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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Hindi
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • 2 Music video - Hero - Chad Kroeger & Josey Scott; What We're All About - Sum 41
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • TV spot
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Storyboards
  • Documentaries
  • Web access
  • Outtakes
  • Filmographies
  • Interactive game
  • Trivia track

Spider-Man: CE

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 116 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Fans of possibly Marvel Comics’ most beloved character certainly had an arduous wait for the movie version. First mooted almost 20 years ago, it fell afoul of all manner of rights issues and other problems, until finally gaining that much sought after Hollywood green light a few years back. Then came phase two – being so important to so many, how would it be received?

With an incredibly successful screenwriter in David Koepp involved, and cult director Sam Raimi directing traffic, signs were good – although many questioned the decision to cast the rather scrawny Tobey Maguire in the lead role. It’s all academic now though, Spider-Man opened to record crowds and has gone on to become one of the highest grossing films ever – and it also managed to satisfy most fans’ visions of how good old Spidey should appear on the big silver screen.

Most will have a vague idea of the setup, as it stays fairly true to the Spider-Man universe set up in the comic books and television series’. Peter Parker is based in New York where he lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, his not-so-secret crush Mary Jane is the girl next door and he’s the downtrodden outsider at school whose only friend is Harry, the son of the somewhat wealthy and powerful Norman Osborn. After being bitten by a genetically modified spider on a school excursion, Pete arrives home feeling somewhat the worse for wear. Worrying his loving carers, he makes a beeline for his room and promptly crashes. Come the next morning he awakes to discover he’s feeling in tip-top shape, although his hands are somewhat sticky. Oh well, he’s certainly not the first teenage boy to wake up with that problem...

As the day goes on Peter discovers more and more curious changes. He’s suddenly rather buff, has no need for his glasses, is oozing more sticky stuff all over the place and then there’s a little thing of beating seven shades of shite out of the school bully - who just so happens to be Mary Jane's boyfriend/meathead. But that’s nothing, when he realises he can climb walls and swing all over town in ways Austin Powers could only dream of, his mind starts boggling at the possibilities...

"You're not Superman you know!"

Harnessing his newly-acquired abilities, and keeping in mind his Uncle’s advice that “with great power comes great responsibility", Peter gets the all important requirement of a costume out of the way (quite spectacularly in the end) and sets about being an all round swell guy, protecting the innocent and becoming the nemesis of bad guys all over New York. But with his mystery comes suspicion, not helped at all by the Daily Bugle newspaper. Popularity contests are the least of his troubles, however, as he’s eventually confronted by the rather nasty masked meanie the Green Goblin, who as well as having quite the wicked way with exploding pumpkin bombs, goes all out to make things all the more personal between himself and Spidey...

Spider-Man deftly balances the story of how Peter Parker’s powers came about with plenty of out and out action, a bit of pathos and even a love story that doesn't induce retching. In the end, Maguire does a great job in bringing the rather dorky Peter to the screen, even if Willem Dafoe’s Jekyll and Hyde-like Norman Osborn/Green Goblin truly steals the show. The effects may often be a little video-game like – Spidey has a tendency to move more like Super Mario than an actual human at times, and the story is undoubtedly ultra-hokey in places, but what many who criticise the film for these reasons seem to be missing is that in the end this is a classic comic book story. When taken in this context it really is a fabulous two-hour thrill ride that should have everybody’s senses tingling.

  Video
Contract

With the Sony DVD Center’s reputation for performing minor and major miracles, it’s not unfair to expect that they would have gone to town on Spider-Man, especially considering it’s Columbia’s biggest release for the year. The result for the 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced presentation is good, but rather surprisingly it’s just not quite as spectacular as we might have expected.

That which we assume we’ll get with a brand new transfer of an essentially brand new film is mostly here – both colour and black rendering is exceptional, detail is also fabulous, especially in the many dark scenes the film throws up and yes, shadow detail is mercifully here in spades. So what’s the problem then? Well, surprisingly there are quite a few little blemishes throughout in the shape of always fleeting, but not necessarily tiny, white specks, which really is a surprise. There are also one or two ever-so minor instances of aliasing, but these are scarcely worth mentioning. No compression artefacts are obvious, and the layer change is reasonably well placed, although conspicuous due to a cut in the sound which accompanies it.

