National Security DVD: Review By kerouac1

  • Feature
  • Extras
I'm one of those people... those comic book reading geeks that can relate to a character like Peter Parker as if he were real. I'm ok with that. I think comics are an amazing realm of both story-telling and art. So, I've always been leary of comics that are turned into films. Like a Hollywood marriage, it rarely works out. So my heart dropped when I heard that the Spider-man film that had been fumbling about for nearly 15 years was actually going to get made. I couldn't bare to watch the wall-crawler get reduced to a steaming pile of Hollywood comic-book dung. But then more news started rolling in. Casting news. Tobey Maguire was to play Spider-man? Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin? This was getting promising. Then the trailer hit. Oh, that glorious first trailer, complete with the webbing between the World Trade Center Towers. Great stuff. Then the film in theaters. I went in holding my breath, praying it would be as good as I knew it COULD be. I didn't leave the theater disappointed. I loved it.

CUT TO: Present day. In my mailbox was a box. In that box was the Spider-man DVD.

Cue me, jumping for joy!

Immediately DISC 1 was popped into my DVD player. The film began, and I enjoyed it all over again. Tobey Maguire OWNS the roles of both Peter Parker and Spider-man. His geeky innocence plays perfectly into Peter's character, and his wit fits Spider-man as well as his tights. I loved watching Willem Dafoe eat up his role as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. He takes it directly to the top, teeters at the edge, but never really goes over. He's great. Add to that solid performances by James Franco as Harry Osborn, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, and you've got a well rounded comic book flick.

What we're given in terms of story is mostly origin. How Peter got his powers, how he comes to discover them, the process of learning how to use them, etc., etc. Most comic book films blow through the origin at mach 3 so they can get to the action. Spider-man takes a bit more time with it, which is nice. We're given a chance to get to know the characters better, and it pays off. It's not a perfectly told story, and it doesn't follow the story of the comics verbatim, but it's close enough to make a die-hard fan like myself happy, and besides, it needed a slightly modern update. (and for the record, I love the idea of organic web-shooters... they just make more sense!)
This puppy is PACKED with Special Features. I won't bore anyone by detailing them each out, but I will go through the biggies.


Commentary Tracks

We get 2 different Commentaries on this one, and curiously enough, Tobey Maguire is missing from both. The first one contains: Director Sam Raimi, Kirsten Dunst, producer Laura Ziskin, and co-producer Grant Curtis. It's a good one. Hearing Raimi talk is always great fun, so Raimi fans will particularly enjoy it. The second one contains: special effects designer John Dykstra and visual effects crew. Dykstra has been getting a lot of these commentaries on films now, and they're always good. The man is amazing, and he deserves the time to talk about his work.

"Weaving the Web"

A sub-titled, pop-up feature that can be played during the film with production notes and historical facts. It's like watching a 2 hour segment of VH1s Pop-Up Video. There's some cool stuff in here, so it's worth a look.

Those are the biggies for DISC 1, but there is more. You also get: 2 music videos, TV Spots, snippets of things released on the official web-site, and filmographies and character profiles.


Now it really gets good. DISC 2 is split into 2 sections. One section is all about the comics, and the other is all about the film. Both offer a truck load of special features, so once again, I'm going to outline the ones I found to be really special.

"Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century"

This, for me, was the best thing on the disc. It's a doc*mentary composed of interviews with Spider-man artists both past and present (including John Romita Sr., John Romita Jr., Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane, etc.). Each of these guys talks about what Spider-man means to them, what they think he means to the general populace, how they were first introduced to the character, etc. It's great stuff, and you really see some of the passion that has gone into this character over the years. Plus, you get looks at the work each of the artists have done on Spidey, and you really get a sense of not only how much as changed over the years, but also how much has stayed the same.

The Spider-Man Comic Book Archives

To non-comics fans, this might not be a big deal. But to me, this was really cool. It's a gallery of cover art, accompanied by a brief synopsis of some major Spier-man issues from each year since the comic's inception.

Gag/outtake reel

Funny stuff, especially when you get several shots of Willem Dafoe loosing it while in Green Goblin mode.

Along with these, you also get the HBO Making of Spider-Man and Spider-Mania, an E! Entertainment Specials, A Director profile of Sam Raimi, a Composer profile of Danny Elfman, Screen tests for Tobey Maguire, J.K. Simmons, and the CGI Spider-man, Costume and Make-up tests, Conceptual Art Galleries, Art Galleries of major villains from the comic, and a section called The Loves of Peter Parker which details all of the ladies in Spidey's life throughout the comic. If you put all of this together, you get a DVD package of extras rivaled only by that of Star Wars, Episode One.
I was sent the Fullscreen Format DVD to review. Normally, this would irk me because Widescreen is the only way to fly. But first of all, this was Spider-man. I would have been stoked to even get a VHS copy of this movie. And second of all, the movie looks GREAT, even in Fullscreen. The colors are extremely vivid. I wasn't able to notice any pixalization, even around the edges. None of the colors bled. There weren't even any annoying pan-and-scan moments that usually accompany Fullscreen presentations. In short, I was extremely pleased with the presentation of this film. It looks great, jumping off the screen like any comic-film should.
The film is present in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, and man, they take full advantage of the format. It sounds wonderful. One of the best examples of the great use of sound is the scene where the Green Goblin makes his appearance at the World Unity Festival. Here, the Goblin's glider is heard before it is seen, and the sound really comes through. The glider starts in the distance and can be fainly heard. As it approaches, it gets louder and clearer, until it is upon the crowd where the sound of the glider dominates everything else. Every "thwip" of Spidey's webs, every punch, every kick, is heard and sounds great.
This DVD is one of the finest sets I've seen put together. As I stated above, I was sent the Fullscreen version. If the fullscreen can look this good, I can only imagine how great the widescreen looks! The sound is top notch, the picture quality is great, and the presentation of the discs (menus) look wonderful. The film itself is everything I would hope for from a comic-book movie. The right amount of time was taken to develop the characters without trying to pack everything into one film. It's fairly light-hearted and fun. Most importantly, it captures the spirit of the comic PERFECTLY. That is Spider-man on the screen. There is no doubt about it. And if the same attention to detail is used in the comnig sequels, then there is a franchise with some longevity in the making. And if that is the case, then we've got a few more outstanding DVDs to look forward to.

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