Rated: Not Rated
Program Length: 139 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2:40:1 1080p
Languages: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English PCM 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1, Thai 5.1
Subtitles: English, English (closed captioned for the hearing-impaired), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Thai, Chinese Mandarin, Chinese Cantonese
Spider-Man 3, the latest installment in the series, has been regarded as a disappointment by many fans and critics. Indeed, plot developments at times seem to be contrived and the story follows a fairly predictable arc, with no real surprises. Nevertheless, the film is a treat to watch because the action scenes range from the merely amazing to absolutely jaw-dropping. Sony’s Blu-ray presentation of Spider-Man 3 is truly spectacular.
The opening credits are ingenious, as they manage to convey the essence of the first two Spider-Man films in a matter of minutes. As the film begins, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) finds himself enjoying life. As Spider-Man he is universally admired, and as Peter Parker things are going pretty well, too. His girlfriend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) has landed a major role in a Broadway musical and Peter is planning to ask her to marry him. Which, of course, means that things are going too well and the good times are not going to last.
The first problem is that his long-time friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), believes that Peter/Spider-man killed his father, Norman Osborn/Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). In visions Harry is beseeched by his father to avenge his death. As New Goblin, Harry faces off with Peter in a breathtaking struggle which ends with Harry unconscious and nearly dead. When Harry awakens, all of his recent memory has been lost, and he remembers Peter only as his best friend – for the time being, that is.
In the meantime, in one of the plot’s contrivances, for no apparent reason a meteor crashes into Earth with a symbiote along for the ride. The symbiote (which to one critic looks like videotape) takes a liking to Peter and follows him home. The symbiote needs to attach itself to a host, and Peter becomes its new home. The result is not exactly evil Spider-Man, but at least a revengeful and spiteful Spider-Man.
Elsewhere, a small-time crook named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) has broken out of the jail on Riker’s Island. He needs to raise money so his daughter can have an operation, but while fleeing the police he climbs a fence and finds himself on the grounds of a Particle Physics Test Facility. Naturally, he ends up being caught in the middle of an experiment. In one of the cooler scenes in the film, Marko’s cells turn into sand and he becomes Sandman. In time Spider-Man has to deal with Sandman and another super-villain called Venom.
All of the praise being heaped upon Spider-Man seems to go to Peter’s head, and he becomes a bit full of himself. This strains his relationship with Mary Jane, who loses her Broadway gig (in yet another plot contrivance, she inexplicably fails to tell Peter that she has been fired). A potential love triangle develops when Spider-Man saves his college classmate, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), from certain death when a Manhattan skyscraper is imperiled by an out-of-control construction crane. The rescue scene is one of the best in the film.
A new villain to Spider-Man’s world is Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), who aspires to become a staff photographer for the Daily Bugle and is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top.
The moral of the tale is about choices. We can choose to be good or to be evil. We can choose to hold grudges or we can choose to forgive. We can choose to think about ourselves first or to give the feelings of our loved ones the higher priority. But in the end it is the action which carries this film, and it does that with panache. The action scenes seem to jump off the screen and the Blu-ray transfer shows off those scenes to the best possible effect.
The lead actors all appeared in the prior Spider-Man films, so you know what to expect from them. Thomas Haden Church is very effective as Marko-Sandman and Topher Grace is suitably smarmy as Eddie Brock. There is also a very funny performance by Bruce Campbell as the Maitre D’ at a French restaurant.
The 1080p Blu-ray widescreen transfer is extremely sharp and colorful. The New York City locations look splendid and the action scenes of Spider-Man and his enemies look almost real. The scene of a New York City high-rise being sliced and diced by a construction crane is a wonder to behold, and there is also a spectacular scene involving an out-of-control armored car crashing into numerous vehicles (the latter scene was so complex to pull off that it was filmed on a downtown street in Cleveland because New York City would not allow one of its streets to be closed down for the time that was needed to do the shoot). Flesh tones are accurate, and the reds and blues on Spider-Man’s costume never bleed.
It is clear that Sony pulled out all the stops for this Blu-ray release.
The viewer has the choice of listening to the mini-series in Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 or uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround (there are also several foreign-language 5.1 soundtracks, as noted above). Both of the English soundtracks sounded excellent to my ears. Dialogue is always clear and the surround channels are used very effectively. There is considerable punch in the action scenes, and my cat jumped off my lap when the subwoofer kicked in, as during the armored car scene.
Spider-Man 3 is packed with special features.
The entire program is spread over two discs. The feature appears on Disc 1, which also holds two commentaries: one by director Sam Raimi and cast members Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Bryce Dallas Howard and Thomas Haden Church, and the other by the film’s producers. Disc 1 also features a blooper reel, photo galleries, and a music video by Snow Patrol.
Disc 2 includes a number of “making of” featurettes:
1.Grains of Sand – Building Sandman
2.Re-imagining The Goblin
3.Covered in Black – Creating Venom
4.Hanging On…Gwen Stacy and the Collapsing Floor
5.Tangled Web: The Love Triangles of Spider-Man
6.Wall of Water
7.Inside the Editing Room
8.The Science of Sound
9.New York: From Rooftops to Back Streets
10. Cleveland: The Chase on Euclid Avenue
Disc 2 also includes several trailers for Spider-Man 3 which were shown in the United States and television ads which appeared in eight foreign countries. There are also trailers for the films Across the Universe, Casino Royale, Surf’s Up, and Ghost Rider.
The pop-up menu allows the viewer to change audio selections, turn sub-titles on and off, and turn the commentaries on and off while the film continues to play.
The two discs come in a standard Blu-ray keepcase inside a cardboard sleeve.
The Final Analysis
Spider-Man 3 is not as good as Spider-Man or Spider-Man 2, but it is still a pretty fair thrill ride. Fans who are invested in the main characters will want to see what happens to the Peter-Mary Jane relationship and how Peter and Harry try to resolve their differences. If you want to see Spider-Man 3 at home, Blu-ray clearly is the way to go.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD10A DVD Player
Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: October 30, 2007