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Orphaned at an early age, Peter Parker lives in Queens, New York with his beloved Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Peter leads the life of a normal student, working as a photographer at the school paper, pining after the beautiful Mary Jane Watson and hanging out with buddy Harry Osborn. On a school trip, during which Peter and his classmates are given a science demonstration on arachnids, Peter is bitten by a genetically-altered spider. Soon after, he discovers that he has unusual powers: he is endowed with the strength and agility of a spider along with a keen, ESP-like "spider-sense." Peter first uses his powers to make money, but in the face of a tragedy that hits close to home, he vows to dedicate his life to fighting crime, taking to heart the words of his beloved Uncle Ben: "With great power comes great responsibility." Meanwhile, megalomaniacal businessman Norman Osborn, Harry's father, is undergoing some changes of his own. An experimental formula has gone awry, increasing his intelligence and strength but also driving him insane. He is now the Green Goblin, Spider-Man's arch-enemy, who will put young Peter Parker's vow to fight crime and help innocent people to the ultimate test.
For more about Spider-Man and the Spider-Man Blu-ray release, see Spider-Man Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 7, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris
Director: Sam Raimi
» See full cast & crew
Spider-Man Blu-ray Review
Spider senses are heightened in 4K.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 7, 2013
With great power comes great responsibility.
Although it was X-Men that unofficially kicked off the massive Superhero film craze of the 2000s -- no doubt the decade will be remembered for its slew of mega-budget blockbusters featuring Marvel's and D.C.'s finest -- it was Director Sam Raimi's (The Evil Dead) Spider-Man that was the first humongous success and the picture that paved the way for the influx of films and the countless sequels that swooped into cineplexes in the following years. Though some controversy befell the film before its Summer 2002 release -- promotional materials featuring the World Trade Center were recalled and various scenes depicting the structures were re-filmed or digitally edited -- Spider-Man opened to tremendous financial success, breaking box office records that would stand until Raimi's own Spider-Man sequel would surpass it. Fortunately, the film lives up to its earnings; it's an exciting, well made, and balanced picture that takes its time developing characters, relationships, and themes and not simply relying on wall-to-wall (or web-to-web) action and visual effects to stun audiences into forgetting the absence of a greater purpose.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) lives with his adoptive aunt and uncle and is the school nerd the jocks love to shove around. He's a science geek and never travels anywhere without his trusty camera. He's secretly in love with his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), who's dating one of the guys who sees fit to bully him. He has only one person he might consider a friend: Harry Osborn (James Franco), a prep school reject and son of a wealthy researcher and founder of the powerful "Oscorp," Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe). On a school field trip to a science lab, Peter is bitten by an escaped spider. He barely makes it home, crashes on the floor, and awakens the following morning to improved eyesight, sticky hands, heightened senses, great physical strength, and even the ability to scale walls. He uses his power to make money in a low-rent wrestling show, but when his uncle is murdered, Peter turns into a masked crime fighter known as "Spider-Man." Meanwhile, Dr. Osborn inject himself with an unproven and unstable serum that brings him heightened powers and a lust for violence and mayhem, transforming him into a diabolical villain known as "The Green Goblin."
The Spider-Man formula of quality character development, deeper themes under the surface, huge action, quality performances, and light humor would be mimicked in Iron Man but left behind for the significantly darker -- visually and thematically -- Christopher Nolan Batman films. Both styles fit their respective universes very well, though Sony would try to take the darker approach with its Spider-Man reboot with much success. It demonstrates that there's more to moviemaking than source material, that it can be molded into almost anything if the writing -- particularly the story themes -- acting, and photography are up to the challenge. The cheery thrills and colorful world of Raimi's Spider-Man, however, proves highly agreeable not just in look and tone but in the ease with which it allows audiences to access the film's inner world, to go along for the ride in some intimate detail, whether slinging through the city at high speed and dangerous heights or sharing the most intimate character moments. The picture is very well balanced, then, and it comes together with a tight, unbreakable cohesion at its core, placing everything just-so to make a movie that captures not only the spirit of the comics but also the magic of motion pictures.
The film shines in a lot of areas, notably in how well the digital effects integrate into the real world. Spider-Man's web slinging adventures blend almost seamlessly with his surroundings, whether flying through buildings or rescuing a cartful of children plunging to their deaths. The film is very well paced and beautifully photographed, capturing not just a look but also a feel of both big action and adventure and intimate drama, the two working in harmony to heighten the film's effectiveness. Beyond all of that, however, is what might be the picture's best asset: its cast. There's an evident chemistry between the leads that only helps to give shape to the dramatic currents and action scenes both. Peter Parker's inner love for Mary Jane is nicely balanced by his outward clumsiness; the actors never fumble the burgeoning relationship that proves naturally progressive and believable from the inside out. Maguire also handles the physical role of Spider-Man well, growing into the part not just physically but also emotionally. He makes Spider-Man strong but vulnerable, and that vulnerability -- not just in his physical confrontations but his inner condition that's used against him -- shapes him more than his outer strengths. Raimi and Maguire both manage to find emotion under the mask and use it to elevate every critical scene, boosting not only the action but the character content, too. Dunst and Franco are excellent as well, the former shining brightly as she gradually falls for Peter and the latter bringing a genuine nuance to his character beyond what is a fairly unimaginative foundation. The film's brightest star, however, is Willem Dafoe. He's so likable -- despite his occasionally standoffish attitude with his son that gives way to pride and love in some scenes -- that one can't help but to root not for his demise but for some life-changing experience to end the film. He plays the character complexities between Norman and the Goblin wonderfully, with both extremes making for a fascinating psychological study supported by some hyperrealistic abilities and scientific support.
