Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Spider-Man (Limited Edition Collector's Gift Set)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
9 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

Starring:
Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man/Peter Parker
Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin/Norman Osborn
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson
James Franco as Harry Osborn
J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
Michael Papajohn as The Burglar
Randy Poffo as Bone Saw McGraw
Joe Manganiello as Flash' Thompson
Rosemary Harris as Aunt May
Ted Raimi as Hoffman
Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben Parker
Bill Nunn as Joe 'Robbie' Robertson
Bruce Campbell as Ring Announcer
Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant
Macy Gray as Herself

Special Features:
Disc One:
- Widescreen Presentation
- Weaving the Web: Subtitled Factoids (Pop On Production Notes and Historical Facts)
- Commentary: Sam Raimi (Director), Kirsten Dunst, Laura Ziskin (Producer), & Grant Curtis (Co-Producer)
- SFX Commentary: John Dykstra (Special Effects Designer) & Visual Effects Crew
- Branching Web-I-sodes
- Music Videos - Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott: Hero, Sum 41: What We're All About
- TV Spots
- Theatrical Trailers
- Filmographies & Character Files
- DVD ROM: Comic / Feature Comparison, Record Your Own Commentary, Countdown to Spider-Man 2, Weblinks

Disc Two:
- HBO Making of Spider-Man
- Spider-Mania: An E! Entertainment Special
- Director Profile: Sam Raimi
- Composer Profile: Danny Elfman
- Screen Tests: Tobey Maguire, J.K. Simmons, and CGI Spider-Man
- Costume and Makeup Tests
- Gag / Outtake Reel
- Conceptual Art & Production Design Gallery
- Historical Documentary - Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century
- The Spider-Man Comic Archives
- Rogues Gallery
- The Loves of Peter Parker
- Comic Book Artist Gallery
- Activision Game: Hints & Tips
- DVD ROM: Activision PC Game, 2 Playable Levels, 3 Exclusive Marvel dot.Comics (Spider-Man: Blue #1, Black Cat #1, & Peter Parker: Return of the Green Goblin), Spider-Man Visualizer

Bonus Gifts:
DVD - Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels
Comic Reprint of Amazing Fantasy #15 - Spider-Man's First Appearance
Collectible Senitype featuring a film cel from the movie
Limited Edition off-set Lithograph by the Romitas

Other Info:
English French Languages
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Running Time: 121 Mins.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
English, French, and Spanish Subtitles

Synopsis:
Spider-Man is based on the long running comic book series.

Peter Parker is your typical high school geek. He's smart and friendly, but he's picked on and ridiculed by his fellow students. Even the bus driver picks on him. That's pretty low. His one friend is Harry Osborn, the son of a rich weapons developer by the name of Norman Osborn. Peter lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben next door to Mary Jane Watson. He has had a crush on her his whole life, but is terrified to speak to her.

One day on a field trip to a laboratory, Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider. The venom begins to alter his DNA and give him powers. He develops super-strength, the ability to climb walls, and a "spider-sense" that warns him of impending danger. And strangely, he develops web shooters in his wrists that lead to comic results. No longer a high school geek, Peter begins to enjoy his new powers and looks to make money off of them. This distances him from his family and friends with ultimately tragic results.

As all this is happening, Norman Osborn's company is about to lose a government contract to create a super-soldier. With a flying glider, an exo-suit, and a serum to augment strength, Osborn is close to creating a successful super-soldier. However, the serum is not yet complete. It must have a human test. Under pressure from the military, Osborn tries it out on himself, and it is partially successful. He's super strong, but now schizophrenic. Using these newly developed weapons, his new alter ego, the Green Goblin, drives him to kill anyone who stands between him and success. It seems that Spider-Man is the only one in a position to stop him.

Spider-Man is rated PG-13 for stylized violence and action.