  Audio
Contract

Some Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes tease but never deliver, while others seem to be hell bent on knocking our socks off. Joy of joys, Spider-Man’s audio is most definitely from the latter school. Surround usage is immersive, imaginative and indubitably impressive – not content with simply popping a bit of soundtrack residue in the rears as so many mixes do, bits and pieces of important action bump heads with both subtle and decidedly obvious ambience at the rear of the room, whilst the subwoofwoof gets to go quite feral at times, with a whole lotta low end oomphy thumps goin’ on throughout the feature. The front soundstage doesn’t miss out at all, with just as much imagination lavished upon the perfectly synched audio, which all comes from where it should at all times.

If you didn’t know it beforehand, about two seconds into the film most would become well and truly aware of who supplied the score for Spider-Man, as an unmistakably Danny Elfman-ish score arcs up. Those strings, those choirs – it may not be the most original, but its epic feel and slight gothiness suits the film to a tee, even giving a suitable gravitas to proceedings at times that manages to stop some of the more hokey scenes from plummeting into abject silliness. There are also a few rather un-noteworthy soundtrack fodder songs interspersed throughout, and a pleasant surprise in the inclusion of the quite wonderful theme from the ‘70s cartoon series of Spider-Man that plays over the end credits.

  Extras
Contract

Disc One This little baby belongs to Spidey, as he shooms about the menu accompanied by a decent snatch of Elfman musical magic. Quite the collection of goodies awaits...

Commentaries Two full length audio commentaries are in store for intrepid Spideyphiles. The first combines the pairings of director Sam Raimi and producer Grant Curtis in one place, and other producer Laura Ziskin and actor Kirsten Dunst in another, all inter-cut together. The result is a little disjointed, and is at times very gappy, but for those who stick with it there’s a fair bit of insight from the first three, and a fair bit of ditziness from the latter contributor. We also get offered the chance to buy a ’73 Oldsmobile... The second commentary is helmed by visual effects supervisor John Dykstra, along with his partners in effects crime Scott Stokdyk and Anthony LaMolinara. If you’re after an insight into the techy side of things, this is both an informative and entertaining little feature that’s well worth sitting through.

‘Spider-Sense’ branched behind the scenes featurettes At six points throughout the film a little round Spiderman face surrounded by what appear to be wiggly white poos pops up towards the bottom right of the screen. Press the 'enter' button on your remote and a fairly brief full screen featurette will commence, offering up interviews with folk from behind the scenes such as propmakers and set designers, before plummeting back into the feature. It’s a disjointed way to watch the flick, and screams “gimmick!” when the additions don’t bear any great relevance to the scenes in which they are placed. It would also have been nice, in fact preferable, to have been able to select these directly from the menu.

‘Weaving the Web’ pop-up factoids Always a popular feature around these here parts, factoids abound here. There are two main types – ones based around Spider-Man the film, others based around the Marvel comic book version. The former appear in red and blue, the latter as black and white, comic book-like panels. All manner of information ranging from the most trivial to the extremely fascinating appears at often rapid-fire pace – sheer nirvana for both Spiderfans and trivia buffs alike.

Character Files Six waste of time selected filmographies for as many cast members. The Daily Bugle-based screen is nice though.

Marketing Campaign This is divided into three sections. Trailers presents us with a 1:11 teaser for Spider-Man, a 1:43 teaser for the latest Adam Sandler vehicle Mr Deeds, 1:49 of Men in Black II and 3:14 of Kevin Smith’s intriguing looking doco Stan Lee’s Mutants, Monsters and Marvels featuring an interview with he who invented the majority of the Marvel universe, Stan Lee. All are in anamorphic 1.85:1 with DD5.1 sound, except for the latter which is letterboxed at around 1.85:1 and has standard Dolby Digital stereo accompaniment.

It’s the eye of the spider, it’s the thrill of the bite... well maybe not, but the first contender in the Music Videos section is just as overblown – but without any semblance of catchy funky chunky guitar riff. Yes, it’s the clip for Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott (both from those scourges of modern-day music, middle class complaint rock bands with silly single word names like ‘Nickelback’ and ‘Saliva’) and their (eep!) power ballad Hero. Rubbing shoulders with them are Beastie Boys wannabes Sum 41 with What We’re All About. Both are standard film-tie-in type vids with either serious pouty-poses or the band jumping about like primates, all inter-cut with film footage. Both are in full frame with Dolby Digital stereo soundtracks.

