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Spider-Man
DVD disk
Oct 8, 2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Spider-Man order
Director:
Sam Raimi

Actors:
Tobey Maguire
Willem Dafoe
Kirsten Dunst

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Tobey Maguire stars as Peter Parker, the puny teenager from Queens who gets bitten by a genetically manipulated (used to be it was radioactive) spider and gains the proportionate strength and speed of a spider, as well as some other nifty skills such as the ability to scale walls and sling webs across town. Following his tragic lesson in responsibility, Spidey faces his greatest challenge when the evil Green Goblin (Dafoe) appears from nowhere to threaten the girl whom he loves (Dunst).
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I remember growing up reading Spidey back when comics used to cost a couple of quarters each and thinking that it would, one day, make a great movie. But when I heard that after years of legal squabbling, this film was actually going to get done, I was surprised not to feel excited but to rather feel terrified. Was Hollywood going to gang-rape my favorite hero? Was some hack going to be put in charge of poor Peter who despite his great powers was never able to outrun the problems of daily life? Was some teenage matinee idol going to sling across town on the webs that rightfully belonged to a tortured and imperfect superhero? All these thoughts ran through my mind and when I finally settled in to watch the movie, my fears were soon quelled as the film engaged in one of the most respectful representations of a comic hero since Tim Burton's original BATMAN back in 1989.

Despite a few, shall we say, "artistic liberties" taken with the character (most prominently his newfound ability to whip out organic web rather than his traditional synthetic one through his homemade web shooters), Sam Raimi handled the character with kid gloves and managed to give fans across the age spectrum some of what they wanted. The kids got to see Spider-Man live like never before through some exciting imagery and a very smooth adaptation to the 21st century, while long-time fans got to see the hero of their childhood (a still ongoing one at that) sling around like we'd imagined back when a trip to the comic store was still a trip to a fun place rather than an entrance to a sterile world of high-priced collectibles where touching is forbidden and where they make you feel bad when you actually read your comics because you might crease one of its edges (I have a pretty decent Spider-Man collection and I've always been a bit proud of the fact that it's probably in the worst shape of any in the world simply because I've read each issue dozens of times). In fact, my only real disappointment in this movie with respect to the books was the toyish and downright non-frightening costume of the Green Goblin. To see one of the genre's most celebrated villains (can you say that?) transformed into an action figure was a bit of a joke but nobody's perfect, right? Willem Dafoe played it damn well though, so that made up for a lot.

Maguire was also a great casting decision for Peter Parker. He gave the character his required vulnerability yet was able to overcome it when it was needed and give him some strength, backbone and a heckuva lot of balls once he donned the red and blue and started swinging around hundreds of feet above Manhattan. As a matter of fact, I can't say that I noticed anyone giving any sub-par performances. Dafoe was great and so was Dunst as Mary Jane Watson (Gwen Stacey... where are you?) and one of the highlights was J.K. Simmons (OZ) as grouchy old J. Jonah Jameson, the world's grumpiest and least objective newspaper publisher. All in all, this film was a hell of a blast and nothing, not even the sometimes perceivable CGI Spidey, could have ruined it for me. If you're a long-time Spidey fan, don't worry, our boy was well taken care of and if you're not...then this just may turn you into one...
THE EXTRAS
The two-disc set has enough features to keep you tangled up and webbed to your couch for a good little while. Both discs contain extra material as well as a bunch of DVD-ROM features.

DISC #1

Full length audio commentary by director Sam Raimi, producer Laura Ziskin, co-producer Grant Curtis and actress Kirsten Dunst: I have to say that I expected a bit more from this. It was a bit more tedious that I would have expected but then again, pretty much anything is tedious if you watch it immediately after watching the movie. The only thing I got out of this was the knowledge that Laura Ziskin is a pretty darned abrasive woman.

Full length audio commentary by SFX supervisor John Dykstra and visual effects crew: As you can imagine, special effects were a pretty big deal in this movie and who better to discuss them but John Dykstra, the man behind Star Wars. This track obviously gets pretty technical but it's also very interesting. A lot of different effects were used here other than the much-maligned CGI. As you can see in some of the further features, it was also full of stunts and explosions and many more "conventional effects".

"Weaving the Web" subtitled factoids: I love stuff like this! As you watch the film with or without any of the commentaries, little bubbles appear in the corners displaying facts and trivia about the film, the characters, the actors, the shoot and pretty much anything else. It complements the commentary tracks very nicely.

