The Spiderwick Chronicles, as with so many children’s movies, started life as a series of five books. Written by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black the movie actually takes aspects from all five of the published books to create this movie. Criticisms have been raised that this movie leaves out large segments and themes from the books, but what do you expect when you're compressing so much literature down into a movie less then two hours long.
When the three Grace children - troubled Jared, his bookish twin Simon, and their sister Mallory - move to the ancient Spiderwick mansion, they are at first none-too-enchanted by the rundown Victorian, until they discover a Brownie, an enchanted creature, living in the walls. They soon find a book - Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You - that will open their eyes to the invisible, odd, and sometimes dangerous world of dragons and boggarts, phookas and fairies, sprites and goblins that is all around them. When they cross paths with Mulgarath, an ogre, they realise quickly that he will stop at nothing to get his hands on the Field Guide.
Having never read the books I walked into The Spiderwick Chronicles not knowing what to expect. What I discovered was a wonderful fantasy world filled with likable characters, and wonderful creatures. The movie gets off to a flying start and rarely lets up during the 95 minute runtime. (Interestingly, several sites on the internet, including IMDB, also list a 107 minute runtime for this movie, however there is no extended version on this disc, and I'm not sure where it can be found as the DVD released in Australia contains the same movie as this Blu-Ray). It is probably important to know that this movie does contain some violence (against monsters, not other humans) as well as some rather scary scenes and moments so parents should be aware of this.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is a very entertaining movie with its drawback being it doesn't really offer anything dramatically different to what we've seen many times before, and to be honest it isn't up to the quality of movies such as Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia, but it's not far off. The Spiderwick Chronicles has a few frights and a bit of violence, but this is a movie that will have teenagers quite entertained - and probably a few adults too!
In terms of visual issues there is little to complain about. I did find a couple of the scenes a little soft and lacking the sharpness of others, and while much of this movie takes place in low light such as in the attic or during night - and generally the image is very good - there are some scenes where the detail seems to get lost where it should remain. Still, these are all small issues.
Other languages on this disc include French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 640kbps. Brief samples of select scenes in each track were impressive so you won't be disappointed with the result there, that's for sure. The disc contains subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese and from sampling the English track the subtitle text, and pacing, is accurate to the action on screen.
It's a Spiderwick World! (8:44/HD): A great little extra where the writers actually discuss the ideas of the movie, the characters and their names, and placing them in the Spiderwick universe.
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide (HD): This very cool extra allows you to look through the field guide at all the creatures and all the details in which form the basis of the movie. There's even an option when looking at the creatures in the pages of the Field Guide, to see a clip from the movie featuring that creature.
Field Guide In-Movie Mode (HD): Essentially a pop-up trivia track with plenty of interesting information. In fact, this feature works in the opposite to the Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide feature discussed above in that you can be watching the movie, and at points in the movie hit Enter on your remote to see the related Field Guide Page.
Spiderwick: Meet the Clan! (13:54/HD): Looks at the actors that portrayed the characters in the movie. Freddie Highmore is a highlight of this feature with a look at how he played two roles in the movie.
Making Spiderwick (20:53/HD): Another brilliant feature from Paramount this looks at the production of the movie including making sets, props, locations, visual effects and scoring the movie with James Horner.
Nickelodeon TV Spots (5:04/HD): The 9 TV spots used to advertise the movie. Obviously made for TV, these are also the only extra presented in Standard Definition.
Theatrical Trailers (4:36/HD): Two trailers (Good Vs Evil and Secrets) are presented in High Definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 640kbps. Quite good trailers really...
Review By: Dave Warner