|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Thursday, 01 November 2007|
This is the big one for Blu-ray. Spider-man 3 is the disc that many people in the Blu-ray camp believe will knock the fence sitters in this format war over to their side. It’s not because Spider-Man 3 is the end-all, be-all of blockbuster films. It’s actually quite flawed and sometimes ridiculously far-fetched and silly. The reason that so many people have been eagerly awaiting this title is because few films rival it in terms of special effects, there are few equals. The movie looks spectacular and I’m happy to report the Blu-ray transfer is excellent. I was worried because I felt many of the scenes in the DVD version of Spiderman 2 are lackluster. Pop that disc in and take a look at the washed out, overly-contrasty opening scenes where Peter Parker Is driving the pizzas around town on his scooter and note the washed out skin tones.
Like most comic-book super hero movies, there are large lulls between the action sequences and the filmmakers' attempts to get the audience up to speed with the back-story. Spider-man 3 is filled with many slow moments like this, from Peter Parker kickin' it in the kitchen with Aunt May, to many flash backs of Harry Osborn (James Franco) slowing regaining his memory of how he became bitter at Spider-man and for the death of his father.
Of course, I know that superhero movies require you to go into watching them with low expectations for believability, but Spider-man 3 asks the viewer to be borderline retarded to believe some of the major plot lines. The biggest coincidence involves the creation of the super villain “The Sandman”. Convicted for the murder of Peter Parker’s uncle Ben, escaped prisoner Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) is on the loose. He is being chased by the police, yet returns to his own apartment with just enough time to see his ailing daughter, talk to his ex-wife, and get out to the fire escape just before the police get there. He is then chased out of town, toward a nuclear testing facility with no barbed wire or electrical fences, where late night experiments on breaking down the molecular structure of a pile of sand are happening. So just a few moments before another test is set to run, Marko jumps the fence and lands in the pile of sand. Of course, the scientists running the test have just so happened to have just turned off their surveillance camera and think that a bird flying in the pit is what caused the disturbance on their test equipment.
Radiation is the most common explanation of how superheroes get their superpowers and basically Marko's DNA fused with the sand he was standing in and it somehow gave him the ability to turn himself into a big dust storm, fly around, re-materialize into himself, with of course the same clothes he was wearing. Ok, you just gotta go with it.
Moving on to the movie itself, the basic plot is that Peter Parker and Mary Jane are back together after being on-again, off-again. Peter is back to being Spider-man full-time after mentally disabling his powers in the previous film. Mary Jane is singing in an off-Broadway musical. Harry Osborn plans avenge his father's "murder" by destroying Peter Parker/Spider-man, until Harry gets amnesia (talk about far-fetched). A black, mysterious ooze just happens to attach itself to Peter's moped and follow him home. Eventually the ooze (symbiote) bonds with Peter and brings out the darker side of Peter and Spider-man. After Spider-man breaks free from the symbiote, Eddie Brock, Peter's photographer rival, bonds with the creature. This gives a back-to-normal Spider-man two villains to defeat at the same time. And then throw in the fact that Harry regains his memory but continues to act helpless, and Peter's got a full dance card.
Director Sam Raimi is quite loyal to his friends and brilliantly cast cult-movie favorite, Bruce Campbell, best known for his roll as Ash in Army of Darkness. Campbell makes a very funny cameo as the Maître d’ in a French restaurant. Also just as in the first two movies, Spider-man creator Stan Lee makes a brief appearance as a regular man on the street, watching Spider-man in action. Recently, Lee was awarded a large sum of money for the creation of Spider-man, which has been such a financial success for Marvel Comics. At the time of its creation, Lee was merely an employee of Marvel Comics and did not own exclusive rights to Spider-man. Lee felt he was entitled to more of the profits from this franchise and eventually an amicable settlement was reached, and Lee was financially compensated for creating this superhero legend. Seeing him in these films is satisfying for comic book fans worldwide.
Knowing how short and small Tobey McGuire actually is has always made it a little tough for me to buy it when he jumps into the spider suit, but his nerdiness makes him absolutely perfect for the Peter Parker roll. Even when the symbiote attaches itself to Peter and makes him start being a "Goth" looking, wanna-be ladies man bad-ass, I just watch McGuire on screen and think, "how is this dork Spider-man?" In the end, just like how Clark Kent and Superman were such opposites behaving such that no one could believe they were the same person (yet they looked exactly the same), the contradiction between Spider-man’s stoic, silent confidence, and Peter Parker’s shy, dorky demeanor help him hide his secret identity.
Spiderman 3 is full of flaws, corny scenes, slow talking sections, and action sequences that simply defy logic, gravity, physics and reason. However, that being said, it is loaded with enough killer visual and sound effects that you have to find a way to see it on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray transfer on Spider-man 3 is as good as I have seen to date. Although my sound system can not yet decode the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack in my receiver, the PCM 5.1 soundtrack that I was able to access from my PS3 through my DTR-10.5 receiver via digital Toslink sounding simply amazing.
Being a 2-disc Blu-ray collection (a 50GB disc and a 25GB disc), there are a ton of bonus features. While the special features on disc 1 are all in standard definition, disc 2 is entirely in high definition.
Disc 1 contains a few lackluster bloopers, music video, and photo galleries. Nothing special. It also contains the filmmaker and cast commentaries. The second audio commentary is fairly bland, full of producers and special effects coordinators. The first commentary track however, is very entertaining. This track contains Director Sam Raimi, Tobey McGuire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Thomas Hayden Church. Expect to discover a lot about the origins of Spider-man and much more.
Disc 2 contains a plethora of special features. Most notably is the feature-length documentary. This documentary is a visually guided tour through the production and post-production of the film. The rest of the featurettes are on average 10 minutes in length and mainly center around the visual effects and creation of characters.
As a side note, there are reports of this disc having problems playing on some players because of the BD-Java encoding that is on it. I was not able to play it on a brand new Samsung BD-P1400, however that player had difficulty with many other discs as well. On the Samsung, the disc would cue up but the load time was tremendously long. Then, when the title menus came up the sound was intermittent and when starting the movie, every few seconds the image would skip and glitch. I believe this to be the player's fault as the Playstation 3 played the disc flawlessly and loaded very quickly. A replacement BD-P1400 is on the way and we will update this space if the new player is able to successfully play this disc.