Spider-Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not a slam-dunk, this was a pleasing presentation.
Sharpness seemed fine. A few slightly soft elements appeared, but those were rare, and the majority of the movie demonstrated good accuracy and definition. I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws were absent; grain was a bit heavier than usual for such a new movie, but it wasn’t a distraction.
Given the comic book setting, I expected a varied palette, and Spider-Man didn’t disappoint. The image presented nicely bright and vivid colors that consistently appeared rich and vibrant. Black levels generally came across as deep and dense, though they occasionally looked somewhat inky. Shadow detail presented some concerns, as low-light situations seemed a little too dark much of the time. This made those scenes a bit murky and tough to discern. I suspect these issues with blacks and softness are just part of what this film is, and this seemed to be about as good a representation of the source that we could expect.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Spider-Man offered a consistently solid piece of work. The soundfield made good use of all five channels and created a nicely involving environment. Music presented clean stereo imaging, while effects cropped up from all around the spectrum. Though not the most active track in the world, it used the different speakers well as a whole.
Much of the material remained atmospheric, and the mix did a nice job with small touches such as cars and voices like the yelling from MJ’s father. The action scenes kicked it up a notch, of course, and they provided a lively and engrossing set. The Goblin’s flyer offered some of the best moments, as it zoomed nicely across both the front and the rear.
Audio quality appeared very good. Speech seemed warm and natural, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. The score sounded nicely robust and dynamic, as the music showed clean highs and rich lows. Effects also came across as vibrant and distinctive. They lacked any signs of distortion and seemed vivid and rich. The track boasted nice bass response, as low-end material packed a nice punch. The audio for Spider-Man didn’t stand out as one of the best soundtracks ever, but it nicely complemented the material.
How did the 2012 Blu-Ray compare to the original Spider-Man Blu-ray? The audio seemed similar, as I didn’t think the DTS-HD MA mix was notably stronger than the old disc’s Dolby TrueHD track.
Visuals showed a moderate bump, though. The original Blu-ray tended to be a little softer and it came with more prominent grain. The new disc wasn’t a huge upgrade, but it still showed improvements.
Though the 2007 Blu-ray included virtually no extras, the 2012 version incorporates most of the components from the multiple earlier releases – and some new ones. We find all three of the prior audio commentaries here, and we begin with one from director Sam Raimi, actor Kirsten Dunst, producer Laura Ziskin, and co-producer Grant Curtis. Unusually, the track presents two sets of pairs. Ziskin and Dunst sat together for their screen-specific piece, while Raimi and Curtis also were recorded together as they watched the flick. The commentary’s producers then combined the two for this one edited track.
To their credit, they didn’t take the annoying approach found on pieces like Beauty and the Beast where they tried desperately to make it sound like all the participants sat together. The Spider-Man commentary doesn’t highlight the fact the pairs were apart, but it also doesn’t use any tricks to convince us otherwise.
I’d guess that the original DVD’s producers originally intended to provide the two halves of this commentary on their own but combined them because the speakers offered so little content. Even with this package approach, the track still suffers from lots of gaps, as plenty of the movie passes without any information.
When we do hear from the participants, they fail to offer much useful material. Occasionally some good tidbits appear, and Ziskin provides the commentary’s best moments as she fills us in on different behind the scenes notes such as how they made pre-transformation Peter Parker look scrawny. Dunst says little about her work but she tosses in some funny gripes about the movie that provide an amusing point of view.
As for the men, they mainly just praise different aspects of the production. Raimi occasionally offers some decent notes, and he also cracks wise from time to time; in particular, he gives us a humorous quip about Tobey Maguire’s motivation for a crying scene. Curtis offers little of consequence, however. Overall, this commentary seems listenable and modestly entertaining, but it doesn’t provide much information about the movie and it seems like a moderate disappointment.
Called “Visual Effects Designer and Crew”, the second commentary includes remarks from visual effects designer John Dykstra, visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk and director of animation Anthony LaMolinara. All three men sat together for this running, screen-specific track. Not surprisingly, this piece sticks mainly with technical issues, but after a slow start, it manages to provide a reasonably informative and entertaining experience.
Some gaps appear early in the program, but it soon picks up the pace and the three fill most of the time. They go over a mix of effects related topics, with a particular emphasis on the computer material. They help give us a nice look at all of these subjects and offer one of the better discussions of effects that I’ve heard.
The third commentary involves actors Tobey Maguire and JK Simmons, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Don’t expect much from the chat. The pair remain pretty low-key throughout and don’t offer a great deal of useful information.
