Comics : The Spider-Man Chronicles

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This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

This book is in many was a sequel to Spider-Man: Behind The Mask Of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2: Caught In The Web, both by Mark Cotta Vaz. Both are glossy high-quality books about the making of Spider-Man movies. The significant difference between this book and its two predecessors is that writer Grant Curtis was one of the actual producers of the movie, not simply a privileged visitor.

This extra degree of closeness makes all the difference - it allows Curtis a degree of knowledge and insight that marks this book as far more detailed, insightful and intimate than its predecessors.

In Detail...

The Spider-Man Chronicles
May 2007 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0811857778
Summary: The Art and Making of Spider-Man 3
Publisher:  Chronicle Books
Writer:  Grant Curtis
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Review

The structure of the book is clear and simple. The first chapter describes the crafting of the story - the road from concept to script. The second cover the casting of the characters. The costumes receive a chapter all to themselves, and they deserve it. The sets and the overall "look" of the film gets a chapter, then the final regular chapter is dedicated to the ground-breaking special effects. The last third of the book consists of Grant's daily journal, which is full of fascinating details about the actual process of shooting the film.

Most of the book specifically concerns itself with Spider-Man 3, but there are frequent references back to the earlier two films for comparison.

That quick summary of the contents doesn't do them justice. This book is lovingly constructed. As producer, Curtis clearly had access to whatever art materials he wanted - rounded out with several of his own photos taken through the course of making the movie. The layout of the book is luscious, but not overblown. Many of the two-page spreads are simple but effective charcoal drawings by the concept artists. But there's plenty of color art and photographs too.

Physically this book is big. 9.5" x 11", 240 pages, all on glossy top-quality paper stock. The print isn't overly large - so even with the large number of illustrations there's quite a lot of text to work through. It took me a number of sittings to get through all the content, but I'm glad I took the time.

The sheer statistics and facts of what's involved in making a film like this are fascinating. It's hard for me to even get my head around what is involved in creating a movie on this scale. If you've ever looked at a movie budget and wondered where all those millions of dollars go to, reading this book will make it perfectly clear.

In General...

Curtis is a good writer. His style is clear and factual. He has a good grasp of nearly all aspects of the creative process, and he explains them with ease. The choice of topics is excellent, and so is the structure of the book. The quality of the artwork and the quality of the book production is top-notch also.

Overall Rating...

I'm tempted to offer the full five webs, but I'm going to hold back a half-web simply because at times, Curtis is just embarrassingly positive about Sony and the creative team. Just now and again, his praise is gushing and overflowing to the point where you might imagine that Sony funded the writing of the book as a self-promotion piece.

It doesn't affect the book in general, but when it does occur, it's distracting to say the least. Here's an example from the end of the "Casting" chapter.

Along the way, some of the most respected actors working today, as well as some who have just started on that journey, joined a franchise that always seeks to hire the best actor for the role and put the acting craft first and foremost.

Now that may well be the case, but these odd moments of jingoistic self-trumpeting detract from the overall objective tone of the book, and that's a shame. So it's four-and-a-half webs for a book that is very nearly perfect.