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Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy(2002-2007)
See individual titles for their synopses.
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." 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."
For more about Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy and the Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray release, see Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on October 22, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris
Director: Sam Raimi
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray Review
Impeccably produced in 1080p, the Spider-man trilogy delivers reference quality picture and sound
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, October 22, 2007
"No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, the ones I love will always be the ones who pay." Thus marks a defining moment in the Spider-man trilogy, the reining comic book triumvirate to come to the silver screen and now to Blu-ray. After high school senior Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is bitten by a genetically engineered spider, his DNA mutates to give him superhuman abilities. His reflexes are lightning fast. He navigates the concrete jungle of Manhattan swinging from webs shot from his wrists. He uses phenomenal strength and dexterity to fight the city's criminals.
When he is first learning his powers, Peter allows a petty criminal to escape, and that criminal's partner murders Peter's uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). As he faces the pain of that loss, Peter realizes that all his actions--and inaction--will have profound consequences for the world around him. He learns that there is no room for ego in being a superhero or, for that matter, an upstanding citizen. Meanwhile, the girl he loves, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) begins dating his best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), who is struggling to gain the respect of his disapproving father--none other than the arch-villian Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). The goblin arises from a failed project to develop a power serum for the military. To defeat the goblin, Peter must not only overcome the physical and technological powers, but moral and emotional ones, too. As he acknowledges, "With great power comes great responsibility. This is my gift. My curse."
But the Spider-man saga does not try to get too heavy for itself. Comic relief is in constant supply and one of Maguire's great gifts as an actor is that he can be self-effacing and nerdy while still maintaining enough strength and character to be a believable super-hero. His portrayal of Parker and Spidey is both sensitive and strong, and littered with moments that are simultaneously humorous and painful.
The second film in the trilogy focuses on a new villian, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), who maneuvers using four high-tech appendages that emerge from his spinal cord and are showcased brilliantly by the special effects. Doc Ock pursues the development of a renewable energy source that threatens to destroy New York City. Again, Peter must navigate not just the dangerous atmosphere created by the villain, but the emotional turmoil of complex relationships with Mary Jane and Harry. Peter grows weary of having the weight of immense responsibility on his shoulders. He even gives up his superhero job to focus on his scholarly pursuits, and his superhuman skills begin to atrophy. But Doc Ock forces Peter's hand when he kidnap's Mary Jane, and Spider-man returns to save his sweetheart and the city. His friendship with Harry is ultimately strained to the breaking point as Harry learns the true identity of the Green Goblin and suddenly follows in his father's evil footsteps.
Spider-Man 3 picks up where the previous film leaves off, with Peter and Mary Jane finally in a strong relationship and the city of New York showing Spider-man the long-overdue appreciation he deserves. But problems quickly crop up. Harry seeks revenge for the death of his father by attacking Peter using all the tricks of the Green Goblin. Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), the criminal who murdered Ben Parker, escapes from jail and develops superhuman capabilities when his body's molecules merge with sand in a particle accelerator. An organic substance from space falls to earth on a meteor, attaches itself to Peter's spidey suit and starts to eat away at his selflessness until he becomes egocentric and vengeful. Peter finally shakes this manifestation of revenge in the bell tower of a church, but the black substance then infects Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) turning him into the criminal, Venom.
The thrird installment covers the most ground and takes the most chances, not just with the effects but with the complex emotional ties of the characters and the wild humor that keeps Spider-man 3 from taking itself too seriously. The scope of Spider-man 3 is perhaps too ambitious, as it addresses three villains and touches on many profound issues such as vengeance, faith and forgiveness, each one of which could have been expanded to fill an entire film itself. The result is that Spider-man 3 feels a bit cramped, and the writing is not quite up to par with the focused screenplay of the first two.
Nevertheless, Spider-man 3 has its moments that surpass anything seen in its predecessors. One of the highlights of the trilogy for me was seeing the "egocentric" Peter strut around Manhattan while James Brown's "People Get Up and Drive that Funky Soul" played. Peter then shows up in a jazz club where Mary Jane works. In a farcical cabaret performance, he shows off his skills on piano and his dance moves. But the humor is strong throughout all three films. Coupled with the outstanding special effects--especially those of the Doc Ock and the Sandman--the Spider-man trilogy comes very close to perfect entertainment.
Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray, Video Quality
The first film is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio while the subsequent two are framed in 2.40:1. Action movies rely heavily on dynamic video, and the 1080p presentation of the Spider-man trilogy is essential to view the special effects, stylized colors and costumes. DVD simply cannot do justice to these films. The level of detail and depth on Blu-ray is extraordinary, with tremendous definition in the cityscapes and sets. Even microdetail in skin and clothing is extraordinary. For example, in the scene in the laboratory where Parker is bitten by the spider, Mary Jane's mottled green sweater shows remarkable definition in the weave and the color variation of the fabric. But everywhere in the picture, the detail is apparent.
