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October 31, 2007
Spider-man Trilogy - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
Various23/9/2007Sony PicturesSam Raimi
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby True HD (1-3)
PCM 4.6Mbps (3)
MTobey Maguire

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These Blu-Ray transfers are superb.
I would be extremely surprised if anyone reading this review wasn't familiar with the Spider-man movies, and I would be just as surprised if, at the very least you haven't seen at least one of them, if not all of them. Sam Raimi has created a cinematic monster with the three movies generating $US2.5 billion in takings. With such a massive following, and the continuing war between both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD to gain control of the high definition home movie experience Sony (who, in case you are unaware are firmly on Blu-Ray's side) needed to bring out their big guns this Christmas to push the war in their favour. That is, of course, the Spider-man Trilogy. We've already reviewed the brilliant 2-disc Spider-man 3 (which you can check out here), but now it's our time to look at the 4-disc box set which contains all three movies as well as a disc full of extras. But let's start with each movie...

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One of the most talked about kisses ever.
One of the most popular comic book superheroes of all time makes his leap to the big screen in Spider-Man, which already has wrapped up a collection of shattered box office records in its web. When student Peter Parker (Tobey McGuire) is bitten by a genetically altered spider, he gains superhuman strength and the ability to cling to any surface. Meanwhile, megalomaniacal businessman Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) 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 to the ultimate test young Peter Parker’s vow to use his abilities to fight crime and help innocent people.

Spider-man launched in 2001 to much fanfare and critical praise. Sony Pictures hoped to have a hit on their hands, but probably weren't prepared to the hysteria that arose when the movie hit the silver screen. It broke records the world over. As a superhero movie it set new benchmarks. Most importantly the movie had some heart, and a solid storyline with strong character development.

Spider-Man 2:
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Alfred Molina in Spider-man 2.
Two years have passed, and the mild-mannered Peter Parker faces new challenges as he struggles with "the gift and the curse," desperately trying to balance his dual identities as the web-slinging superhero Spider-Man and his life as a college student. Tormented by his secrets, Peter finds that his relationships with all those he holds dear are in danger of unraveling. His life-long yearning for M.J. (Kirsten Dunst) becomes even stronger as he fights the impulse to reveal his secret life and declare his love. His friendship with Harry Osborn (James Franco) is complicated by the young Osborn`s bitterness over his fathers death and his growing vendetta against Spider-Man. Even Peter`s beloved Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), who has fallen on hard times after the death of Uncle Ben, begins to have doubts about her nephew.

In my opinion this is the best movie in the trilogy. Alfred Molina is superb as the main villain in the movie, Doc Ock, and he has been given plenty of screen time to become fully developed and well known to the audience. Acting and directing is superb and it has some fantastic set pieces including a great finale to the movie. Yet again there are plenty of humorous moments in the movie, as well as some drama to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Great news for people that purchase this Blu-Ray disc is that it includes the original Spider-man 2 as well as the slightly extended (by about 8 minutes) Spider-man 2.1. Now we have to say that while the original movie was damn near perfect in our books the extended one doesn't really add much more to the movie at all. Some scenes are padded out a little more, while there is the odd new scene, including one with MJ detailing her love life with John Jameson and Spider-man discussing marketing in the lift.

Spider-Man 3:
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has finally managed to strike a balance between his devotion to MJ (Kirsten Dunst) 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 over-confident and starts to neglect the people who care about him most. 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 (Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace), gather unparalleled power and a thirst for retribution to threaten Peter and everyone he loves.

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A new love interest for Peter Parker?
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.

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 set. 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, for example, that the third movie 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 works 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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Wassup Spidey? Lost your mojo?
Each of the three Spider-man movies is presented in its original aspect ration and has been encoded in AVC MPEG-4 at 1080p on dual layer 50GB discs. The bitrate for the movies constantly hover between 25 and 30Mbps, although it often hits well over 35Mbps in busier scenes. Each movie really is a sight to behold on a large TV 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. 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.

In terms of overall quality this is a pretty close call across the board. The first movie seems a little softer and slightly lacking in clarity compared to the second and third movies. Having said that there is a remarkable difference between these movies on Blu-Ray then on the DVD. While the DVD's themselves were impressive these discs add so much more punch and clarity to the images.

As we mentioned in our review of Spider-man 3 there was a very small issue with colour banding in the Marvel logo on the third movie which wasn't evident in the first two movies. Very small, and very much nit picking. 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 trilogy, or even just the third movie, on DVD when Blu-Ray is available for a few dollars more would be a crime.

Click To Enlarge Image there an evil side brewing?
If you think that the audio will be the downfall of the Spider-man Trilogy think again. The movies always sounded fantastic in the movies from the sound effects, to the orchestral score, to the clarity of the voices. All three of the discs include a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) audio track which is absolutely stunnig with aggressive use of surround sound, and thumping bass when required. Interestingly and impressively the Spider-man 3 disc also includes a Linear PCM 5.1 track encoded at 4.6 Mbps. On the third movie the PCM track is certainly the preferred listening experience, but however you listen to these movies you won't be disappointed.

If you own a PS3 (as I guess most of the readers of this site would) 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. If you want to hear some stunning sound design, and as a sample of the quality of the audio on the Spider-man 3 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 concerns I had with Spider-man 3 was that Danny Elfman was not going to return to compose the score for the movie following creative differences with director Sam Raimi during the making of Spider-man 2. In his place is composer Christopher Young, a veteran of over 80 movie scores including The Grudge, Wonder Boys, The Hurricane 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.

As a 4-disc box set we expected this title to be choc full of extras - but you will almost certainly be disappointed. Spider-man and Spider-man 2 are both devoid of extras and while we can understand that this may have been done to maximise the video and audio on the feature movie it will still be disappointing to know that you will need to keep your old DVD's, or purchase them to get the behind the scenes details. The exception to this is Spiderman-3 which includes several extras on the movie disc, and also another disc full of extras in HD. So what have we got?

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Applying for a loan at the bank.
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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Time for a new tactic me thinks!
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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    Something's not quite right here.
    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.

Exactly why Sony Pictures didn't include any extras for Spider-man or Spider-man 2 is a little bewildering. Perhaps they know that almost everyone looking to get this glorious High-Def version would have purchased the first two movies on DVD anyway, or perhaps they didn't have time to transfer all the extras in HD. Either way it's a disappointment. What isn't disappointing though is the stunning presentation of these movies both in terms of video and audio and the disc full of extras for Spider-man 3 is impressive. If you're looking for a great Blu-Ray set to add to your collection then Spider-man Trilogy will fit in perfectly.

Note: Spider-man 3 is also available as a stand alone 2-disc set and has been reviewed here.

Review By: Dave Warner


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