Scanning High-Def: Spider-Man, The High-Definition Trilogy on Blu-ray

Sony Blu-ray Disc
Movies •••• Picture ••••½ Sound ••••½ Original Extras ••• Blu-ray Extras •••

Playing the first movie in this Blu-ray trilogy, my Spidey senses imme­diately begin to tingle. Bright, exceptionally crisp images leap forth, buoyed by Danny Elfman's heroic score swirling about me. Nearly three-dimensional compositions are filled with solid-looking bodies and rounded, sculptured, natural-skin-toned faces. The richly colored clothes of background people pop with a distinction that gives a real feeling of depth, while the reds and blues of the Spider-Man costume are satisfyingly saturated without losing any individuation.

There's so much detail, you can see the stitches in Mary Jane's cardigan, the distinct patterns in Aunt May's housedress, and the pores on the back of Peter Parker's hand as the spider bites into it. Excellent contrast also serves up deep blacks and a beautiful range of tones. And in the end, all three of the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4-encoded transfers are equally spectacular, with the digital effects becoming more and more convincing with each new chapter.

The soundtracks immerse you in the noise of New York City and parcel out different sections of the orchestra to each of the channels. The fullness of all the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes is mighty impressive, but the Spider-Man 3 track is most spectacular, flooding you with a sea of surround panning effects. When Goblin Jr. is swooping about on his hover/skateboard, you really get a sense of him circling around you.

Spider-Man 2 can be viewed with seamless branching scenes creating an extended cut, but the extra 8 minutes don't seem to add much. Apart from that, there are no extras accompanying the first two films. Fortunately, Spider-Man 3 comes in a two-disc set with substantial bonuses. A commentary by director Sam Raimi and the leading cast members is enjoyable enough as the actors talk about their characters, but when Kirsten Dunst encourages the boys to ask intelligent questions of Raimi, things become truly interesting. In a second commentary, the producers do a fair job delving into the meaning of each scene, while special-effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk explains the challenges he faced. Two hours of in-depth featurettes dealing with various aspects of the production are presented in high-def (hooray!), the most fascinating of which demonstrates how layers of sound are built up to create a convincing effect.

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