stray outside the lines anywhere. Skin tones are fine - particularly on Kirsten Dunst as MJ. The un-natural redness of her hair blending with her rosy cheeks - looks like we hit the jackpot!
So, the picture quality on Spider-man really is reference quality. I really can't see it being matched or some time to come...hold on a second though...
Some directors usually have a trademark style in the way that they make movies - for instance, Tim Burton will always shoot movies at 1.85:1 (apart from Planet Of The Apes - which was probably studio pressure which caused that...). Sam Raimi was the same. Every film I had seen of his was made in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. I was surprised, however to see this movie shot at 2.40:1 I can find no evidence that the studio applied pressure to make him do this but it does make for a much wider spectacle - and on this occasion, was the right choice. The film has be coded on this Blu-ray disc at 1080P using the MPEG4 AVC codec.
I had seen this movie on standard def DVD and Columbia's money making spin off, Superbit. They had both suffered from the same problem - grain. More grain than a bowl of porridge if I'm honest. I'm glad to say that this disc is devoid of any such nonsense in any way, shape or form. In fact, it's devoid of any nastiness at all. So clean is the picture on this disc that it's like watching the film for the first time. The level of detail in each and every frame is criminal. From afar you can see individual strands of web as they fly from Spideys wrists looking for a safe place to hook onto. Flesh tones are immaculate and colours are solid and true.
Black levels are ink like in their appearance and shadow detail, even in dark scenes, is immense.
Having returned from my lie down at the shock of the beauty of the previous two discs in the set, my expectations were high for number three.
Again framed at 2.40:1 and encoded at 1080P using the MPEG4 AVC codec, I have to say, thus far, Spider-man 3 is the best example of a picture that I have seen on any format. Just as I was giving up on the Blu-ray format, Sony hit us with three beauts in the same box set.
It's really hard to describe just how good the picture quality on this disc is. If the blacks were black in 1 and 2, then these are blacker. Colours are more vibrant and solid. Flesh tones more fleshy. Everything about it seems right. You get the idea?.
Here we have the best example of shadow detail ever seen. In the final battle on the construction site, Venom isblack. But every detail of the spider suit is visible on him.
This has set the goalposts nicely for the likes of the Die Hard box set next month. If the picture quality on those films is as good as these, Blu-ray is here to stay.
Time for another lie down.
Spider-man - 9/10
Spider-man 2 - 9/10
Spider-man 3 - 10/10
Blessed with a lossless Dolby Digital TrueHD track that I couldn't listen to for technical reasons, I plumbed for the lesser down mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track
Did I say lesser? Disregard that last remark! From the opening intro, as the Columbia woman shines her light and the strings of Danny Elfmans score ring out, I could tell I was in for a sonic treat. Elfmans scores often contain deep bass - and this is no exception. From then on, things got better and better.
Again, as with the picture, it's the level of minute detail that really stands out. The ambience around New York City, the sound of bricks falling as Spidey goes flying into another wall having been on the end of a Goblin special. The highlight though is the wrestling match, where the Human Spider becomes The amazing Spider-man. Courtesy of Sams mate, Bruce Campbell. Look behind you for the crowd, duck as someone throws something into the ring and it whizzes past your right ear. Wince as Peters foot crashes into Bonesaws face. It's that realistic that you'll probably go for the mop to wipe up the mess...
What we have here is a reference quality soundtrack that is up there with the best on any format. I really do look forward to being able to listen to the lossless track one day...
Like the Spider-man disc in this set, 2 comes with a Dolby Digital TrueHD track in English - and nothing else. So, again those of us that can't decode Dolby Digital TrueHD on Blu-ray disc dip out on a lossless track. However, fear not true believer - because like the Spidey 1 disc, the down mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track on offer here is no slouch.