Spider-Man Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony's commitment to releasing the finest Blu-ray products is evident with every spin of a Sony-branded disc. The consistency of product -- from the latest blockbusters to the most cherished classic titles from years gone by -- is arguably tops in the entire industry, and why shouldn't it be; Sony was a lead Blu-ray design and advocacy outfit, its PlayStation 3 console offered disc playback and instant wide format adoption, and the first wave of titles released back in 2006 bore the Sony label on the spine. Since then, and through a few growing pains and spurts -- a bloody format war, a misstep or two, the transition from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD Master Audio -- the studio has emerged as the most trustworthy in the industry when it comes to its Blu-ray product. When it says Sony, chances are extremely high that the movie is going to look (and sound) about as good as the format allows. Now, Sony is recalling the days of its "Superbit" DVD releases with the emergence of "Mastered in 4K" (*) Blu-ray discs. The new transfers are sourced from 4K masters but here's where the giant asterisk comes in: they're then downscaled to standard Blu-ray 1080p resolution. That means buyers can enjoy them on their regular old Blu-ray players and their regular old HDTVs -- no fancy new hardware required. The downside is that viewers aren't really seeing the material in 4K; even those who shell out the large sum of cash for a new 4K TV will be treated only to an upscaled presentation, much the same way today's regular old TV/playback 1080p device combos upscale standard definition DVDs.
Watching the "Mastered in 4K" transfer in 1080p does yield some benefits over the standard 1080p Blu-ray releases, even if it's not a true 4K experience. The discs take advantage of a significantly higher bitrate than regular old Blu-ray discs, meaning more muscle to produce the finest picture quality, revealing superior details and showcasing that perfect cinematic, pleasing grain texturing for pictures photographed on film and more accuracy for those photographed in the wholly digital realm. "Mastered in 4K" discs also promise superior color balance and accuracy, reproducing a more faithful-to-the-source palette that will reveal the sort of natural shading and subtle nuance even the best of 1080p Blu-ray cannot match. More, Sony promises enhanced viewing on its own line of 4K TVs thanks to a proprietary upscaling algorithm that's designed to squeeze the most out of the "Mastered in 4K" line of Sony discs, above and beyond what any competitor's display can offer. Makes sense considering some branch of Sony is at work along every step of the process. Unfortunately, one of Sony's shiny new 4K televisions was not available for review purposes, but suffice it to say that either of the launch displays -- the 55" and 65" XBR-labeled sets -- will undoubtedly offer the best consumer viewing picture to date, whether joined with a Sony "Mastered in 4K" disc or a regular old Blu-ray from any studio.
Spider-Man looks fantastic, better than ever, in fact, for home viewing. The image secures a handsome, filmic texture, retaining a natural grain structure that's subtly evident in every shot and that helps to not only create that cherished cinematic flavor but also reinforce the level of visible detail; there's been no unnecessary noise reduction performed on this release. It's bold and crisp, revealing an incredible level of visual nuance across the board. Spider-Man's costume looks amazing; the 1080p "Mastered in 4K" transfer showcases every line, the web-like ridges, and the meshy eye covers beautifully. Skin textures are amazingly complex and true, while cityscapes both near and far look spectacular. It's all very well defined from top to bottom. Colors are equally striking. Through there's a hint of warmth here and there -- generally and across human faces specifically -- the palette usually proves quite bold and brilliant. Spider-Man red, Goblin green, and all varieties in between -- whether on clothes, flashy neon signage, or elsewhere -- are striking. Black levels are faultless, showing a deepness and richness at every opportunity. There were a few strange instances of an explosion of white speckles and pixelation in several shots. Rewinding could not reproduce the effect, and it's not something that's plagued the review gear before. Considering it was an unrepeatable occurrence (even if it happened at several points in the film), it's likely some flaw not part of the disc but one worth mentioning, anyway.
Spider-Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Spider-Man's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack follows the formula of the most successful tracks, offering a wide, welcoming cinematic flair to its music and effects but finding a delicacy in the quieter emotional scenes. The score is rousing and well integrated; it enjoys faultless spacing and excellent clarity, playing big across the front but also featuring a strongly defined and balanced rear support structure. The low end, too, proves its potency when required, delivering punishing but even and exacting lows or simply offering a foundational support and heft to music. The track is packed with exceptionally detailed sound effects, whether the Goblin's glider whirring through the air or any number of other action-heavy elements, such as gunfire and raging fires. Sony's track also carries ambient effects very well. City din, cheering crowds at a wrestling match, or the bustling Bugle offices spring to life with a natural presence at every opportunity. Rounded into form by even and clear dialogue, this is a track that's not just an entertaining listen but a fantastic compliment to a great film.
Spider-Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Spider-Man's "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray release contains no supplemental content. A UV Digital Copy code, however, is included.
Spider-Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Spider-Man might not delve into any groundbreaking territory, but it's a rock-solid entertainer with everything working in total harmony. It's a ridiculously fun watch, a movie with a great cast, expert direction, memorable content, well-defined and evolving characters, exhilarating action, and a core foundational dramatic arc that defines the movie more than any of the action. It's not the best of the 2000's comic book films -- it's outdone by several films, including the sequel -- but it ranks highly and amongst the finest. Sony's "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray release of Spider-Man features excellent video and audio. No extras are included. Recommended to compliment the older release, particularly given a fairly aggressive sale price.
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