This is really nothing short of stunning, even at the start of the opening titles you know you're in for a good ride. Presented in the original 1.85:1 ratio MPEG4/AVC 1080p Sony have certainly put the polish on what must be considered one of their premier releases. Colour use is extensive but never once deviating from boundaries. The World Fair scene is rich, deep and incredibly detailed. This scene also demonstrates the true depth of the image, detail in the background never for one moment lost. I paused this scene on a number of occasions just to take it all in!
Detail, which I have never seen before on the SD releases, shows itself in other areas. Norman Osborn's lab at the start gives up all it's secrets; the headset on the scientist demonstrating the glider beautifully rendered and coloured. The glider itself is a feast for the eyes when you can catch brief glimpses - again pause material. Wires, control mechanisms and other detail is shown below the glider with all the elements plainly on view. The spider which initially bites Peter shown here in so much detail you just wanted to either slap it, or at least catch it in an upturned glass.
Back to the World Fair scene when Mary Jane is clinging to the collapsing balcony. Detail here is perhaps one of the downfalls of any HD format. The mechanical apparatus used to create the crumbling stonework effect is plainly visible.
Contrast is never scrunched at either end of the spectrum. Detail in the frame whilst the Goblin flies into the World fair is still available, suitably differentiated between the light blue of the sky and the white of clouds. Dark scenes, of which there are plenty have deep foreboding blacks still with adequate detail in the shadows. The audience during the Spidey's wrestling match with Bonesaw are revealed for all to see in their slobbering glory. No grain, artefacts, or enhancement are anywhere to be seen. Print quality is not an issue with such a recent release.
Individual Score : 9
Presented at 2.35:1 1080p MPEG4/AVC encoding, Raimi opened up his canvas for Spider-Man 2 and whilst the elongated visual style is not perhaps suited to comics - here on the big screen though it was the correct choice to make. Spider-Man 2 is as detailed and colourful as it's predecessor on Blu-Ray. The opening credit scenes, which previously showed some banding on my SD edition shows none of that here. Again, no grain, no enhancement and no artefacts that I could see, so certainly this aspect has been improved upon from it's SD outing.
Awash with action some of the detail might fly by whilst you blink so pay close attention. The cityscape of New York looks as perfect as I've ever seen it. Bright skylines perhaps wash out the opening scene, but after that you're in for yet more jaw dropping visuals. Shadow scenes during the warehouse scenes near the end always showing depth and clarity.
Dr. Otto Octavius' apartment is a joy, every little trinket he and his wife have collected over the years can be seen in the background as he and Peter drink tea. The computers and equipment defined and colourful. Text easily read on some screens littered around the room. I was astonished to see here for the first time that his experiment contains fluid of some sort at the base. The gentle ripples clearly visible here.
Areas of detail you should be looking out for include the train fight scene but really to get the best out of it visually after watching the film, go back and view in slow motion. Doc Ock's tentacles never before were seen with such precision. Each arm and claw showing wires and levers certainly I never saw them before on the SD version of the disc I have.
Individual Score : 9
Like Spider-Man 2 Raimi choose to film this in 2.35:1. Encoded here on BluRay with MPEG4/AVC 1080p. An emotionally darker film this is reflected in the greater number of nighttime or shadowy scenes. In no way does this ever detract from the action and stunning visual impact on screen, and no detail appears to be lost. Again choreographed at a blistering pace it might be best to slow some of these scenes down. The initial fight, at night, between Harry (now as the New Green Goblin) and Peter looses nothing in the darkness. Stunning detail can be found on Harry's new suit, his hover-board, the buildings upon which they play out their aggression and the distant streets of New York below. As another fine example of shadow and black level look at the scene where MJ asks for reassurance from Peter after she reads a bad critical review of her stage show. Once Peter departs to confront the bad guys MJ leaves. At this point the symbiotic blob crawls over and down a small set of drawers. As MJ turns thinking she has heard something the blob stops in its tracks. Even though the back of the drawers are in perfect shadow you can still see the structure of the inky black blob adhering to it's surface.
Not all is doom and gloom though. Sufficient scenes are shot during the day for any system to pick up the incredible detail that's available on this disc. Case in point... The Sandman. Often seen hijacking armoured vans during the day here you will be able to spot the smallest of detail in his structure, the streets of New York which the offence takes place and the faces of the officers who feel his wrath. Depth is another stunning feature of the release. At night after leaving MJ's Broadway show, Peter confronts Harry. As they talk on the distance, as far as your cinematic eye can see there is an impressive amount of detail on offer from the people, crowds and other Broadway shows.
