Blu-ray Review: Spider-Man (Mastered in 4K version)

The 2002 film version of Spider-Man was a success on many levels, but most of its magic can be attributed to director Sam Raimi (he of Evil Dead fame), who put his distinctive visual stamp on the production. Spider-Man is also perfectly cast, with Tobey Maguire playing a wide-eyed Peter Parker, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, and Willem Dafoe chewing up the screen as Spider-Man nemesis Green Goblin.

The film has long been available on Blu-ray (it saw a re-release as recently as 2012), but  Sony opted to redo it one more time as part of its new Mastered in 4K series, a group of discs that includes other well-known Sony Pictures/Columbia titles such as Taxi Driver, Glory, and the latest Spidey franchise re-boot, The Amazing Spider-Man.

Blu-ray and 4K

Other Blu-rays have been sourced from a 4K master, so what's the big deal with these? A few things. First, the video bitrate has been upped considerably to ensure a solid, artifact-free picture: The new, Mastered in 4K Spider-Man maintains a steady 35 Mbps, as compared with the high-20 Mbps bitrate typical with other discs, including the 2012 Spider-Man Blu-ray. (Unfortunately, the increased video data rate means there's no space for extra stuff like features and commentary tracks.)  Second, Mastered in 4K discs incorporate something Sony calls Expanded Color, which otherwise goes by the name x.v.Color or xvYCC. To briefly sum up, discs with x.v.Color incorporate data describing colors outside the standard Rec.709 HDTV color space. When a Mastered in 4K disc is played on an x.v.Color-compatible BD player (according to Sony, only its own player line plus the PlayStation 3 can reliably be called compatible) and displayed on a TV capable of x.v.Color reproduction - Sony's new W900A series HDTVs (look for my review in the June/July/August issue of Sound&Vision) and XBR-X900A Series 4K Ultra HD TVs, for example - you get the option to view this expanded range. And displaying it shouldn't involve any shift in the TV's color points - the disc simply instructs the TV to "retrieve" those extra colors without distorting the set's overall color balance.

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