PictureEither I've been rather lucky recently or the standard of blu-rays is now consistently beginning to improve. I would hope and believe it's the latter as the blu-ray format continues to realise its fuller potential. The Spiderwick Chronicles is therefore indeed a very pleasant 1080P MPEG-4 encode 2.35:1 video presentation.
Contrast is striking and the picture is full of rich and inky blacks. Levels of detail are abundant and the picture has an amazing sense of depth to it throughout most of the movie. Colours are solid enough although do appear a bit overly murky at times, especially so in the first third of the movie. Speaking of which, whilst the contrast and blacks do hold firm, some of the shadow detail is lost in some slightly overcooked scenes where the gradation of blacks can appear crushed. This is not a major issue as the majority of detail is still very evident in the darker shots.
The CGI is on the whole presented realistically and the weird and wonderful creatures seam effortlessly into the visuals. There is a real sense of the children talking to actual characters rather than speaking into a blue screen. Fleshtones are as accurate as they should be and the general sharpness of the image comes across with no evidence of being artificially enhanced. Thankfully as you would expect from a modern film, there is also no evidence of grain as the transfer from the source is pretty much spot on.
Paramount have done a good job with this release.
SoundParamount decided to bless this disc with an uncompressed Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48Khz/24-bit) sound track.
The dynamics of the audio are generally very strong and as you would expect from the resolution on offer, everything sounds extremely clinical. The bass punches through with resolute character and clarity while the dialogue is smoothly balanced into the mix. The growling of Mulgarath and the squeaky high tones of Martin Short as Thimbletack are all firmly anchored through the front centre, as is all the dialogue.
The surround channels are used well and the sound steering is directive; the discrete effects can be located quite precisely. There is very little to complain about in the action scenes and the aural experience is certainly immersive. However if there is a slight niggle it is that everything tends to drop off quickly and pick up again when needed. The sense of ambience and occasion is not as continuous as it could and should have been. It also detracts a little from the soundtrack being as exciting as it could have been.
On the whole though, without being too critical, the sound-mix is well done and provides an enjoyable experience, if not an exciting one.
ExtrasThe blu-ray disc comes with no fewer than 11 extras and 8 of those are presented in HD. It's a good sign that someone felt it worthy to give the extras the HD treatment and other studios really should start taking note of this. It's a welcome bonus and a welcome trend.
Spiderwick: It's all true! - HD - (7mins 4secs) Mark Waters talks to you about the creatures that exist in the fantastical world of Spiderwick. He tries to convince you that the world actually exists and it's all clearly aimed towards young children. Nevertheless it's a good introduction to the key creatures from within the movie. Unfortunately if it wasn't so painfully obvious that he was reading from an autocue he might have done a more convincing job on the adults as well.
It's a Spiderwick World - HD - (8mins 44secs) Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black talk about what inspired them to write the 5 books and how they felt modern day kids needed a fantasy series like the Spiderwick Chronicles. Mark Waters chips in once again with how excited he was after reading the books and having to make this into a movie. He's clearly a director who's not backward in coming forward, so there's always plenty being said.
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide - Here you get a static shot of the contents of the Field Guide and 10 pages from within it. It's obviously not the whole book but the main creatures and characters are all there. All the tips and secrets are exposed or you to read about in a text and graphics format.
Field Guide in-movie mode - This is a straightforward flag up feature which you can enable whilst watching the movie. Occasionally the banner will appear across the bottom of the screen akin to exposing the secrets of the Field Guide.
Spiderwick: Meet the Clan - HD - (13mins 54secs) All the main cast of the film are introduced and there is a good focus on Freddie Highmore. It's a good overview and it highlights the challenge Highmore had in order to play both parts as the twins. Once again Mr Waters talks both you and his way through it all.
Making Spiderwick! - HD - (20mins 58secs) Much more of your standard fare of background production that goes into making a movie such as this. There are plenty of interviews and narratives as well as behind the scenes looks at the production backdrops. It's a well made feature.
The Magic of Spiderwick - HD - ( 14mins 23secs) It's more behind the scenes stuff for you to peruse but this feature focuses on the technical side of things. The CGI and special effects are dissected and discussed by Mark Waters, the technical staff and the animators involved in helping bring the movie to life.
A final word of advice! - HD - (1mins 51secs) Mark Waters closes off the caption trying to re-enforce the belief that the world of Spiderwick is all true (yeh right!).
Deleted Scenes - HD - (8mins 14secs) There are 4 short deleted scenes for you to watch. Mum & Jared, Boys in Bedroom, Messy Kitchen, Meet Lucinda. Whilst not exactly insightful or meaningful per se, the film would have done well to include these. As it is the movie actually felt a little short in length and there is little reason why these 8 mins of extras weren't a good thing to include?
Nickelodeon TV Spots - SD - (5mins 4secs) Well being part produced by Nickelodeon Movies they would after all have to plug the film on their TV spots? You get a collection of nine very short advert style bursts of the movie that would have filled prime time promo TV slots. It's all presented in SD as these were originally bound for the TV.
Theatrical Trailers - HD - (4mins 36secs) You've got the choice of two HD Theatrical trailers for the film to chose from Good vs. Evil and Secrets. Both are the usual sort of stuff that you get but it's nice to see that even these are presented in 1080P.
VerdictMark Waters take on the Spiderwick Chronicles results in a surprisingly dark and edgy children's fantasy movie. This is no Freaky Friday or Mean Girls and it's a clear departure from what he's done before. Parents will no doubt feel that they have sat through this type of storyline hundreds of times but sat along with their children they will feel the sense of edginess that's quite apparent.
At times the storyline feels a little tired but the direction compensates for this by keeping things moving swiftly along. In fact it's probably too swift. There are just enough characters in there to keep you interested but there is a distinct lack of development to keep you attached to them. The feature being 90 or so minutes long felt a little rushed and there is a case that another 15-20 minutes of footage would have helped the movie no end. If anything it would have helped it feel a bit more complete.
Although the content is nothing new and it's nothing that hasn't been done before, that's not to say that movies such as these are easily done. Fans of the books may be slightly disappointed as the Spiderwick Chronicles are not as true to the novels as could have been. To all else the movie will not be lacking and this blu-ray disc also packs in the quality.
Video quality is top notch with the only criticism being the overly dark and murky nature of the film. I would imagine that this was by design anyway. The aural experience is well catered for and the majority of extras are presented in high definition; Result.
In all, I was pleasantly surprised by Spiderwick. I was expecting a run of the mill children's fantasy film that would soon blend into a sea of mediocrity and obscurity within the genre. Whilst it's not the best of its kind, it's certainly good enough to want to watch and the quality of the blu-ray disc makes for a rather appealing purchase.
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