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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Literature > The Spiderwick Chronicles – Field Guide Edition (Blu-Ray + 2-Disc DVD/Paramount)

The Spiderwick Chronicles – Field Guide Edition (Blu-Ray + 2-Disc DVD)


Picture: B/B-     Sound: B/B-     Extras: B+     Film: B-



For a film that transformed a five novel series into a single film, the theatrical rendering of The Spiderwick Chronicles is quite faithful and captivating.  This reviewer feels the main problem with The Spiderwick Chronicles was the marketing.  The film from the very beginning was portrayed as a fantasy oriented children’s story, but did little to promote the fact that older individuals may like it as well.  Now the film is surely not Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter, but it blends a great deal of action, fantasy, and good old story telling that any age could enjoy.  The film, though not a hundred percent faithful to the novels, does manage to balance out the contributing factors enough so that book-buffs and the unexposed alike can both enjoy without hindrance.


The film features Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) playing dual roles as twins Jared and Simon.  Simon and Jared have very different personalities, Simon being the passive one and Jared being constantly dissatisfied one, but Highmore manages to pull off the polar opposite qualities incredibly well.  The film is based on the novels by writers Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi.  The story of Spiderwick follows the Grace family as they move to a rural community after a recent divorce.  The children are all handling the events of the divorce very differently and moving to a new creepy mansion, previously owned by an aunt who is now in a mental institution, is not helping matters much.  Jared being the most disgruntled of the children, sets out to explore the more unusual and forbidden parts of the mansion.  On his travels about the house he finds a mysterious book that was locked in a chest with a strict warning not to open or read.  But the classic forbidden fruit of knowledge is too much to handle and Jared soon embarks on an adventure he could have never even thought of in his wildest dreams.  Jared studies the books words and magic intently as it is full of secrets about the old house and surrounding lands that no one else knows.


Along the way Jared meets a plethora of creatures including those voiced by comedy greats Martin Short and Seth Rogen.  It is not until Jared’s twin Simon ventures beyond the protective barriers of the estate (NOT in the books) that trouble begins.  Simon (looking much like Jared) is captured by an evil band of ogres that want nothing more than to get their hands on the secrets that are held within the Arthur Spiderwick Chronicles.  The film shifts from learning about the fantastical world of the estate, to saving Simon and warding off the evil forces that surround them.  The film is exciting with a good mix of fantasy, action, and adventure.  The CGI aspect of the film is also well done and brings the fantasy aspect of the film to the next level.


This reviewer as previously stated did not love the film anywhere near as much as any of the Harry Potter Films or Lord of the Rings, but it definitely holds its own strong merits in the fantasy genre.  The film is acted very well with eye catching sets.  Highmore most of all stands out as the star and as he matures shows that he has some strong acting chops that will taking him far.


The technical features on both the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of The Spiderwick Chronicles are not magic or fantasy, but all around very nice.  The picture on the Blu-ray release is presented in a 2.35 X 1 Widescreen that has a very solid color palate, with good skin tones where the CGI animation blends almost flawlessly with the real life stars.  The CGI creatures are amazingly realistic and Industrial Light and Magic did an excellent job in bringing the fantasy aspect of the novels to life.  Overall, the 1080p image was very easy on the eyes and made the film even more enjoyable.  The DVD release, also in 2.35 X 1 Widescreen, is very nice but the colors and light/dark balance in no way compare to the presentation of the Blu-Ray Disc, lacking that certain degree of crispness that High Definition brings to the table.  The sound presentation on the Blu-Ray is also impressive as it boasts its 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track that really encompasses the creepy creatures across the soundstage as well as bringing the power to the foreground in the more action oriented sequences with the 48 kHz output and variable bitrate.  There were minor flaws here and there, but the general public for the most part won’t be able to pick up such minor happenings.  The DVD uses a more simple Dolby Digital 5.1 surround that is ok, but once again does not get the job done like the Blu-Ray, never filling out the soundscape quite as well.


The extras are very well done on this set, but due to this reviewer’s only mild like of the film and the nature of the extras, they do not maintain a very good rewatchable quality.  The extras included on both the DVD and Blu-Ray Disc include such features as Spiderwick: It’s All True, It’s a Spiderwick World, Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide (specially enhanced ONLY on the Blu-Ray), Spiderwick: Meet the Clan, Making Spiderwick, The Magic of Spiderwick, A Final Word of Advice…, trailers, and Deleted Scenes.  On the Blu-Ray release most of the extra features are in High Definition, but don’t compare to the quality of the film.  The extras pretty much encompass every aspect of the film and give much insight into its creation.  The extras cover such areas as the creatures, the CGI, the original inspirations, the human characters, and much, much more.  The extras on their own each last about 10 minutes average, but all together give an extensive amount of material to dive into.  With so many Blu-Rays today lacking extra features STILL, it is nice to see studios like Paramount putting some time and effort into what the fans want.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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