- Jun 13, 2002
The Spiderwick Chronicles (Blu-Ray)
Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG (For scary creature action and violence, peril and some thematic elements)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English 5.1 TrueHD; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 101 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL Blu-Ray
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2008
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 24, 2008
Everything you will see here is true…
Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker) has divorced her husband and she is moving their three children out of the city into a foreboding home in the country that belonged to her deranged and institutionalized aunt. Her kids, Mallory (Sarah Bolger), Simon and Jared (Freddy Highmore doing double duty playing both roles) are not keen on the move, especially Jared. Jared has taken to giving his mom the silent treatment while he waits for his dad to retrieve him. As the family settles in the house, the kids bicker amongst each other as kids do. Jared begins hearing bumps in the wall, and when he knocks on said wall, the wall knocks back. He finds a hidden dumb waiter that takes him to a hidden attic, which used to be the study and lab of his long dead great-great uncle, Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn). Spiderwick had discovered the woods surrounding the house was populated with all manner of fairies, sprites ogres and other beasties of the Fantastical World. He studied them in depth cataloging his finds in a book. Spiderwick learned his findings were so important he had to seal his book and hide it away, and then he later disappeared, presumed dead.
Jared meets a helpful and hungry Brownie (or Boggart if he gets angry) named Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short), and later a bird gulping hobgoblin named Hogsqueal (voiced by Seth Rogen) who tell him about the meanest ogre of them all, Mulgarath (Nick Nolte), who wants the book for its secrets so he may achieve world domination. Jared must learn quickly what is in the book in order to not only save his home and family, but the Fantastical World as well.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is the latest in a line of Hollywood pictures trying to capitalize on the Harry Potter craze. While I have not read the books, it is easy to see how the movie is more geared towards kids, unlike the Potters that do so well in entertaining young and old alike. I’m not slamming the picture for this but I believe it’s important to note older viewers may find the picture lacking. The story is also pretty straight forward with the main plot consuming most of the running time with little time to deal with too much characterization. Freddy Highmore inexplicably plays both the Grace boys, but he is successful in pulling it off by infusing each character with their own traits. The story centers on Jared’s discovery of the Fantastical World, but it also has a B story of him dealing with his parents divorce. In those scenes, Highmore shines displaying a maturity far older than he is. Unfortunately, the adult actors, Parker and Strathairn, seem out of place, with Parker not terribly convincing in the role (too many patented Parker quips) and Strathairn unsure of just what he is. This is disappointing to me since I like both of them immensely. The picture also reminded me of elements of E.T with its themes of divorce and teen angst, and more Spielberg-ian type fantasy themes and those of no one listening to or believing kids.
The movie comes with a fifteen producers (two of which are Spielberg’s producing partners, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, and the authors of the books, Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black) so I wonder how many of these cooks were really in the kitchen mucking about with the picture. The picture has a tremendous pedigree of creative talent behind the camera, including a nice James Horner score, cinematography by Caleb Deschanel (National Treasure, Passion of the Christ, The Right Stuff among others) and slick editing by Michael Kahn (who has cut almost every one of Spielberg’s pictures back to Close Encounters). It almost appears as if Mark Waters was chosen as director since Spielberg was too busy, but Spielberg was generous enough to loan out his staff. ILM was also responsible for the CG and practical effects. With all of that I’m sorry I was left wanting just a bit more out of the movie. Then again, I’m not the target audience, and I’m sure plenty of pre- and early teens will find a lot to love in the movie.
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is mastered in 1080p in the MPEG-4 AVC codec with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This disc has been getting some early buzz for, what some have called, “its noticeable lack of film grain.” I am not going to delve too much into this aspect of the transfer as I don’t have any information on the mastering of the disc, and there is another thread on the forum discussing it already. The movie was shot on 35mm film stock with the digital intermediate being mastered in 2k HD. The transfer is crystal clear lacking any type of noise, debris, and only very minor amounts of grain. This minimal amount of grain was only noticed when I got about three feet from the screen, but not at my normal viewing distance. Having not seen the picture theatrically, I can not comment on how the picture looked there. This transfer, as I said, is flawless, with excellent color reproduction leaving all the real world objects accurate and pumping the colors slightly on the CG characters and environments. Flesh tones remain accurate as well. Black levels were very good for most of the film, but occasionally lost some detail. Dimensionality was not as good on this disc as others, again, this may have been the result of the transfer and not indicative of the filmed picture. I did not notice any edge enhancement.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is somewhat front heavy, remaining in the fronts for a good part of the picture. The surrounds engage during the action scenes producing a good soundstage, but otherwise they were surprisingly quiet. I was expecting a little more in terms of dynamic range in this soundtrack as it sounds rather lackluster tonally, staying primarily in the minds. Bass levels are good without being overbearing. ADR is noticed at times, but vocals otherwise were normal sounding.
The bonus materials are in HD unless otherwise noted.
Spiderwick: It’s All True (7:04): director Mark Waters introduces us to this world, explaining how true the story is, and that this is simply a narration of true events. He takes us through the characters, creatures and spells. This is a fun opening to introduce us to the Fantastical World.
It’s a Spiderwick World (8:44): the authors of the books explain how the story came to them, and then how the picture made it to the screen. The themes of the movie and other aspects of pre-production are covered here as well.
Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide this piece takes you into the guide allowing you to choose a creature or item from the table of contents and then see the journal entry. There is also the option to have the Field Guide on during the movie to see more about the creatures as they appear on the screen and other story elements.
Spiderwick: Meet the Clan (13:54): introduction and interviews with the actors and voice actors.
Making Spiderwick (20:53): cast and crew discuss making the picture with a fairly well balanced overview of the process.
The Magic of Spiderwick (14:23): Waters and the CG teams discuss post production, especially the CG effects. Phil Tippet and Pablo Helman from ILM contribute here as well.
A Final Word of Advice (1:51): Water’s returns to remind us that this world really exists.
Deleted Scenes (8:14): four scenes: Mom and Jared, Boys in Bedroom, Messy Kitchen and Meet Lucinda.
Nickelodeon TV Spots (5:04, SD): nine different commercials.
Theatrical Trailers: two different trailers.
A Fantastic World is on display on screen, but the pedigree of the production doesn’t make up for a basic plot. The video transfer is flawless and colorful, but the audio left me wanting me. The bonus materials (well done by Laurent Bouzereau) provide a very good look into the making of the picture, always reminding us what we see is all true…