A definite step up or two from it's Superbit cousin, and like the picture, it's the level of detail in the soundtrack that impresses the most. Sure, there's explosions, gun shots, car crashes and fight scenes - all of which produce thunderous wonderful deep bass to keep you bass heads happy. But it's the attention to detail that's gone into the little things that really stand out. Listen as Spideys web creaks under the strain as it holds a police car over a crowd. Hear the famous PHEEEEEEP as ol' webhead looks for the next sure footing for his web as he fires it from his wrist. Every sound is on display here. And it's glorious. It really does sound like a different mix than that that appeared on the several SD versions of this disc. And, like the picture quality, this is benchmark.
Let me start the sound portion of Spider-man 3 by saying WOOOOOOOHOOOOOO! A LPCM soundtrack! Nice one Sony. Alongside the LPCM 5.1 track, we also have a Dolby Digital TrueHD track as well. However, due to technical constraints, I can't compare the two - but I will be replacing my Blu-ray player in the next few days with a Dolby TrueHD enabled model. Once it's in situ, I'll compare the tracks and update this review...but lets report on what we can.
The LPCM track comes in 5.1 flavour and runs at 48khz. It's very detailed and has plenty of top end and mid range - but I found the bass to be lacking just a tad. The scene where The Sandman is created seemed to lack that certain something. However, separation is absolute and the soundtrack is never less than 360 degrees. Dialogue is locked to the centre channel and is clear and concise.,
I can't fully understand the reasoning behind Sony's decision to only include an LPCM track on Spider-man 3. It makes me feel that the box set is aimed squarely at Playstation 3 owners as that particular player is TrueHD enabled. And my box set came with the compatible with PS3 sticker on it...
Overall, a feat of sound engineering - but somebody needs to sack the person who was supposed to press the button marked “bass”.
Spider-man - 9/10
Spider-man 2 - 9/10
Spider-man 3 - 9/10
As Spider-man 3 is the only film of the three that contains any extras worth mentioning, this entire section is devoted to that movie. Spider-mans one and two contain three trailers each - Spider-man 3, Surfs Up and Ghost Rider. I'd like to say that number three more than makes up for it but it doesn't. The SD extras haven't even been ported over. No excuse Sony - sorry. Not for a top notch highly anticipated release like this...
Again, lets report on what we can. The extras are split over two discs. On disc one we have two commentaries
The first commentary features cast members Toby McGuire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Hayden Church, Topher Grace and Bryce Howard and director Sam Raimi. I'm pretty sure that had they squeezed in a bit, they could have got a few more in!
We learn in this commentary though that after making three movies with his leading man and lady, the director trusts them immensely. At one point, he wanted to change the script but wouldn't do so without consulting them first. Here we have a bunch of professionals that seem to enjoy each others company and respect each others ability. For me, this bodes well for a number 4...
The second commentary involves crew members and goes much more into the technical side of making films.
br> Next up, we have a Blooper Reel. This is some twenty minutes long. Lets face it, once you've seen one actor crack up laughing, you've seen them all, right? However, this does actually prove that Tobey Maguire does have a sense of humour - despite popular belief.
Following that we have a Pop Video by popular band Snow patrol. The song is entitled Signal Fire and plays out over a bunch of kids acting out the Spider-man story as a school play. Cute.
The extras on the movie disc are rounded off by a couple of trailers - Surfs Up and Ghost Rider.
Switching to the second disc in the set, we have the meat of the extras package. There are in total eleven vignettes. These can be played individually or you can hit the play all button. I played them one at a time and here's what I found:
Grains Of The Sandman covers the special effects used in bringing The sandman to the big screen. Here we find out such juicy snippets like there are several types of sand, but for the purpose of The Sandman, Arizona sand was chosen for its texture and colour...
My problem with this is the fact that the crew sit and talk about as though it's the first time it's ever been done. Have these people never seen The Mummy...?
Re-imaging The Goblin tells us how much input that James Franco actually had on bringing the Goblin back. By the way - it's not a snowboard as I mentioned earlier - it's a Sky Stick!
In my opinion, Franco is probably the weakest actor of the main cast. However, in his interviews in this segment, his enthusiasm shines through and he appears to be a very likeable man.