The Movie:
On the DVD release, I picked up the "Limited Edition Collector's DVD Gift Set". This is the exact same DVD as the Widescreen version thrown in a box with the DVD "Stan Lee Mutants, Monsters, & Marvels", a reprint of Amazing Fantasy #15, a Lithograph by the Romitas, and a film cel from the movie. The Gift Set truly is for collectors only. Nobody else will care about the extras. However, comic fans will still want to think about this one before purchasing it since the DVD alone may satisfy them.

The movie looks and sounds fantastic. It's everything you could hope for in a home theater presentation. I think the special effects hold up better on the TV screen than they do in the theater. The only thing I found was that the night scenes seem exceptionally dark on my TV screen. I don't know if it's because of reflection on the screen or what, but the scene where Peter Parker chases after Uncle Ben's killer was so dark that I had a hard time seeing anything.

Anyway, if you enjoyed the movie, you'll enjoy the DVD. It's one of the best of the year.

The Extras:
As you would expect, this DVD is loaded with extras. Check out the list above for a full rundown of what there is. Here are a few of the highlights and lowlights:

Weaving the Web: Subtitled Factoids - If you've ever seen "Pop Up Videos" on VH1, then you have a pretty good idea what this is. As the movie plays, little text windows pop up and talk about the making of the film, how the movie compares with the comic, and more. The comments range from the mundane to the outright hilarious. For example, they make jokes about how a real spider's webbing comes out its rear. They make a joke about how Spider-Man's, thankfully, do not. The factoids do a good job explaining how the movie departed from the comics in the wrestling scene and how they stuck to the original story in the robbery scene. It's a great feature worth watching.

Commentary: Sam Raimi (Director), Kirsten Dunst, Laura Ziskin (Producer), & Grant Curtis (Co-Producer) - This commentary is a bit of a mixed bag. The commentators frequently ramble on about rather uninteresting things and often don't comment on some of the key moments. However, the majority of what they have to say is really interesting and worth listening to. They point out cameos by people you never would have spotted. They tell stories from the set. Nobody really dominates the conversation and it ends up being a good commentary. Too bad Tobey Maguire didn't contribute, though.

SFX Commentary: John Dykstra (Special Effects Designer) & Visual Effects Crew - I'm a tremendous special effects fan. I'm also a big fan of John Dykstra. However, I found this commentary to be REALLY boring. The commentators will ramble on extensively. When a key effects scene is taking place, they babble about how they made clothing flutter through the entire thing. By the time they're done talking about clothing, they have to go back and talk about everything else interesting they missed in a rush. It's also heavy on the technical discussion that will turn off many viewers. I got a real sense that their insights were better suited for a special effects feature rather than a commentary.

Branching Web-I-sodes - While watching the film, you can turn on this feature and "Spidey Sense" icons will appear on screen. You then depart the movie and watch short behind the scenes clips that were originally featured on the internet (that you may have already seen). These are fun and informative clips, but I really wish I could find a listing for them individually rather than having to go through the entire film looking for the icons.

Theatrical Trailers - Only one of the trailers is shown and the infamous World Trade Center teaser is nowhere to be found. That is too bad because a lot of work was put into that teaser and there were a ton of Easter Eggs in it you would have enjoyed spotting.

HBO Making of Spider-Man - This feature has a ton of behind the scenes footage that you've probably never seen before. While most of it is in clips that last a fraction of a second, it is still interesting. It has lots of interviews with the cast and crew and is well put together.

Spider-Mania: An E! Entertainment Special - This 40 minute E! special is a little more well rounded than the HBO version. It's gets a little heavier into the beginnings of the comic with Stan Lee and has a bit more interesting interviews with Kirsten Dunst and Sam Raimi. They even go so far as to interview the spider wrangler from the film. Some of the low points occur when they show results from an E! Online poll where Spider-Man takes top honors in every question they ask. What did you expect, I guess?