We learn a little about their casting, Maguire’s training and physical work on the shoot, character arcs, different effects elements and various challenges. Since Maguire appears onscreen literally about 20 times as much as Simmons, he dominates the discussion; Simmons tosses in occasionally witty remarks aimed at the movie and some general notes about the movie business, but doesn’t give us a lot about Spider-Man itself.
Maguire occasionally picks up the slack, but the commentary can be pretty spotty. It starts slowly and peters out during the third act. For the flick’s middle, it picks up fairly well, however, as the pair engage better, fewer gaps appear, and more solid information gets disseminated. Ultimately, though, this remains a largely lackluster commentary best left for the film’s biggest fans.
For Blu-ray exclusives, we move to the Spider-Sense Trivia Challenge. This runs during the movie and throws occasional questions at you; based on speed and accuracy, you earn points, and when the movie finishes, you get “one of five possible video rewards”.
The questions cover aspects of the film production, characters and story, but they also delve into related areas like spiders and New York. The items range from “gimmies” to “how the heck should I know?” with a mix of difficult levels between those two poles. I scored as “Hero In Training” and was “rewarded” with a video clip from the film. That “prize” was a yawn, but the game itself is reasonably fun, and it doesn’t distract from the movie too much.
Under The Spider-Man Cutting Room, we get a chance to edit parts of the film. Alas, it requires an external storage capability that my player lacks, but it sounds like fun. It certainly appears to offer more power than the average limited editing feature found on some DVDs.
The remaining extras repeat from the 2004 Deluxe Edition. Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century lasts 25 minutes and 29 seconds and covers topics related to the comics. Mostly it features comments from Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, Spider-Man artists John Romita Sr., Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, John Byrne, John Romita Jr., and Tim Gale, writer Jeph Loeb, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, Marvel Comics president Bill Jemas, Wizard Magazine editor Brian Cunningham, filmmaker Kevin Smith, editor Axel Alonzo, artist Steven Platt, and Wizard Magazine publisher Gareb Shamus.
While “Mythology” doesn’t offer a great general Spidey history, it gives us a decent look at the creative side behind the comics. We hear some about the character’s origins and development, and we learn of variations that occurred over the years, both in the visual and personality domains. The best aspects come from the artists’ discussions about their approaches to the character. Overall, “Mythology” doesn’t provide much special content, but it presents a reasonably informative and entertaining piece.
The HBO “Making of” program Behind the Ultimate Spin offers a general look at the film. The 24-minute and 42-second piece combines lots of movie clips plus behind the scenes shots and interviews with director Sam Raimi, actors Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, and Cliff Robertson, executive producer Avi Arad, co-creator Stan Lee, producers Laura Ziskin and Ian Bryce, director of photography Don Burgess, production designer Neil Spisak, and visual effects designer John Dykstra,
If you’ve seen any others of these cable documentaries, you’ll know what to expect from “Spin”. It covers a mix of topics, from the origins of the comic book to the cast, production design, and effects. Unfortunately, it does so in a rather superficial manner. Although some of the material from the set seems interesting, those snippets fly by quickly, which means that movie segments and interviews dominate. The latter offer little concrete info and mostly just tell us how great everything is.
For more of the same, check out an E! Entertainment special called Spider-Mania. During this 40-minute and 32-second program, we get the standard mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from director Raimi, co-creator Stan Lee, actors Dunst, Maguire, Dafoe, and Franco, comic book artist John Romita Jr., executive producer Avi Arad, producer Laura Ziskin, entomologist Steven Kutcher, and assorted Spidey fans. Much of “Spider-Mania” resembles “Spin”, though it places a somewhat greater emphasis on the interviews. These add a little more depth to the program, but it still remains superficial and promotional in nature. The most compelling part focuses on Kutcher and his spider wrangling. “Spider-Mania” offers a moderately entertaining piece but it doesn’t provide a very good look at the movie.
Next we get something called Director Profile: Sam Raimi. This seven-minute and five-second program offers some comments about the director. It shows a few shots from the set as well as movie clips and interviews with Raimi, Maguire, Dafoe, Dunst, Harris, Ziskin, Arad, actor Bruce Campbell, composer Danny Elfman, Stan Lee, and visual effects designer John Dykstra. We see some funny bits from the set where Raimi threatens people, but otherwise we mostly get more of the usual praise. A few of the same stories appear and the featurette seems moderately useful as best.
A similar but more compelling feature pops up next with Composer Profile: Danny Elfman. The seven-minute and 27-second piece includes comments from Raimi, Maguire, and Elfman. Unlike the superficial “Raimi” piece, this one provides a decent discussion of Elfman’s approach to composing and he also talks about the different themes he wrote. A composer commentary would have been preferable, but this short program gives us a quick and interesting view of Elfman’s work.
