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October 4, 2007
Spider-man 3 - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
3/5/200723/9/2007Sony PicturesSam Raimi
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby True HD
PCM 4.6Mbps
MTobey Maguire

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Spider-man is back to battle new foes...
I can certainly admit that, like so many people, I'm a big fan of the Spider-man movies. Sure there are other super hero franchises that hold my interest as well, but there's just something about an ordinary guy that transforms into some super athletic, web swinging, crime fighting hero that captures my imagination. I thought that the first movie was great, the second movie exceeded the first in almost every way, and this third movie. Well... let's start with the storyline before I give my impressions.

Peter Parker has finally managed to strike a balance between his devotion to M.J. and his duties as a superhero. But there is a storm brewing on the horizon. When his suit suddenly changes, turning jet-black and enhancing his powers, it transforms Peter as well, bringing out the dark vengeful side of his personality that he is struggling to control. Under the influence of the suit, Peter becomes overconfident and starts to neglect the people who care about him. Forced to choose between the seductive power of the new suit and the compassionate hero he used to be, Peter must overcome his personal demons as two of the most-feared villains yet, Sandman and Venom, gather unparalleled power and a thirst for retribution to threaten Peter and everyone he loves.

So what do I think of Spider-man 3 as a movie? Well it was quite good, but just lacked that little something extra to bring it up to the standards of the second movie. In terms of acting this is another very solid performance across the board and Sam Raimi knows how to get the best out of his actors. Tobey Maguire puts in another solid performance as Peter Parker/Spider-man however for me it's the smaller actors such as J.K. Simmons as Jonah Jameson, Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, and James Cromwell as Captain Stacy that bring this movie to life. Not to be outdone plenty of credit must go to the gorgeous Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of actor/director Ron Howard no less) who plays Gwen Stacy in Spider-man 3. She's a natural beauty who has a big career ahead of her.

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...but is there an evil side brewing?
If I do have one criticism of the movie, and this is where, for me, it actually loses out compared to the originals it's the number of enemies. Peter Parker/Spider-man has to face the New Goblin which, if you've seen the original movies, won't be too hard to work out who he is early on. Then we have Flint Marko (played by Thomas Haden Church) who ends up becoming Sandman after a particle acceleration experiment takes place while he is in its vicinity and finally we have Edward 'Eddie' Brock who becomes Venom. While I don't mind the number of enemies as such, they aren't given enough screen time to really become 'known' to the audience as Norman Osborn (Green Goblin) did the original, and Doc Ock did in the second movie. With much of this movie concentrating on Peter Parker's own struggles these villains aren't given enough screen time.

One scene that has always split audiences - or at least the many people that I have spoken to - is the darker Peter Parker or 'Emo' Peter Parker as my friends call him. The scene in the jazz club when Peter performs, was absolutely hilarious. It showed the effects of the evil 'goo' perfectly, but also showed that all of us have a darker side. It's something I wasn't expecting from the movie, but I loved it, although you may have a very different opinion.

Now I do have to point out a small criticisms of this disc. The good news is that the disc does allow you to bookmark parts of the movie which essentially means you can set your own chapter stops. This is pretty handy when you consider the actual disc has 52 chapters - why Sony do you need so many chapters in a 140 minute movie!? The drawback to this is that the typical method of speeding up the movie no longer work on the PS3 controllers D-Pad (which is, we assume, how most people still navigate and access Blu-Ray discs). You now have to bring up a separate navigation window. This only affects the feature movie, and not the extras disc. One positive of this disc is that when you now go to the PS3's XMB it actually tells you what disc is in the machine - almost every other disc simply says BDMV so that's a nice change.

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Kirstin is still one of the hottest women on screen.
When I first stated watching this movie I was pretty excited. Spider-man and Spider-man 2 had some pretty stunning transfers and I expected no less for Spider-man 3, and indeed for the most part this is a spectacular transfer. The disc uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec for 1080p video at 2.40:1 on a dual layer 50GB Blu-Ray disc. The bitrate for the movie constantly hovers between 25 and 30Mbps, although it often hits well over 35Mbps in busier scenes.

It really is a sight to behold and on our 46" 1080p Samsung LCD TV with HDMI 1.3 it is a stunning reproduction of the cinematic experience - if not exceeding it. Within the first few moments though I was did have some concerns as I noticed some very slight colour banding when the Marvel logo appeared. It wasn't something I noticed in the first two movies, and when I went back and re-checked those movies it wasn't on them. Why it is present on this disc I simply don't know. As with many films there is also a little film grain present - primarily in the darker scenes, but it never becomes too distracting.

Beyond that this is simply one of the best transfers we have ever seen on Blu-Ray - if you own a PS3 buying this on DVD when Blu-Ray is available for a few dollars more would be a crime. Colours are vibrant and pop right out of the screen at you - not only is Spider-man's red costume fantastic but the amount of detail visible on his black costume also impresses. Even in darkness the smallest details are visible, and it's Sam Raimi's attention to detail that has brought this to life. Outdoor scenes around New York look superb, especially as Spider-man swings between the skyscrapers - although at times it does look a little on the CG-ish side, which isn't dissimilar to the movie in cinemas though.

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Sandman takes a beating - sort of!
Audio is another area where the Spider-man 3 Blu-Ray disc excels. Two main listening options exist including Linear PCM 5.1 (encoded at 4.6 Mbps), or Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit).