Rounding out the marketing section is a selection of ten TV spots. All in full frame with standard stereo sound, seven of them clock in at 33 seconds; the other three are virtual blipverts at 18 seconds apiece. You know the score – each is concocted from a parts bin containing overblown score snippets, overblown rock tie-in songs, overblown sloganeering, overblown guy-who-does-trailers “roll up, roll up!”-ery accompanied by scenes from the film.

DVD-ROM Quite a selection of goodies is here for those with DVD ROM capabilities, including film to script and film to comic book comparisons, a Countdown to Spider-Man 2, some Weblinks (rather appropriate for this release!) and finally the very intriguing sounding Record Your Own Commentary. If this all sounds a little sketchy it’s because my PC steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the existence of this new fangled external DVD ROM USB doohickey that I procured today especially to tackle these bonus Spidey goodies. Expect an update as soon as the silly thing stops sulking and starts working...

Disc Two This one belongs to the Green Gobbo Gobbo Gobbo, as he zooms about on his flying gobarang swooper-dooper thingy whilst waiting for us lesser mortals to make a menu selection. This disc is divided into two distinct sections, one concentrating on the Spider-Man comic, the other dealing with the movie...

The Web of Spider-Man - The Comic
The Evolution of Spider-Man First up in here is a 25:30 featurette, consisting of a fairly in-depth look at the evolution of the comic book, via interviews with creator Stan Lee, many of the artists who have worked on it and unashamed rabid fan-boy Kevin Smith. Next up is a comprehensive archive of the Spider-Man comic books from the sixties to the noughties, a gallery in which you can access cover pictures, synopses and writer/artist credits for each and every issue published. Three picture galleries round out the section - Artists Gallery, which leads us into Peter Parker’s darkroom, and 81 drawings divided into four subsections; Rogues Gallery, in which 14 of Spidey’s nemeses go under the microscope – complete with a brief history, and summation of their weapons and powers; and finally The Loves of Peter Parker, demonstrating what a floozy the man in blue and red has been over the years, with the dirt dished on the four big loves of his life. Oh, you may also trip over a hidden surprise if you're vigilant...

Activision Game – Hints and Tips Need more be said dude? Tips and tricks for the first three levels of the Playstation 2 game, dude, with a like bodacious voiceover from some dude, dude.

DVD-ROM Whilst my DVD ROM doobrie continues its decidedly rude silent treatment, at least feel snug in the knowledge that apparently hiding away on the second little round shiny disc are reproductions of three original Spider-Man comics (under the rather cute name of Marvel.dot.comics), a playable demo of a couple of levels of the PC game, a screensaver and yet more of those ever so vital and exciting weblinks.

Goblin’s Lair - The Movie
Making of... One of those HBO specials, Behind the Spin – The Making of Spider-Man runs for 24:43 and doesn’t really deviate from the standard recipe for such things, featuring a compote of cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes peeks and snippets from the film.

Documentary If the HBO one doesn’t satiate you, here’s another 40:32 special, this time from E! Entertainment. Spider-Mania also adheres closely to the standard formula, however it does feature different behind the scenes footage and interviews, complete with a back-to-blonde Kirsten Dunst.

Profiles Director Sam Raimi gets the treatment in a 7:05 featurette, showing his silly side amongst more serious interviews with many cast and crew members, allowing them to air their thoughts on Mr Evil Dead. Next up is composer Danny Elfman, his 7:27 affair follows the same formula, and also includes interviews with the man himself and some fascinating looks into the recording studio.

Screen Tests Divided into quarters, we get 1:13 of Tobey Maguire flexing his muscles, 49 seconds of J.K. Simmons doing a fairly laid back read through, 21 seconds of a CGI Spider-Man climbing up the walls and 2:55 of makeup and costume tests, with a concentration on Tobey and Kirsten.

Outtakes An unfortunately brief collection of fairly typical flubs and flounders, plus Stan Lee’s cut scene and a spot of aerobercising with the Green Goblin.

  Overall  
Contract

Is it good? Listen bud, this DVD, it ain't no dud...

If you’ve been hanging out for this release then rest assured, the amazingly packed two disc set won’t let you down. With close to perfect vision, truly awesome audio and an absolutely massive assortment of extras, Spider-Man is well and truly worth sticking in any collection. Meanwhile, some will just be happy to see Kirsten Dunst in her very much geek-talked about wet t-shirt scene. Hmm, what was that about sticky hands back there somewhere?


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      And I quote...
    "An amazingly packed two disc set - a fabulous two-hour thrill ride that should have everybody’s senses tingling..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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