Hanging on - Gwen Stacey and the collapsing floor explains how the sequence was made that introduces us to Gwen. The attention to detail is phenomenal. Miss Howard seems very keen to get stuck in as well and appears to have done all her own stunts - including a 75 foot swing with a stunt man Spidey! (Shame on you Tobey!)
Creating Venom - Covered In Black. Does what it says on the tin, so to speak. Here we discover how the CGI artists created the Symbiote that goes on to become Venom. The only problem I have with this vignette is it ends with the words “I think the fans will be very happy”...'nuff said.
Fighting Flying and Diving - the stunts of Spider-man 3 show us that the stars actually do more stunts than we actually give them credit for. It also shows that what you may think is a CGI Spider-man, may not be. Well worth a watch.
Tangled Web - love Triangles does it's best to try and unravel some messy parts of the plot - and does it's best to explain the dance number. I personally would have slept well had I not seen this particular vignette...
Wall of Water explains how the fight in the pipe between sandman and Spidey was made.
Inside The Editing Room demonstrates how the film is put together using live action and CGI elements.
The Science Of Sound explains the art of the sound mixer. Something very close to all our hearts. This section is in Lossless PCM 5.1 to enhance the pleasure a little. The Foley artist section is very interesting...
New York - from rooftops to backstage is a little ditty that tells us how great it was to film in the big apple. The makers wanted to keep Spidey in his home town. We are introduced to the “Spider-cam” in this section, where we find out how those wonderful shots following Spidey swinging along were constructed...however, right after this film, we have...
Cleveland - the chase scene where we are informed that New Yorks roads were not big enough to film this scene so they had to move to Cleveland...hhmmm
Ending the extras on the disc is the Ad campaign which is a set of trailers and TV spots from around the world.
A very comprehensive set of extras for the final instalment then - I can't for the life of me think why Sony thought we wouldn't want any for the other two though...
Super hero and comic book fans all over the world have been very harshly treated when it comes to our genre. There have been some decent efforts with the likes of a couple of The X Men movies - the thing that those and the Spider-man trilogy have in common is they were both made by fans. Bryan Singer is a self confessed comic book nutter. This proved to be when he left the franchise and it went downhill for the final instalment. What people like Singer and Sam Raimi understand though is that the fans want to see their heroes up on the screen - not somebody else's interpretation of it. Sam Raimi has done exactly the right thing by showing respect to a forty year old formula that worked. He has told his casting agents to go out and get me J. Jonah Jameson, get me Betty Brant. The small parts make for the sum of the whole film. Without Sam's attention to detail for the little things, in my opinion, the whole thing could well and truly have fallen on it's face at the first hurdle.
Ok, in Spidey one, we have the question of the Goblin costume. We all questioned it when we saw it pre-release and damned him for it. But, as we all now know, Bond is blonde, eh...?
In Spider-man 2, Mr Raimi found Alfred Molina and turned him into Doctor Octopus. Molina was so wholly believable as the Doc that I so wanted him to come back in a later film. Yet more respect was paid to true believers everywhere when he included the panel from Spider-man #50 (which I have included for you as a picture in this review so you can compare it to Raimi's vision)
Ok - so number 3 wasn't so well received by fans across the world. In my opinion, it was a step to far and Venom and The Sandman would have done just nicely. Did I mention attention to detail? Bryce Dallas Howard was born to play Miss Stacey. If we get a fourth instalment, please bring her back...
As a Blu-ray box set, it does have it's flaws. Lack of a PCM track on one and two has caused a stir amongst people - and rightly so. Dolby TrueHD may be as good, but in reality, how many people do have access to the decoding equipment, either internal or external? The less said about the zero extras on the first two movies, the better.
Picture quality is astounding across the board though. We really have hit the jackpot here and as the films progress, the quality just gets better and better.
You may have cottoned on by now that I am a huge Spider-man fan - particularly of the Ditko era. I've been reading the comics since I was seven years old and am now making use of the Marvel essentials collections to catch up on stuff I have missed in the past. I re-read issues 1 through 38 whilst carrying out my research for this review. I also watched them in this box set...very highly recommended for true believers and movie fans alike.
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