Director Profile: Sam Raimi - While mostly consisting of people gushing about Sam Raimi, there are still a few highlights to make it interesting. Raimi kids around with people on the set pretending to be a taskmaster. Later on we see a clip with Bruce Campbell talking about his buddy. It's short enough to make it worth checking out.

Composer Profile: Danny Elfman - While I was not terribly impressed with the Spider-Man score, I'm still a big fan of Danny Elfman. That made this feature of particular interest to me. Elfman explains his thinking behind the score and how he developed the themes for each of the characters. While it didn't make me like the music any more, I understood better where Elfman was coming from while writing the music.

Screen Tests: Tobey Maguire, J.K. Simmons, and CGI Spider-Man - This is the screen test that helped make Sony believe that Tobey Maguire could play Spider-Man. He could no doubt play the nerd, but this short fight scene took care of any questions about him being able to handle the action. As impressive as it is, it is still a bit odd. Maguire fights without a shirt on and the goons he beats up on repeatedly yell out "f***". Isn't this a kid's movie? J.K. Simmons also delivers a great screen test and the first glimpse of a CGI Spider-Man is very cool, too. There's quite a transition between this comic-book looking screen test and the final version we see on screen.

Costume and Makeup Tests - This section shows video clips of Maguire, Dunst, Dafoe, and the others posing in the various costumes from the film. It's an interesting look into the making of the movie, but not much more beyond that.

Gag / Outtake Reel - Most of these gags and outtakes involves the actors flubbing lines and Willem Dafoe acting crazy. None of them are really laugh out loud hilarious, but they're still fun to check out.

Conceptual Art & Production Design Gallery - These stills give you a look at the development process behind designing the characters. The designs for the Green Goblin are the most interesting because they go through the most radical changes.

Historical Documentary - Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century - This documentary gets heavy into the comic book history of Spider-Man. Some of the great artists from the past are featured here including Todd McFarlane, John Byrne, Erik Larsen, and the Romitas. All of them have interesting insights and stories behind the characters. While you hear the same stories repeatedly on this DVD about the appeal of Spider-Man (he's a geek with real problems), this feature is still of great interest to hard core comic fans and casual fans alike.

The Spider-Man Comic Archives - This feature shows selected covers from the various decades of Spider-Man's publication. When you select the cover, the artwork is shown and some credits and a synopsis are displayed. This database is of little use to hard core comic fans, but it is still good for generating a bit of nostalgia. It's fun to remember some of the classic stories you may have read in the past. It's unfortunate that some of the more memorable issues are skipped, though.

Rogues Gallery - This feature shows 3D computer generated drawings of some of Spider-Man's better known villains. Character profiles are included with each. While again not being of much use to hard core comic fans, it is still presented in a slick format that makes it interesting.

Comic Book Artist Gallery - In this section you can find Spider-Man artwork by various comic artists. Unfortunately, there's nothing here by some of the better known artists in the comic industry. Most of the images are rather underwhelming and not representative of some of the great art from the past.

Easter Eggs - As of this writing, there are seven known Easter Eggs found on the DVD. One includes a video of Todd McFarlane talking about how he created the unique design for Spider-Man's webs. That is pretty cool. Another shows some gag reels with the CG Spider-Man. Another is a video feature on the Romitas. You can access this and other Easter Eggs by using the list here.

Overall, these extras are some of the best offered all year. While not everything I had hoped for, they were still a great treat. I did feel that there was not enough attention given to the special effects, though. I would have liked to see a full feature on how Sony Imageworks did the CGI Spider-Man. However, I know there's more out there than they have offered. I got a profound sense while watching this DVD that we'll be seeing yet another Spider-Man DVD with everything they left out of this edition. Prepare to break out your wallets again.

The Bottom Line:
If you enjoyed the Spider-Man movie, you'll really enjoy this DVD. It pleases the casual Spidey fan while at the same time bringing great attention to his comic book roots.

Order this DVD @ Amazon

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