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Early in the 1960s, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created a character that would go on in many ways to be the cornerstone of their Marvel Comics magazine company. To this day, Spider-Man remains one of the most popular comic book characters still being published. After many false starts and years of legal wrangling, Columbia Studios finally brought a big budget version of the wall crawler to life in the film Spider-Man. Already released as a two disc special edition, a multi-disc gift set, and a three disc deluxe edition (which includes a third disc with some new extras and a sneak preview of Spider-Man 2), now CTHE has put the web-slinger into a "Superbit" edition which includes a new commentary track.

The Movie
Peter Parker is not the type of person anyone would ever go to in time of need. Chronically late, constantly teased and somewhat of a "98 lb. weakling", his biggest obsession is photography. During a trip to a science lab, Peter and his classmates are told about an experiment where three different types of spiders are being used to genetically alter and create a fourth "super spider" with the abilities and characteristics of the previous three. As the display goes on, it becomes increasingly obvious that Peter is attracted to another student, Mary Jane Watson, who just also happens to live next door to him on the outskirts of New York City. Too shy to make his move, Parker's best friend, Harry Osborn, instead attempts to get to know her better. When one of the genetically altered spiders shows up missing, it is not too long before that arachnid is slowly making its way towards Peter and soon after it lands on his hand, bites him, forever altering the life of young Peter Parker.

As the next twenty-four hours progress, Peter feels his world changing. He becomes tired and weak. After he collapses on the floor next to his bed, he awakens and finds that things are radically different. He now seems to have 20/20 vision, and his body and muscle tissue have been incredibly increased. Once again he is late for the school bus, but as he places his hand on the side of the bus signalling it to stop, the paper sign on the side mysteriously sticks to his hand. And those aren't the only changes. At school, he somehow "senses" that something is wrong just before MJ slips on the floor and Peter catches her and all of her lunch food. Immediately afterward, a web-like fluid comes flying out of his wrist and sticks to a tray on the next table. As Peter attempts to pull the tray back, it goes flying over his head and lands on MJ's current boyfriend, Flash Thompson. Needless to say, Flash is not amused. Flash confronts Peter in the hallway and as he is getting ready to swing at Peter, time seems to stand still for Parker and he is easily able to avoid all of Flash's attacks.

Spider-Man (Superbit)
Confused by his new abilities, on the way home, Peter tries to see what other powers he may now have. Spotting an alley, he goes in and within seconds he is climbing the side of a building just as a spider would. Miraculously, all of the spider's increased abilities were transferred to him when he was bitten. After some more attempts to discover his new powers, Peter goes home and while in the back yard, has a discussion with MJ about their relationship. Just as he is starting to warm up to her, she bolts for her boyfriend's new car.

Peter then believes he needs a new car, but everything that is available is far beyond his price range. He finally finds a car for $1000, but still has to come up with the money. Peter notices an advertisement which offers amateur pro-wrestlers $1000. He decides to give it a try and develops several different designs for a costume. Driving downtown with his Uncle Ben (under the false pretence that he is going to the library), just as Peter is about exit the car, Ben wants to have a discussion with Peter about his recent behaviour of fighting in school, spending too much time alone upstairs in his room, and not meeting commitments. Ben then utters the line that will become Spider-Man's mantra, "With great power comes great responsibility". The two leave other after exchanging some harsh words. Peter travels to the wrestling arena and he easily defeats the man he is put up against. When the promoter only offers him $100 ("The ad said $1000 for three minutes. You beat him in two."). Peter pleads for the $1000 but is denied by the crooked promoter. As Peter is exiting the building a few seconds later, the arena is robbed of its box office receipts and although Peter could have stopped it, he lets the criminal escape as payback for the dirty dealings of the promoter. That decision will prove to be the biggest mistake of Peter's life as that same criminal horrifically guns done Peter's Uncle Ben during a car-jacking. As Ben dies on the sidewalk, Peter takes off and finally uses his powers to capture the crook. However, the fact that Peter could have prevented his Uncle's death leaves him with enormous feelings of guilt.

Spider-Man (Superbit)
Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, head of Oscorp and Harry's father, is working on a new contract with the government which would include the development of a "super soldier". One of the ingredients of the development is a serum which when tested on mice has caused them to act irrationally and eventually go insane. Norman disputes this and when the government threatens to pull the contract and move it to a competitor unless successful human trials are accomplished, he begins the trials on himself with his aid. During the trial, events spiral out of control and the serum gives Norman super human strength, causes him to become mentally unbalanced, and as a result, the Green Goblin is born.

