Spider-Man the Deluxe and Supebit Editions
If you take a look at the late 80s and early 90s versions of Spider-Man,
The Punisher, and few other really, really bad attempts at bringing Marvel comics
to the screen, youll understand why they waited several years until the
technology made it more plausible to try Spider-Man.
We all know Spider-Man: a high school nerd named Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire)
is bitten by a radioactive spider and, rather than dying or becoming violently
ill (the latter of which, in fairness, does happen briefly in the film), hes
given super powers. Suddenly, Peter has super strength, the ability to climb
walls and shoot webs, and a precognitive Spider-sense.
Rather than just sit idly by as criminals run the streets, Parker dons the
red-and-blue tights and becomes the amazing Spider-Man.
Theres nary a hero around who has more enemies than our favorite web-slinger,
and this first installment features one of the silliest of the early Spider-Man
villains, The Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). In the comic book, hes a schizophrenic
maniac who dons a rubber goblin costume and throws exploding pumpkins. In the
movie, hes a technological genius who creates an armoured suit and a flying
board, and throws pumpkin-shaped explosives.
Spidey has his work cut out for him as he tries to juggle his job, his life,
and his secret life, all while trying to woo Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).
Superhero movies seem to fall into two categories: ones that are done really
well and ones that are done really badly. Spider-Man falls into the former category.
Director Sam Raimi (of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness fame) gives the story
a modern twist while hanging on to the important elements. Spidey remains the
reluctant hero that the everyman can relate to, but everything is updated for
the 21st century. At first, Tobey Maguire seemed an odd choice for the Parker/Spidey
role, but he gets it bang on (and besides, Michael Keaton seemed an odd choice
for Batman, too, and he did fine).
Not only do we feel for Parker and want him to succeed, but we also believe
hes a normal guy with some extraordinary powers. Willem Dafoe, well
would possibly make a better Green Goblin? J.K. Simmons also deserves kudos
for his work as J. Jonah Jameson, Parkers tremendously pleasant boss at
the Daily Bugle. In fact, the only cast member that doesnt quite work
is Dunst, who comes across as far too ditzy to portray M.J.
Spider-Man is a great movie in almost every respect. The story, characters,
acting, directing, production design, costume design, and cinematography are
superb. For the most part, the visual effects are as well, though in some scenes
the CGI Spidey just isnt all that convincing.
If youre looking for the best kind of Hollywood blockbuster, look no
further. Spider-Man is an action-packed, story and character-driven emotional
film that everyone can get something out of. Arguably the defining superhero
movie thus far.
Well, if you remember the first Superman movie from the late 1970's, with Christopher
Reeve in the title role, you'll find a lot of similarities between it and this
Spider-Man. The storylines are very similar, in fact, and perhaps that's one
of the reasons Spider-Man works so well: Superman worked so well, too.
Originally released in a two-disc special edition available in widescreen or
Pan&Scan, we now get two more versions of Spidey, coincidentally timed right
before the theatrical release of the second film. Aside from the Superbit version,
which we've been waiting for with baited breath, we also get this (kind of)
brand new deluxe edition. Basically, it features the original two-disc edition
in its exactness, plus the lamest bonus disc of extras weve yet seen (and
there have been some pretty lame ones).
Disc one features the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital
5.1. Overall, the transfer is good, but it should have been better for such
a huge movie. The picture looks a bit muddy and grainy in places, but overall
color and detail is very good. Imperfections are subtle, and are much more noticeable
when you compare it with the Superbit version reviewed below.
The audio track features some good separation and use of surrounds, but quite
a bit more would have been possible. During the action scenes, you can hear
the rear speakers handling the occasional sound effect, which is nice, but you
cant help but think to yourself thats it?
Extras on disc one begin with a series of Web-i-sodes, which take
you behind-the-scenes of the film as you watch it. Each runs between 2-4 minutes,
and doesnt have enough time to really go into any detail. Next up are
two audio commentaries, the first by Sam Raimi, Kirsten Dunst, and co-producers
Grant Curtis and Laura Ziskin. Raimi has a great sense of humor, and keeps things
running smoothly, but Curtis and Dunst dont really have much reason to
The second commentary with visual effects designer John Dykstra and his crew,
has a lot more information to offer, but doesnt have the wit of Raimi
to keep it as entertaining. Both tracks are worth a listen for a while, but
Disc one also features a pop-up fact track, two music videos, trailers, and
DVD-Rom content including the ability to record your very own audio commentary.
Disc two features more looks-better-than-they-are extras than weve seen
in some time. The HBO First Look special is a typical 25-minute commercial that
features cast & crew interviews crossed with some behind-the-scenes footage.
Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century is probably the most
interesting, chronicling the history of the character and comic. It features
interviews with many of the people involved in Spider-Mans 40-year history,
including Stan Lee, Erik Larsen and Todd McFarlane.
If you thought it couldnt get more superfluous than the HBO Specials,
E! Entertainment offers Spider-Mania, a 35-minute shameless display
of promotion. Two promos are offered, one on Sam Raimi and the other on composer
Danny Elfman. While its nice to get a closer look on two of Hollywoods
bigwigs, there isnt really a whole lot offered here. Finally, disc two
also features some still galleries, screen tests, and a gag reel.
The bonus disc in the deluxe edition features just over half an hour of additional
featurettes, including Costume Design, Designing the World
of Spider-Man, The Spider Wrangler, Wrestling Match,
World Unity Festival, OsCorp Lab, and Goblins
Arsenal. All of them are well produced and reveal plenty of information
about what went into making the film, but we all know that they could have easily
fit them on disc two and included them from the start. Seeing as how the only
other real extra is a sneak peek at Spider-Man 2 that features little more than
the trailer we can see online for free, this whole package seems like one big
Which brings us to the Superbit version. We love Columbia Tristar's Superbit
titles; they usually (not always, alas) offer a spectacular anamorphic widescreen
picture and top notch audio that gives you the choice of Dolby Digital or dts
And this Superbit version is no different. The colors are deep and rich and
the picture is sharp and clean. We watched the feature on this disc, then went
back to the original Spider-Man DVD release (as witnessed by the deluxe version
reviewed above) and discovered that the original (which is no slouch in its
own right) looks a little washed out compared with the Superbit version. There's
an apparent depth to the picture that brings an extra sense of realism to the
movie that makes such things as the special effects look even better than before.
We also really liked the dts track, which is cleaner and richer than the regular
track. The channel separation is also first rate and Tobey Maguire's hollers
and grunts as he's propelling himself above the streets of New York really come
through loud and clear.
Interestingly, this version - unlike most Superbit titles - also includes a
bonus: a comnentary track featuring Tobey Maguire. It's okay, but we'd have
preferred the Sam Raimi commentary. But considering that most Superbit titles
have no extras at all, this is an unexpected bonus.
Still, it's the movie that counts, and this Superbit version of Spider-Man
is, in our opinion, the ultimate version of the film on DVD.
If you already own a version of Spider-Man, stick with it. If not, you can
pick up the Superbit version for quality, or the original two-disc edition for
quantity. Theres really no reason to shell out the dough for this version.
Spider-Man, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
121 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
(Superbit version also offers dts)
Starring Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson,
Produced by Laura Ziskin, Ian Bryce
Screenplay by David Keopp
Directed by Sam Raimi
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