Spider-Man 3 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Spidey 3 didn’t boast a killer transfer, but it looked good.
Only a few issues with sharpness developed, as a few wide shots looked a little soft. Some light edge enhancement affected these segments as well. However, the majority of the flick appeared concise and accurate. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws appeared to be absent.
Like the first two movies, Spidey 3 went with a bright palette. It followed the Spider-Man costume design and often accentuated reds and blues. The colors seemed solid throughout the film, as they appeared lively and bright. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows showed good clarity and delineation. No significant concerns affetced this quality presentation.
I felt even more impressed with the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Spider-Man 3. While the first two movies came with audio that was good but not exceptional, Spidey 3 provided a mix that definitely entered the realm of “great”.
The soundfield impressed throughout the film. Of course, the action sequences were the most memorable. The flying battles between Spidey and the New Goblin as well as all the Sandman bits really used all five channels well. The various elements zoomed and swirled around us to create a terrific sense of the action. The track handled quieter moments nicely as well; the track conveyed a consistently good sense of atmosphere. However, it’s the action scenes that will stick in your head.
Audio quality also excelled. Effects presented great impact. Those elements were concise and accurate, and bass response seemed absolutely stellar, with deep, tight lows. Music showed good range and definition, while the dialogue was natural and crisp. Spidey 3 boasted simply terrific soundtrack.
This two-disc special edition packs in lots of extras. On DVD One, we find two audio commentaries. The first comes from director Sam Raimi and actors Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Thomas Haden Church and Kirsten Dunst. The first six appeared to sit together for their running, screen-specific chat; recorded in London, Dunst’s session seemed to be separate and her remarks were edited into the rest.
At the start, we learn about the opening credits and various story issues. We get info about characters and find out that originally the Vulture was supposed to pair with the Sandman – and Ben Kingsley was slated for that role. Other details emerge about casting, performances, how Raimi uses storyboards and works with the actors, and a mix of other production specifics, most of which deal with the cast.
On the negative side, we find an awful lot of dead air here, especially given the number of participants. With seven commentators, empty spots should be minimal, but this track goes blank with surprising frequency. In addition, we hear too much general praise for different aspects of the flick. This doesn’t surprise me; many commentaries degenerate into happy talk, and for some reason, actors are often the worst offenders. Nonetheless, I’d prefer more content and less “that’s great” along the way.
Even with those issues, however, I must admit I think there’s a lot of good info here. The useful bits may come in dribs and drabs, but at least they do emerge, and we learn a fair amount about the flick. I like the actors’ insights into their work and other aspects of the production, and some funny moments pop up as well, such as when Church mocks himself and mentions that he acted in George of the Jungle. This is far from a great commentary, but it’s more than engaging enough to merit a listen.
For the second commentary, we hear from producers Avi Arad, Grant Curtis, and Laura Ziskin, editor Bob Murawski and visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk. All five sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. They look at cast and crew, effects and editing, action and stunts, some story and character issues, and a few other production topics.
While not quite as interesting as the first commentary, this one holds its own. Of course, it comes with more of the expected praise, but we still learn a fair amount about the flick and the happy talk doesn’t overwhelm. Though effects info dominates, we get a good mix of other subjects. All of this adds up to a decent little conversation.
Next comes a six-minute and 42-second collection of Bloopers. Should you expect more than the usual goofs and giggles? Nope. It’s the usual silliness.
Under Galleries, we get all sorts of stills. This domain breaks into “Sketches” (34 frames), “Paintings” (23), “Sculptures” (11), “Special Effects” (28) and “Director and Cast” (19). The first two are the most interesting since they feature conceptual art.
A Music Video for “Signal Fire” from Snow Patrol runs four minutes, 34 seconds. The song’s a sappy dud, but the video’s different than usual. It shows a few band lip-synch shots but usually concentrates on a Spidey stage production cast with little kids. It’s not actually entertaining, but any movie song music video without film clips is a step up in quality.
Finally, ads finish DVD One. More Fun With Spidey! just shows promos for the “Action Command Spider-Man” toy and the Spider-Man: Friend or Foe videogame. Previews includes more trailers. We get clips for Vantage Point, Across the Universe, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, The Ray Harryhausen Collection, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Seinfeld Season 9, Ghost Rider, Surf’s Up, Storm Hawks, The Jane Austen Book Club, My Kid Could Paint That, Vitus and upcoming Blu-Ray titles.
Over on DVD Two, a big collection of featurettes takes up most of our time. Grains of Sand: Building Sandman runs 13 minutes, 49 seconds as it combines movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We get notes from Arad, Maguire, Ziskin, Church, Raimi, Stokdyk, Curtis, executive producers Kevin Feige and Stan Lee, conceptual illustrator EJ Krisor, costume designer James Acheson, head of specialty costumes Shownee Smith, digital effects supervisors Peter Nofz and Ken Hahn, sand effects supervisor Douglas Bloom, sand shader look development lead Laurence Treweek, CG supervisor Robert Winter, and animation supervisor Spencer Cook.
“Grains” looks at the original comic book character, casting Church, character and costume design, Church’s performance and visual effects. “Grains” digs into various aspects of Sandman well, with a particular emphasis on the effects concerns. The show provides a nice take on these subjects, especially in terms of the visual effects.