Branching Web-i-sodes: An "interactive" feature that allows you to watch the film and to branch out at certain moments into explanatory little featurettes detailing various aspects of the film's making. Keep your remote handy and make sure you have a lot of spare time on your hands.

Music Videos: "Hero" by Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott and "What we're all about" by Sum 41. Can't say as these tunes are my bag but I will say that "Hero" is a pretty catchy song.

Character Files: This is a brief text filmography of the main stars of the film.

DISC #2

The disc is split up into two main sections. Web of Spider-Man is all about the comics while The Goblin's Lair focuses on the movie. Both are full of Spidey goodness.

Web of Spider-Man: the comic

"Spider-Man: the mythology of the 21st century" (25 minutes): This is excellent viewing for fans of the comic book as we get to hear from such industry luminaries as Stan "The Man" Lee, creator of Spider-Man, John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr., two of the book's most acclaimed artists, Todd McFarlane, probably its most controversial and a bunch of other people involved closely with the ongoing magic of the hero. From the origin to the sacrilegious Ultimate Spider-Man series, they'll guide you through the many changes of Spidey and Petey.

Spider-Man archives (pictures): Some of the highlight episodes through the decades with cover art and some explanatory notes to each of them. Not a lot of detailed content but if you're a collector, it's nice to see some of your issues up there.

Artist Galleries (pictures): This is some concept art for the film courtesy of various artists featuring Spider-Man, the Green Goblin and more. Some are pretty weird and some are okay. The Goblin ones get pretty wild.

Rogue's gallery (pictures): This is grade-A meat for fans with a gallery of the book's main bad guys along with their bios and characteristics. Included are the Hobgoblin, the Sandman, Doctor Octopus, Electro, the Green Goblin, the Chameleon, Mysterio, the Lizard, the Rhino, Venom, the Scorpion, the Vulture, the Shocker and my personal favorite, Kraven the Hunter, who hunted Spidey for years just for pure sporting pleasure.

The Loves of Peter Parker (pictures): Betty Brant... Gwen Stacey... The Black Cat... Mary Jane Watson... in common? They were all romantically involved in Peter's tragic life and most Spider-Man readers have had a crush on one of them at one point or another. This feature gives us a little bit of background on each and some nice pictures of the ladies in question.

Activison Game hints & tips: I played this game a couple of times and it's pretty good although very hard. I'm not really into video games though, so I wouldn't play it for hours on end but if you are...you might appreciate these.

The Goblin's Lair: the movie

HBO Making of Spider-Man (25 minutes): This is a very complete look at virtually every single aspect of the making of this film. Cast & crew interviews, on-set filming, and discussion regarding casting, concepts, effects, set design, costumes and more are all in here as well as some great shots of Kirsten Dunst in her tight sweaters.

"Spider Man: an E! Entertainment special" (40 minutes): Much of the stuff in here is the same as in the above HBO feature with a bigger focus on the storyline, its characters and on the forces that brought this film to life, along with some extensive contribution from the stars and filmmakers. The highlight though was a 5 second clip of the universe's biggest nerd telling the world how "I'm going to see it eight times on opening day!". Dude, how about you skip one between 4 and five and take a couple of hours to tighten those braces and air out that Spidey mask!

Director profile: Sam Raimi (7 minutes): Raimi treated Spidey with a lot of respect and this aspect is discussed by both he and others in this brief profile of the man and the experience of working with him.

Composer Profile: Danny Elfman (7 minutes): Not too many people boast resumes as packed as this man who serves up another winner here.

Screen test (5 minutes): This is a really (too) brief bank of screen tests for the film including Maguire's and J.K. Simmons', as wells as some makeup and costume tests and a short clip of CGI Spidey. No real meat here except for Simmons, he's the only one with a speaking part in these clips.

Gag/Outtakes reel (5 minutes): Most of these are flubbed lines by the actors and most of the fun comes courtesy of Willem Dafoe who's a pretty funny guy in real life, even though he always plays creeps. Watching him dance around in the Goblin costume is funnier than it sounds. Nothing outstanding, but good for a watch.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
As you can see, there's a lot of stuff on these discs and this highly anticipated release will obviously be flying off some shelves pretty quickly (Just got word that it sold over 11 million dvd/video copies over its first 3 days...wow!). It's that rare great mix of an exciting movie and a slick DVD features package with lots of stuff to have fun with. It'll probably become one of those DVD's that will have people looking at you funny if you don't own a copy, so take this puppy from the store and give it a good home where you'll be able to enjoy it over and over again.
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