After taking revenge on those he feels have betrayed him both at his company and his competitors, the Goblin then begins to feel as though nothing or no one should stand in his way. He proposes an alliance with Spider-Man, and when Spidey refuses, the Green Goblin sets out to destroy the web-slinger. During a chance meeting, Norman Osborn realizes that Peter and Spider-Man are one and the same, and then starts to exact his revenge on those closest to Peter. First, his Aunt May is attacked, and then, once Norman realizes that Peter loves MJ, she becomes his latest victim. In a huge scene on top of a New York bridge, Spider-Man, MJ and a tram filled with students court danger and death at the hands of the Green Goblin. One final battle takes place between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin and in its aftermath, while one enemy is defeated, a new one may have been born.

Director Sam Raimi did a superb job of not only capturing the look and feel of the comic, but each of the actors cast seems almost perfect for their respective roles. There was somewhat of a small furore when Tobey Maguire was cast as the hero, however, he dieted and added enough body muscle to come across as a believable enough hero who is still “human”. One of the biggest draws of the character of Spider-Man is that in essence he is a high school kid who has adolescent problems. Unlike Superman who comes from a different planet, seems flawless and is nearly invulnerable, Spidey suffers from emotions such as guilt and jealousy. Maguire brings each of these to his portrayal in fine fashion. Similarly, Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is at the same time a fiercely driven businessman and crazed lunaticg—great acting all around.

Spider-Man (Superbit)
Video
Taking full advantage of the "Superbit" process (one in which more of the bit rate on a disc is devoted to picture and sound and less to extras, etc), the film has never looked better or more vivid. The colours in the film are and bright and powerful. The red and blue in Spider-Man's suit is full and there are many colours which abound (particularly in the World Unity Festival scene). While I don't care for the actual design of the Goblin's costume, it is interesting that although it is green, in certain light the top of his mask gains a purplish hue, more akin to his actual look from the comics. In contrast, Spidey's costume is virtually spot on in it's similarity to the comics, although certain liberties have been taken and modified for the big screen version. Flesh tones are done really well, and some of the darker scenes convey the sense of the blackness without ever overpowering other parts of the scene—really a super job here.

Audio
Again, the greater bit rate offers the listener the option of a DTS track which has been unavailable on previous editions. It is something to behold. The audio track is expansive and covers all the different channels at various times (listen during the times when Norman Osborn is having a conversation with himself and the Green Goblin-the voices move from front to back and left to right and really give you the feel that it is coming at you from all angles). The music is a definite asset to the overall production. It complements the story well and gives the listener a sense of foreboding, danger and action. The bass is strong during the times of peril, especially during crumbling buildings or multiple explosions. Finally, all dialogue is very clear and distinct.

Spider-Man (Superbit)
Extras
One of the downsides of a "Superbit" is the lack of virtually any supplemental material. There are no "Making of" features, no inclusions of costume designs, outtakes, extended sequences, etc. If you are interested in any of these, I would recommend the very thorough two disc edition which was released. The entire space on this disc is for video and sound only. However, there is a feature-length commentary with star Tobey Maguire and J. K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson). This commentary track is taken from a special internet viewing of the film which was done nearly a year ago. The two obviously like one another, but Maguire specifically seems to be uncomfortable in his role of commenting on the film. He seems lost at times, and is prodded by Simmons. They both offer effusive praise for director Sam Raimi, explaining that it really is his vision (and only his vision) which you see in the final product. While not terribly bad, there have been more interesting commentary tracks.

Overall
Spider-Man did huge box office dollars (over $400 million in North America alone) and has already spawned a sequel (with a third virtually a certainty). Although the picture and the sound are great on this disc, the question remains, "Is it worth buying another edition of this film?" The answer, unfortunately, is both "yes" and "no". If you are a stickler for the absolute best video and sound available for this film, than by all means this is the one you should own, providing of course you can live without all the extras. If supplemental material is more your bag, and although you like good video/audio it is not the be all and end all of your existence, then the original set should serve you fine. Apart from these considerations, Spider-Man Superbit edition is a great looking disc and I found myself caught in the Superbit’s hi-tech web.


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