Next comesRe-Imagining the Goblin, a 10-minute and 36-second piece with comments from Raimi, Franco, Arad, Ziskin, Curtis, Maguire, Feige, Acheson, Smith, Stokdyk, Cook, specialty costumers Jaime Grove and Bob Mano, property master Doug Harlocker, CG supervisor Grant Anderson, 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Dan Bradley, and actor Willem Dafoe. We get notes about the New Goblin’s character elements, costume, gadgets and stunts. “Re-Imagining” offers a nice nuts and bolts look at the various facets. I’d like something with a little more of a character base since Gobby doesn’t have the same heavy technical side of Sandman, but the show still offers a good take on its material.
For the 15-minute and 34-second Covered in Black: Creating Venom, we hear from Raimi, Arad, Curtis, Ziskin, Grace, Feige, Krisor, Stokdyk, Nofz, Maguire, Acheson, Cook, Grace, Smith, Dunst, CG supervisors Albert Hastings and David Seager, and FX animation lead Ran Laney. “Black” resembles “Grains” except it focuses on Venom instead of Sandman. Expect similar character, costume and effects content in this effective little piece.
Hang On… Gwen Stacy and the Collapsing Floor goes for 10 minutes, 13 seconds and includes Bradley, Howard, Raimi, Ziskin, special effects supervisor John Frazier, physical effects supervisor Scott Beverly and stunt coordinator Scott Rogers. We watch the production of this stunt sequence and its various complications. I like the footage from the set and we learn a reasonable amount of good info here.
After this we get Fighting, Flying and Driving: The Stunts. This 18-minute and 57-second piece offers details from Maguire, Ziskin, Raimi, Arad, Curtis, Rogers, Bradley, Franco, Stokdyk, Dunst, stunt rigger Patrick Daley, and 2nd AD Michael J. Moore. You won’t get a cookie if you guess that “Driving” is all about the movie’s stunts. It concentrates mostly on set-based images and gives us a fun glimpse of the challenges connected to the physical action sequences.
We look at character issues in the nine-minute and 12-second Tangled Web: The Love Triangles of Spider-Man 3. It provides remarks from Raimi, Dunst, Howard, Grace, Maguire, Curtis, Arad, Ziskin, Feige, Franco, Harlocker, choreographer Marguerite Derricks, and actor Bruce Campbell. Don’t expect much insight from “Web”, as it does little more than reiterate character notes you’ll already understand if you saw the various movies. A few decent tidbits emerge but not enough to redeem this lackluster piece.
The disc follows this with Wall of Water. The seven-minute and 20-second show features Frazier, Stokdyk, Church, Bradley and camera assistant Peter Lee. Ala “Floor”, this one offers a view of how one specific stunt scene was created. We check out the segment in which black Spidey washes away the Sandman. I always like views from the set and think this one fleshes out matters well.
Next we locate the three-minute and 58-second Inside the Editing Room and its statements from Raimi, Murawski and visual effects editor Jody Fedele. “Room” tells us about how storyboards and animatics affect the editing process and other editing issues. This is an awfully short view of that subject, but it’s interesting enough.
Audio comes to the fore during The Science of Sound. It fills 16 minutes and 20 seconds with info from Raimi, composer Chris Young, supervising sound mixers Greg P. Russell and Kevin O’Connell, sound designer/supervising sound editor Paul Ottosson, and foley artist Gary Hecker. “Science” looks at the movie’s score and aspects of its audio elements. It digs into these with surprising depth and creates a fine examination of the topics.
Two similar featurettes close this area. We get On Location: New York – From Rooftops to Backstreets (12:53) and On Location: Cleveland – The Chase on Euclid Avenue (6:46). Over these, we hear from Stan Lee, Arad, Raimi, Maguire, Curtis, Franco, Ziskin, Dunst, Grace, Stokdyk, Bradley, Anderson, New York location manager John Fedynick, executive producer Joseph M. Caracciolo, 1st AD Eric Heffron, Spydercam coordinator Tim Danec, Spydercam programmers Ben B. Smith and Rich Volp, 2nd unit 1st AD Nick Satriano, unit production manager Denis Stewart, the Cleveland Film Commission’s Chris Carmody, and stuntman Tim Rigby. Both featurettes show the locations used in the flick and discuss challenges found in the various spots. This means lots of good footage from the sets as we see how the crews worked out in the real world.
Promo material shows up in the next area. It gives us four Trailers: one teaser and three theatrical. We also get TV Spots Around the World. It presents ads from Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, Chile, Russia, Brazil and the UK. No USA? Maybe the American TV spots were so similar to the trailers that they didn’t merit inclusion.
Although Spider-Man 3 seems destined to go down as the franchise’s least well-regarded effort – at least of the first three – I don’t agree with all the negativity thrown its way. While the film has its flaws, it still provides a strong adventure with a warm emotional center not usually found in comic book material. It certainly succeeds more than it fails, and I think it’s another memorable flick. The DVD presents very good picture, killer audio, and a generally solid set of extras. This set combines an enjoyable movie and positive specs, so it definitely earns my recommendation.