|Spider-Man 2 (Superbit Edition)|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 30 November 2004|
I’m going to just come right out and say it. I hated the original “Spider-Man” movie. I am not a comic book fan per se, but I grew up as a kid looking forward to this movie as a result of owning a few “Spider-Man” audio books and also the live action sequences from the PBS show “The Electric Company.” As countless bad CGI-driven superhero films came and went, from “Godzilla” to “The Hulk,” I feared that there would be a lame plot for “Spider-Man,” relying heavily on CGI.
I was right as I yawned along to the slow story and countless scenes of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) swinging across seemingly impossible expanses between buildings, defying logic and physics. Audiences still ate it up and it cleaned house at the box office. When it came time for the DVD release of “Spider-Man,” home theater fans snapped it up, too, only to find that the transfer was about as bad as the movie.
Then came “Spider-Man 2.” Everything that was wrong with the first movie was seemingly corrected this time out. In the first “Spider-Man,” we had the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), a villain whose face was hidden behind a mask that didn’t have a moving mouth. So when Goblin and Spider-Man had heated conversations while fighting each other in burning buildings and bouncing on parade balloons, you didn’t see any mouths moving. It made the bad dialogue less believable than a badly dubbed kung fu movie.
In “Spider-Man 2,” there are certainly many unbelievable plot developments, such as how Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) is seemingly able to recreate his recently destroyed fusion energy lab just by stealing some gold coins from a bank. Apparently, you can rob a bank, get away with a few bags of money, then order billions of dollars of electronic equipment on eBay or the Internet and have it shipped to an abandoned warehouse by the river. Now, I can understand that the super-powered octopus arms could help rebuild the thing with free labor, but still, the logistics seem impossible. But, then again, it’s just a movie.
The DVD transfer of the original Spider-Man” was okay, but not spectacular. When the regular release of “Spider-Man 2” on DVD hit stores, I rented a copy and was impressed but again, not blown away. I somehow suspected that this fun superhero feature would be given the Superbit treatment, as it is a Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment film. I was pretty impressed with the Superbit edition. For those of you not familiar with Superbit, the DVD transfers in this series of discs from Columbia/TriStar use a special high bit rate digital encoding process to optimize video quality. As the opening credits of the film begin and the bright red colors wash over the screen, the quality of this DVD hits you. Each spider web is crystal clear and the text of the credits is smooth and has no jagged edges. "This is going to be something special," I thought to myself as the opening credits came to a close.
Viewing the disc on my Integra DPS-10.5 DVD player that scales 480p images up to 720p resolution through an HDMI direct digital connection, I was finally able to see the Superbit Edition of “Spider-Man 2” in just about as good a set-up as I could muster short of going to see it at a screening at the studio. The subtle details of windows and doors in the cityscapes as Spider-Man travels across town are almost as clear as if the movie is being shown in HD. Want to be really impressed? Watch the detail in the runaway subway sequence when Spider-Man saves the innocent citizens by creating landing areas out of his web and flings the people off the train to safety. You can see each individual strand of the webs and, on my large screen HD-ILA JVC TV, there was only minor video distortion between the finely spun webs.
When Spider-Man or Doc Ock moves across the street at a high rate of speed, no noticeable artifacts are present on the screen and there is only the slightest hint of grain from the film transfer. This leads me to believe it was a purely digital process, or the room that the transfer was done in was so spotless that no dust got between the film and the digital camera.
Ironically, the only part of the film where I felt the colors were washed out in any way was during the opening scene where Peter Parker uses his Spidey suit and powers in an attempt to get some pizzas across town in time to avoid having to give them to the customer for free. This overly bright sequence, before Peter dons the red and blue Spider-Man suit, was a little disappointing, since it's the first scene of the movie, but after this, the picture quality improves to something that is nothing short of spectacular.
This disc features a spine-chilling, eardrum-rattling DTS mix that is done so well that even during the most bombastic scenes, such as the runaway subway train, the dialogue is crystal clear and all of Spider-Man and Doc Ock's one-liners come though with precision. A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is available for those without a DTS decoder, but chances are your system is DTS-compatible if you are the type of moviegoer who is seeking out Superbit discs.
As this is a Superbit edition, the focus of this disc is more on picture and sound quality than on the customary DVD additions. There are no real bonus features to be found, other than a CD-ROM-compatible feature that is accessible through a PC. I don’t think I have ever been motivated by a DVD to go check out the CD-ROM features and I don’t think I will be with the Superbit edition of “Spider-Man 2.” It’s not the ultimate video reference, but this disc is staying put in my player so I can wow my friends when they come over to check out my home theater.