“Spidey’s back, and better than ever.” Good thing, too, because in this third installment in the highly successful comic book-to-film franchise, Spider-Man faces off against a trio of villains: Sandman, the new Goblin and, of course, Venom. Each is a handful on his own. Together, they’re Spidey’s toughest challenge yet. But he’s up to it, so long as he can first overcome his own internal conflict.
Spider-Man 3 hits store shelves October 30, on DVD in both a single-disc widescreen edition and a two-disc special edition, and on a two-disc Blu-ray release. I got my hands on the single disc and put it through its paces. Does the bare-bones DVD hold its own? Read on to find out.
With blockbuster series like this one, we tend to discuss which of the films is the best. Do you vote for the original with its cool take on the origin story, the second one with Doc Oc and the thrilling train sequence, or the latest movie and its barrage of villains? Me, I’ll take the second film over the other two any day of the week. From there it’s a toss-up — I love the first half of the original, but not the Green Goblin, and while Spider-Man 3 has some superb action, it’s bloated with all those baddies, and doesn’t do enough with Venom, the baddest villain of them all.
That’s not to say director Sam Raimi’s third effort is not an entertaining thrill-ride. It certainly offers up a boatload of that superb action I mentioned, along with some solid character development for our hero and his two best friends, Mary Jane and Harry (a.k.a. the New Goblin). But you can’t ignore the problem of too many villains, which confounds the film as a whole.
This time around, Spidey has developed from a hero discovering his powers and the responsibilities and sacrifices inherent to them, to a swaggering champion of New York. The film’s opening makes it clear that New York loves Spider-Man, and hints that Mr. Parker’s fame just might be going to his head. Everything seems to be going well for him — he’s cleaned up the streets, further mastered his powers and finally scored the girl of his dreams. But alas, things don’t stay peachy for long.
Soon Peter is at odds with Mary Jane, whose “blossoming” acting career is so overshadowed by Spider-Man’s fame, and in a battle for his life against his own best friend, Harry, who still thinks Spidey murdered his father. The clash between our hero and the New Goblin pops up very early in the film, and while it’s a cool sequence, it comes much too soon to have any real emotional impact. These are two long-time friends squaring off in heated battle, but Raimi doesn’t allow for the kind of lead-up that would fully realize the impact of their conflict. Obviously, Raimi had to get it out of the way to spend time on Sandman and Venom, which is a shame, especially since the former gets more screen time than the latter.
After the first hour, the film has become too jumbled for its own good, burdened by the weight of an unrealistic conflict between Peter and Mary Jane, the arrival of some intergalactic black goo that will soon become Venom, the reveal that Sandman was the man responsible for Uncle Ben’s murder, and a best-friend-turned-Goblin who has developed amnesia to conveniently keep him out of the way until the final act. Instead of this convoluted story, Spider-Man 3 should have been a focused expansion on the trio of characters who’ve been with us since the beginning: Peter, Mary Jane and Harry. There’s enough material in that triangle alone to make a spectacular and emotionally charged film.
So the film is flawed, but it’s still a $250 million dollar extravaganza with top-notch production values, a talented cast and the most capable Spider-Man we’ve seen yet. Watching Spidey swing, dive and twist his way through the air high above New York’s streets, it’s easy to forgive the plot excesses. Spider-Man 3 isn’t the film I wished it had been, but it’s far more exciting than your average blockbuster.
Spider-Man 3: Widescreen Edition) is presented on a single disc, in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, preserving the aspect ratio of its original theatrical version. It looks fantastic. This is one of the better looking discs I’ve seen in quite some time, so any concerns you may have about the issues with Spider-Man 2 rearing up again here can be put to rest. Colours are gorgeous, with a palette that contrasts the cityscape, Spidey’s red suit and the deep black of Venom. The effects look superb, too. I crossed my fingers for a split-second as the initial fight between Peter and Harry kicked into gear, but quickly saw that there would be no issues with the rapid, whooshing, detail-heavy action sequences. This is definitely the right way to watch Spider-Man 3.
Main audio is English Dolby Digital 5.1. Like the visuals, the sound is excellent. When action sequences begin, the 5.1 track puts you right there, like you’re swinging around with Spidey and dodging debris and repelling villains on all sides. And when Flint Marko stumbles into the particle accelerator that makes him Sandman, your subwoofer will do its best to bring down the house. At the same time, the quieter scenes have a subtle quality that helps keep viewers engrossed in the story. Dialogue — especially Bruce Campbell’s hilarious French accent — is perfectly clear, and ambient effects are well balanced. This is one heck of an aural experience.
This single-disc widescreen edition doesn’t hold a candle to the available two-disc special edition, but those unwilling to spend the extra bucks aren’t left with nothing. Here’s what you’ll find on this disc:
- Two Audio Commentaries: the first is by the cast, including Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Topher Grace, director Sam Raimi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Thomas Hayden Church and Kirsten Dunst, who was recorded separately in London. It’s a bit of a mish-mash, as you’d expect with gaggle of actors. The other track is by the filmmakers, including producers Avi Arad, Grant Curtis and Laura Ziskin, visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk and editor Bob Morosky. This is by far the more technical track, with a lot more talk of the story development and production challenges.
- Bloopers: running about six minutes, this is actually an amusing little collection. The editors made a great decision to set much of these bloopers to music, which certainly raises it above your average blooper reel. Worth watching just to see Spider-Man dance.
- Snow Patrol Music Video: a cute music video with Snow Patrol performing while some young kids put on a Spider-Man school play.
- Photo Galleries: much better than your usual still gallery, this collection of images includes some wicked pencil sketches, concept art, character models and quite a bit more. Fans of the art and character design will eat this stuff up.
- Previews: Sony Pictures’ usual broad sampling of trailers, from DVD to Blu-ray. There’s plenty here if you like watching trailers.
Spider-Man 3 doesn’t top Raimi’s previous Spidey film, but it’s on par with the original in my books. As for this single-disc widescreen DVD, while the picture and sound are superb, my Spidey sense tells me you should opt for the two-disc special edition — otherwise, you’ll be missing out on a lot of extras.