What has to be my favourite in this release however is the initial construction of The Sandman. A perfect blend of audio and video we are presented with what appear to be rocks moving together to form a shape. As the camera pans out we realise these rocks are in fact grains of sand. Each and every one on screen is perfectly identified and unique, never any loosing focus or shape. What got me here though is as the camera is fully panned out and the viewer can spot the millions of individual tiny pieces of sand we see smaller, lighter sand blown off The Sandman in the wind. Even still these smaller particles are absolutely perfect.
I have always been impressed with the BluRay versions of Spider-Man 1 and 2 however Spider-Man 3 pips them both at the post. Broad colour pallet (as they all have), inky black, detailed shadow scenes...it's certainly one I'll be using to wow friends as and when they ask what BluRay can do.
Individual Score : 10
TrueHD 5.1 - This feature, amongst others, is what you bought your surround system for. Again from the opening title you know you're in for a treat. That solitary strand of web opening the titles fires over your head, the audio perfectly following it's path initially from behind, over the top of the viewer, finally reaching the front stage. Directionally Spider-Man cannot be faulted. You'll be able to hear Spidey swing in from your surrounds. When faced on screen and he shoots his web you'll hear it emanate from one of your fronts then follow it's path as you hear the squelch of it attaching to something in your surrounds. In the warehouse scene where Peter confronts his uncle's killer a shot rings out from the centre stage. Clearly in your right surround you'll be able to distinguish the bullet's ricochet. As you're marvelling at that steerage finally the bullet will hit the floor. This too is pinprick perfect.
The wrestling scene encapsulates the listener, crowd noises emanating from all around, the round bell ringing out from your surrounds as appropriate. It would be difficult to mention all of the areas where audio effects are used. This doesn't mean to say the presentation is brutal and in your face, it certainly suits the nature of the film itself. Because it is so immersive though a couple of scenes where you do expect a little more steerage seem to be firmly located in the front stage. The destruction of the balcony at the Fair being a prime example. Falling masonry here could have been used to better effect. However Spider-Man is audio heaven for those people who love an immersive sound stage.
Dialogue is obviously centre staged and no matter what effects are going on around you, you'll never miss a word. The full audio range is implemented. LFE used as expected for the hectic fight scenes, with explosions. Mid tones constant through out and dings and screeching highs easily distinguished. The underlying score from Danny Elfman in the background from your fronts contributing to the adventure or emotion as dictated by the action on screen.
Like the video the sound really cannot be faulted. An improvement over my SD version as nothing here was lost in the mix. Being a premier Sony release however I have to question the lack of a full PCM track. Certainly the TrueHD was mouth watering and more than enjoyable but to omit PCM was a bit of a let down.
Individual Score : 9
Again for your listening pleasure Sony have offered only the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Again directionality is never at fault here. Spidey swinging from rear to front, side to side; his web slinging steered to the appropriate speaker. Doc Ock's tentacles manoeuvre throughout the sound field, whooshing over your head as they writhe creating some calamity or other. A car being thrown through a window... the high pitched tones of the glass breaking followed by the dull, almost floating, roar as it sails over the head of our hero from one speaker to the next.
Spider-Man 2 does have thunderous LFE though; from the way Doc Ock uses his tentacles as legs, their claws hammering into the ground. Or the train fight scene, the myriad of whacks and thumps will send your sub into overdrive. You will feel the visceral crunch as the side buildings give way when Peter tries to stop the jugger-naught with his webs. Wonderful stuff.
Although there's plenty of full on action going on here as we're seeing Peter's character and relationship with MJ enhance there's a fair amount of dialogue as well. This is never lost in the mix. Your ears will always be able to distinguish what's being said no matter what's going on all around.
Like the first film, Spider-Man 2 produces a tightly engaging sound track which can't help but raise the entertainment level of yet another superb summer blockbuster.
Individual Score : 9
Finally Sony has graced Spider-Man 3 with the PCM track which should have been on offer to the previous 2. To accompany this we also have a Dolby TrueHD track. In all honesty I didn't really find much to separate the two. If anything the bass offered by the PCM is a little tighter and prolonged. Those not capable of enjoying PCM for what it is though will not really miss out.