Watch the way Parker swings through Manhattan like a modern day Tarzan. Every pixel is rendered convincingly to show the detail, speed and power that bursts from the screen during these action sequences. The camera follows Parker closely as buildings, traffic and streets far below sail past with lightning speed. Every bit of the 1080p resolution is required to convincingly pull off this effect. And what a stunning effect it is. I can think of few other scenes on Blu-ray disc to show off the quality of the format as effectively. Usually, CGI-stylized scenes are lacking in depth and other cues of visual realism, but not here.
Scenes with less motion are equally detailed, but the small grain is highly visible, especially in light areas. This was a welcome sight for me. I was afraid some type of digital noise reduction would be used to wipe the video clean. That approach would remove the grain, but also take away some life from the picture. Not so. The video is dynamic, with such definition that facial expressions yield tremendous detail. Watch the scene where Willem Dafoe has the conversation with himself in the mirror. His expressions are priceless, and the 1080p allows us to see the full range of Dafoe's emotions during his transition into the Green Goblin.
Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Initially, Sony was including PCM on their newer releases but has since stopped doing that. Yes, I know that Dolby TrueHD is "theoretically" the same as lossless PCM. But in my experience with audio, theory and reality are not best friends. The Spidey PCM tracks are significantly better than most TrueHD tracks I have heard. The soundstage is strong and cohesive with instrumentation, voices and sound effects rendered gorgeously and with heart-stopping dynamics that can go from a whisper to a tremendous crescendo that rocks the floorboards and windows. The spotlighting on certain strings in the orchestral arrangements sounds solid and sweet in the midrange, especially in the more dramatic scenes where the music really is layed on thick. The surround channels and subwoofer are used to very dramatic effect.
Perhaps the greatest feature of the audio is the soundstaging of the 5.1 mix. All sounds have very precise imaging and provide a convincing illusion of the action taking place all around. Within this soundstage, individual voices and sound effects have good tonal characteristics. The original engineering--microphone placement and recording of both voices and other sounds--goes beyond the quality of most films. Voices have a distinct charm and resonance to them. Listen to the timbre of Ben Parker's voice. It exudes a warmth and richness that helps define his character and makes his words more authorative.
Sam Raimi uses the score very effectively--from sweeping choral and orchestral passages to "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" performed by B. J. Thomas (in Spider-man 2) to the aforementioned James Brown track (in Spider-man 3) that features one of the beafiest horn arrangements ever recorded. Throughout the trilogy, the audio, as much as the actors, sets the mood and complements the drama of each scene. Bottom line: the audio is warm, dynamic and open. Best of all, it images with pinpoint accuracy.
Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The first two films are presented on BD-50 discs with no bonus material except the Spider-man 2.1 option that will not be accessible to all viewers without the appropriate firmware. However, Spider-Man 3 is a two-disc set that has the same bonus features as the DVD. One of the more worthwhile features are in the film commentary itself on Disc 1. I'm not referring to the mostly mindless banter with James Franco, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Thomas Hayden Church and Bryce Dallas Howard. Instead listen to the filmmaker's track with producers Avi Arad, Grant Curtis, Laura Ziskin, visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk and editor Bob Murawski. Many interesting anecdotes and observations are given to provide some insight into how the film was made. I highly recommend it. Disc 1 of Spider-man 3 also includes a Snow Patrol music video. But the most entertaining feature is a blooper reel. If you need a good laugh, check it out-- Maguire is hilarious. Rounding out the extras on Disc 1 are photo galleries and two video game previews.
The meaty featurettes are on Disc 2, including 11 behind-the-scenes features. "Grains of Sand: Building Sandman" is perhaps the most interesting due to the eye-candy of the villain's special effects. The feature focuses on Stan Lee and shows many instructive behind-the-scenes shots and interviews with effects technicians. A feature on the Green Goblin delivers insight into the goblin's most fearsome weapon, the armband with several retractable, menacing blades. The third villain in Spider-Man 3, Venom, is the focus of "Covered in Black: Creating Venom", which covers the CGI effect of the black substance that first covers Spidey. Yet another worthwhile feature, "Hanging on: Gwen Stacy and the Collapsing Floor", demonstrates the use of specially designed hydraulics to give the effect of a quick drop. It also shows how rubber life-sized furniture models are used to give the illusion of dangerous falling objects.
Other features include "Inside the Editing Room", "The Science of Sound", "Tangled Web: The Love Triangle of Spider-Man 3", "Wall of Water" and a documentary on each of the two shooting locations: New York City and Cleveland. These featurettes provide important insights into budgetary and feasibility factors that are rarely considered by an audience. But it's actually intuitive to realize that location shots will have challenging problems associated with them. The cast and crew describes how they dealt with those challenges, including problematic crowds.
Spider-Man: The High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Spider-man High Definition Trilogy delivers reference-quality picture and sound, and each film can be regarded among the most entertaining titles to come to Blu-ray. While the first two have more focus and a better screenplay, the third takes special effects and outlandish character development to new heights...and precipitous falls. Throughout it all, Raimi, Maguire and the talented cast of costars and effects wizards offer up nonstop entertainment and good stories that are brought to life in 1080p.
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