Behind the Scenes of Spider-Man splits into seven featurettes which we can view together via the “Play All” option (32:19). These include “Costume Design” (eight minutes, 27 seconds), “Designing the World of Spider-Man” (six minutes, 20 seconds), “Spider Wrangler” (one minute, 31 seconds), “Wrestling Match” (two minutes, 48 seconds), “World Unity Festival” (two minutes, 19 seconds), “Oscorp Lab” (three minutes, 24 seconds), and “Goblin’s Arsenal” (seven minutes, 28 seconds).
Not surprisingly, these feature the usual mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Raimi, costume designer James Acheson, Maguire, costume cutter/fitter Robin Gephard, costumer Tom McDonald, Ziskin, Arad, Willem Dafoe, costume maker John Ridge, Dunst, director of photography John Burgess, production designer Neil Spisak, set designer Easton Smith, set designer Andrea Dopaso, spider wrangler Steven Kutcher, Randy Savage, special effects supervisor John Frazier, CG supervisor Ken Hahn, visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk, prop maker Troy Dederick, and illustrator James Carson.
The featurettes cover a mix of subjects. We get information about adapting and creating the Spider-Man and Green Goblin costumes, sets and locations, the film’s visual look, the use of real spiders, shooting the wrestling match, World Unity Festival and Oscorp Labs sequences, and the Goblin’s weapons and devices. The quality of the featurettes varies, and a few of them seem pretty slight. However, some of them offer very good information. The costumes program is simply terrific, and both “Designing” and “Arsenal” also present a lot of nice data. Even the weakest of the bunch still includes fun shots from the set, so overall, this package of featurettes fares well.
Some fun clips show up in the Screen Tests domain. We see four of these: “Tobey Maguire” (one minute, 13 seconds), “J.K. Simmons” (49 seconds), “CGI Spider-Man” (21 seconds), and “Makeup and Costumes” (two minutes, 55 seconds). All four segments offer some cool material. We see a shirtless Maguire for a fight scene; this seems kind of odd, but if you’ve checked out the other supplements, you’ll know why he did it this way.
We also heard about the CG Spidey in the other extras; it’s the one the filmmakers showed to the studio execs to prove the viability of a non-human actor. The costume section also seems nice, though it’s too bad we can’t hear the audio from the shoot; the actors speak and it’d be nice to know what they said.
Although I usually don’t care for this kind of material, the Gags and Outtakes section includes some amusing bits. It lasts three minutes, four seconds and shows the standard compilation of goofs and gags. Dafoe tosses out some funny clowning and this piece generally seems entertaining. Note that although the disc doesn’t include any deleted scenes, the “Outtake” reel features a brief look at the Stan Lee segment that fell to the cutting room floor.
Previously included as an interactive feature, we locate six Webisodes. These fill a total of 20 minutes, 36 seconds and provide short featurettes about a mix of topics. Among other subjects, we learn about model making, spider wrangling, and production design. None of them seem particularly memorable, but they help add a little depth to our knowledge of the film’s creation, and I prefer the presentation here to the “in-the-movie” availability of the old DVD.
We get two music videos. “Hero” by Chad Kroeger and featuring Josey Scott stages a lip-synched performance on a rooftop and intercuts shots from the movie; both the song and the video seem bland and boring. “What We’re All About (The Original Version” by Sum 41 features the same format, but at least it looks a little more interesting visually since the band members use their spider-powers to cling to walls while they perform. As for the song, it sounds like cut-rate Beastie Boys.
The disc opens with an ad for The Amazing Spider-Man. We also get Previews for Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance, Men in Black 3, Starship Troopers: Invasion, and the Resident Evil: Damnation video game. In addition, the disc provides 12 TV Spots and one trailer for Spider-Man.
Does this Blu-ray lose features from prior releases? Yup. It omits a good text commentary, various still galleries, a Spider-Man timeline, and a few other elements. If you own the 2004 SE, you’ll probably want to hold onto it for those components.
After a decade, Spider-Man remains one of my favorite superhero movies; indeed, it might only be second to The Dark Knight on my personal list. While I can’t call it flawless, it’s light, fun and a good representation of the comics. The Blu-ray delivers pretty positive picture, excellent audio and an erratic but generally compelling package of supplements. This becomes the best version of the film on the market, as it gives us higher picture quality than the earlier Blu-ray and also offers most of the prior DVDs’ bonus materials.
To rate this film visit the original review of SPIDER-MAN