Tuesday, November 6, 2007

From the Archive: "Spider-Man 3" DVD Review

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original review of "Spider-Man 3" on 2-Disc DVD.

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Spider-Man 3”
DVD Review originally published November 6th, 2007

Based on the scathing reviews this film has received, I think I’m one of the few critics in the country who enjoyed this movie.  If it’s not too bold to say, I think I’m also one of the few critics looking at this film from a more subjective standpoint.

When Spider-Man 3 opened in theaters last May, it truly did have people polarized; some hated it, some liked it, and some loved it.  I think the people that loved it saw the exact same film as the other two kinds of people, but they saw it in a different light, which is what I did (after a second viewing.)  If you’ve seen Spider-Man 2 (and if you haven’t, shame on you) then you know that it is quite possibly the best superhero movie of all time, and one of the best films in years.  As I summarized in my review of number 3 last May, there was no way it could have lived up to the expectations number 2 left us with, and I think many of us were disappointed with what we saw because we expected something even better.  That just wasn’t possible.

Spider-Man 3 is not as good as 2.  When I first saw it, I didn’t much like it because I wanted another Spider-Man 2, and that wasn’t in the cards.  On a second (and third) viewing in theaters, I grew to love the film for what it is; a great action film that does a fantastic job of wrapping up the epic trilogy, as well as delving into some themes deeper and more intense than either of the first two raised.  While not the best one in the trilogy, it is the deepest.  It has a few stumbles delivering its messages, but overall, Spider-Man 3 is a fantastic film, one of the best of the summer.

I’m not going to waste time summarize the plot; I doubt you’re reading this DVD review if you haven’t seen it. 

So everybody knows that this movie has about a million subplots; on first viewings, this appears to detract, but if you really give the movie a try, it turns out to be a great strength; it symbolizes all the struggles going on within Peter.  Once again, the film is more of a character study then it is a superhero film.  The majority of the film is spent looking deeper into Peter Parker’s character and the people around him.

The best thing about the film is the spot-on casting.  Thomas Haden Church is perfect as Flint Marko (Sandman) and brings a very human side to a character the audience has been trained to hate.  Bryce Dallas Howard is also excellent as Gwen Stacey, and returning cast members like Kirsten Dunst (M.J.) J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson) and Rosemary Harris (Aunt May) all do exemplary jobs again.

But the best bit of casting here is Topher Grace as Eddie Brock.  He steals every scene he’s in with a fun charisma that Peter obviously lacks.  He’s a ladies man, (much unlike Peter) and he has fun with his part.  You can also tell he had fun playing Venom in the last half hour, and shines as a super-villain.

No complaints about the special effects either.  At a whopping 250 million dollar budget, SM3 is the most expensive film ever made.  As such, the special effects rock, but Peter Jackson’s King Kong had about 20 times more SFX shots, and cost 30 million less.  Why did SM3 need so much money anyway?  And if there was so much, couldn’t they have made the action scenes more...intense?

See, while the action in this film is great, it lacks the tension that made the first two film’s action so outstanding.  There’s no action sequence in which dozens of lives are at risk.  Instead, Spider-Man is pretty much saving his own ass from start to finish.  The train scene in SM2 is one of the best action scenes ever caught on film, and has you on the absolute edge of your seat, to the point where you stop inhaling breath you’re so worried for the lives of the passengers.  While the final, 4-way brawl in SM3 is great fun, it doesn’t have this incredible tension SM2 had.  And none of the other fights come close to SM2.  

But, as a whole, the film is a great way to spend two hours, and taken together with the preceding two films, you have, hands-down, the best super-hero trilogy of all time.  SM2 is the fearless leader, with SM1 and SM3 tying everything together quite perfectly.  Film Rating: B+


Technical Ratings:

Video: A-
Audio: A
Extras: A-

Popping in Disc One of this two disc DVD set, we are treated to some cool animated menus that correspond with the awesome menus for the first two films, and helps the DVD’s feel like a trilogy too.

Anyway, the video is, overall, quite good, considering the complexity of the image and the length of the film, which must have been tough to fit on one disc along with other features.  The colors and contrast are sharp and vibrant throughout, even in rapid-fire action sequences.  Dark scenes (there are lots) are rendered extremely well so that it’s not hard to see what’s going on.  Fine background detail is a bit lacking, making things slightly harder to see in huge action scenes, but it is a small quibble.  Overall, not a perfect image, but a perfectly serviceable one that shouldn’t leave home-theater enthusiasts wanting more. 

The audio, on the other hand, is a total home run.  Depending on the scene, dialogue, music, or sound effects take center stage while other elements subtly complement it, immersing you in sound.  In action scenes, the audio will blow you away, while quiet, dialogue driven scenes sound perfectly realistic, like it’s going on in your own living room.  Combined with the video, the film experience is well above-average.

Disc one also contains its own handful of extras.  First of is an audio-commentary with director Sam Raimi and actors Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard and Thomas Haden Church; I haven’t had time to listen to this yet, though I’m excited to do so, as I’ve been told that it’s a fun track that gives you an idea of what these people are like on set and in real life, while also managing to be informative.  There’s a second commentary, this time with producers Avi Arad, Grant Curtis, Laura Ziskin, editor Bob Murawski and visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk.  Again, I haven’t listened to it, but I hear it’s also a worthwhile listen, being more informative and technical.

Rounding off disc one is a cool photo gallery of about 100 images, a silly and superfluous blooper reel, and a very strange music video for the very good song Signal Fire by Snow Patrol.

Disc Two holds the meat of the extras, and is easily worth the extra cost for the two-disc set.  While not as massive in quantity as the Spider-Man 2 DVD was, everything here is easily worth a watch, and all of it is interesting and fascinating, and the fact that there isn’t so much of it this time makes it easier to sink your teeth into.

Basically, there are 11 featurettes that, when played together, create a solid two-hour documentary that answer all your questions about the film.  The featurettes stand on their own better than they do as one two hour “making of,” seeing as they are not arranged in any particular order like the Spider-Man 2 documentary.  All of them are worth a watch, and I’ll list them here for your convenience:

Grains of Sand: Building a Sandman (14 minutes), Re-imagining the Goblin (11 minutes), Covered in Black: Creating Venom (16 minutes), Hanging On...: Gwen Stacy and the Collapsing Floor (10 minutes), Fighting, Flying and Driving: The Stunts (19 minutes), Wall of Water (7 minutes), Cleveland: The Chase on Euclid Avenue (7 minutes), New York: From Rooftops to Backstreets (13 minutes), Inside the Editing Room (4 minutes), The Science of Sound (16 minutes, including a picture-in-picture feature comparing the scoring session with the final film), Tangled Web: The Love Triangles of Spider-Man 3 (9 minutes, examining the more personal aspects of film's story and the relationships between the characters).

All 11 are worth the watch, and its clear Sony put plenty of manpower and effort into making them as all-inclusive as possible.  Rounding off disc two is a section for Trailers and TV spots.  Instead of the normal TV spot gallery of 20 or so spots, the DVD creators instead opted to create a great little gallery of about 10 TV spots from around the world.  Want to hear Peter in Russian?  Here you go.  There are also the four trailers that were shown in theaters, and they are as kick-ass as you remember them.

With great video and audio, and an unbeatable batch of extras, Spider-Man 3 earns my high-recommendation on DVD.

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