This is actually one of the first Blu-Ray discs to use the Dolby True HD audio format. If you own a PS3 then you can get the system to convert the Dolby True HD 5.1 to LPCM for playback through HDMI to a compatible receiver. If you have an older receiver the PS3 will pass a 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track to your receiver. It must be said that the Linear PCM and Dolby TrueHD tracks are both simply stunning. If you want to hear some stunning sound design, and as a sample of the quality of the audio on this disc listen to the section when the crane crashes into the building and Spider-man saves Gwen Stacy between 32:31 and 35:30. Superb.

One of the biggest disappointments that I had with Spider-man 3 was that Danny Elfman wasn't returning to compose the score for the movie following creative differences with director Sam Raimi in the previous movie. In his place is composer Christopher Young, a veteran of over 80 movie scores including The Grudge, Wonder Boys, The Hurricaine and Rounders. I must say that Chris Young has done a wonderful job, especially with the darker theme music, and overall I think he has slotted in for Danny Elfman quite wonderfully. Indeed he has taken many cues that Danny Elfman created for the first two movies, but added his own twists.

The movie also includes an English Audio Descriptive Service at 640kbps as well as subtitles in English and English SDH.

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Kirsten and James are back for a third outing.
The good news for fans is that this release comes with quite a few extras to keep you entertaining. As well as two audio commentaries there are a host of small documentaries and promotional materials included. Enough talk, let's look at what we have on each of the two discs.

Commentary with Director and Cast:

    Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Kirsten Dunst, Bryce Dallas Howard and Topher Grace all participate in this commentary. They all get on pretty well and have some interesting stories and anecdotes to tell however it is Sam who has the most interesting development and production information about the movie. Not the best commentary we've ever heard, but worth a listen and a few pretty humorous moments.

Filmmakers Commentary:

    A little heavier in subject matter then the other commentary the amount of detail is impressive with producers Avid Arad, Grant Curtis, Laura Ziskin, VFX Supervisor Scott Stokdyk, and editor Bob Murawski all offering comments about the films production. Quite a few mentions of the way Sam Raimi works and what he brings to the series and overall an interesting overview of the entire production.

Bloopers (6:43/HD):

    A series of bloopers - well, more like fluffed lines - from most of the main participants. Somewhat funny in places, but nothing special.

Galleries (HD):

    A series of still shots from the movie showing characters and production with some music in the backgrounds. I really would have liked to see this expanded quite a bit. One problem here - with the PS3 controller I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to return to the discs menu! I had to quit the disc and then restart it.

Music Video: Signal Fire by Snow Patrol (4:35/HD):

    Presented in HD using AVC and 192kbps Stereo sound.

Trailers (HD):

    Ghost Rider and Surf's Up get the trailer treatment both in HD (1.85:1 and 1.78:1 respectively) using MPEG-2 compression and with Dolby Digital 640kbps audio.


Grains of Sand: Building Sandman (13:51/HD):

    A look at the work that went into creating Sandman with test on sand, motion capturing and using CG to create the sand for the movie.

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New Goblin makes an appearance.
Re-Imaging the Goblin (10:37/HD):

    A look at how James Franco was turned into New Goblin. Considerable effort has gone into creating the costume, and modernising over the Green Goblin's costumes and equipment.

Covered in Black: Creating Venom (15:36/HD):

    An interesting look at creating Venom, and the work that has gone into making the 'goo' menacing.

Hanging On... Gwen Stacy and the Collapsing Floor (10:14/HD):

    A look at how Bryce Dallas Howard did the stunt work on the collapsing floor which tipped to an angle of 30° - what was CG and what was practical.

Fighting, Flying and Driving: The Stunts of Spider-man 3 (19:00/HD):

    There was a tonne of fighting and stunts in Spider-man 3 and this featurette looks at creating many of these sequences.

Tangled Web: The Love Triangles of Spider-man 3 (9:14/HD):

    A look at the various love triangles in Spider-man 3. More of an analysis of the story arcs, then technical details of production.

Wall of Water (7:21/HD):

    A look at creating the massive wall of water (40,000 gallons in fact) that hits Sandman in the sewer system. Pretty interesting although a little brief.

Inside the Editing Room (3.59/HD):

    A way to short look at editing the movie with Bob Murawski. This really could, and should, have been longer.

The Science of Sound with Optimised Audio (16.22/HD):

    A decent look at the sound created for the movie with composer Chris Young, Supervising Sound Mixer Kevin O'Connell and Greg P. Russell, Sound Designer Paul Ottosson, Foley Artist Gary Hecker. Quite detailed (compared to most other DVD's with sound features), and worth a look if you're interested in sound design.

New York: From Rooftops to Backstreets (12.56/HD):

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    Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy.
    A look at filming on location in New York with this third movie having twice as much on-location shooting then the second one.

Cleveland: The Chase on Euclid Avenue (8.47/HD):

    Shows some of the shooting in Cleveland which allowed the filmmakers to shoot a lengthy chase sequence which couldn't be shot in New York due to the time required to shut down streets.

Ad Campaign (HD):

    The Teaser and full trailers for Spider-man 3 as well as a series of spots from around the world. Nice to see someone finally including them on Blu-Ray discs, too many are left without.

There's no denying that the Spider-man franchise is a key one for Sony - hell, they loved it so much they even used the franchises font on the Playstation 3 - and this Blu-Ray 2-disc set is a stunner. Sure there could have been a little more depth to the documentaries on the second disc, but the same couls be said of the DVD releases over the years as well. The movie is intense, has quite a few scenes that you can use to show off the benefits of Blu-Ray to friends, and is a very solid transfer indeed. If you have a PS3 (or indeed any other Blu-Ray player) then there is no reason not to pick this disc up immediately.

Note: Spider-man 3 is available as a stand alone 2-disc set, or as a part of a trilogy set with the first two movies also on Blu-Ray discs.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.