Like its predecessors dialogue is firmly rooted at your front centre and comes across crisp and bright. Steerage between all your speakers creates a truly immersive sound field which will envelop and bring you right into the middle of the action. LFE will thump your chest as the particle accelerator whoops round just as The Sandman thumps his adversaries. What is not lost though in this dynamic though heavy bass sound mix are the lighter tones. The smashing of glass will reverberate around the speakers as it becomes shattered or the yet again inevitable screams emanate from our heroines lips.
Again this premium release from Sony has all of the boxes ticked in the sound department. It's fresh and lively, deep bass when needed and perfect tight steerage throughout the many actions scenes. If your system can't keep up then replace it, it's worth it.
Individual Score : 10
- Spider-Man 3 Commentary with Sam Raimi, Toby McGuire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Hayden Church, Topher Grace and Bryce Howard.
Phew, anymore in there and they would have had to open the windows. In the face of it you would have thought that with so many people having the opportunity for their say confusion and chaos would have reigned supreme; quite the opposite. What the viewer does get throughout this commentary is the feeling that the director and actors got on well, played as a team and actually contributed to the realisation of three finished movies.
Never going off on a tangent, and certainly never floating into the murky 'luvie' waters of old this is an upbeat commentary where predominantly the actors are discussing their involvement in the scenes produced on screen at the time. It becomes apparent that Raimi himself decided to drastically alter the script at one stage and consulted with the majority of his actors before doing so. A worthwhile change then from some dictatorial directors out there.
- Commentary with producers and film makers
This is an altogether more procedural technical commentary whilst interesting from those stand points does not actually have the engaging qualities of its predecessor. If you enjoy the technical coverage of the film from production through to film decisions then you will enjoy this, as it's never really boring. I prefer technical stuff to be presented as one of those featurettes where you can actually see the enthusiasm in the faces of the people responsible. For me though I missed the bonding in the first commentary, this was too sterile.
Due to the fact that this section has to be completed then I am unwilling to give it a final Extras score, we expect the Extras disc to be with us shortly.
During the course of the first commentary Kirsten pops up and says what every one else knows. The story of Spider-Man and Peter Parker is not the story of adventure, who gets the girl and who has the biggest muscles. It's the story of a teenage kid whilst having had bestowed upon him a great gift has all of the same troubles a normal guy does at that age. Finding the balance between doing the right thing, staying sane and keeping those he loves protected is continually what drives Peter onwards. Certainly Raimi and his erstwhile cast deliver.
The Green Goblin puts it another way, in one of my favourite quotes, it sums up what Peter Parker has to constantly battle with...
"This is why only fools are heroes - because you never know when some lunatic will come along with a sadistic choice. Let die the woman you love... or suffer the little children. Make your choice, Spider-Man, and see how a hero is rewarded."
How true. Like Ming the Merciless before them too many arch villains have not perused the exploitation of hero's associates well enough. Spider-Man in the comics and now Spider-Man on film unfortunately has to suffer this constant heartbreak.
And it is this which any and all comic creations on film are ultimately judged. Not just how well the film comes across, but how well that film, or in this case this series of films, portray their 2 dimensional characters onto celluloid. Raimi certainly knows a thing or two about comics and has a deep appreciation from the early work of writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Dikto and the stylised animation of Spider-Man's swinging owes a lot to the definition brought to the comic book by Tod McFarlane. Originating from the Silver Age of comics in the 60's migrating through the Bronze Age in the 70s and 80s and bringing the franchise right up to date with the Modern Age, Raimi includes all the features I certainly wanted to see in one of my favourite action heroes.
The first film introduces us to Peter's history without becoming boring and perhaps only since Chris Reeve's Superman have we seen this. He goes on to examine the multi faceted nature of criminality with the second; realising as did the Bronze Age that not everything is black and white and sometimes we take the wrong path only because of brief misjudgments in time. To bring us up to date exploring the darker side of the beast itself we have Spider-Man 3 and whilst it could have pruned a villain here and there it's still one hell of a ride.
Enhanced visual definition and a wonderful set of sound tracks, this really is a no brainer for any lover of the Spider-Man trilogy, it's simply a must have buy. Those of you who only have HD-DVD really will miss out here and this is a prime example of the format war hurting the fans the most, be smart... buy both systems if you can. Raimi himself has indicated that he might not continue directing this franchise and I hope he reconsiders. In all honesty I don't know of anyone, perhaps bar Bryan Singer, who could fill these shoes.
So in the end... "Go get em, tiger!"
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