Touchstone Pictures // 1996 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // March 6th, 2003
The Ultimate Battle for Justice.
With the recent release of Daredevil to the big screen, I have become mildly intrigued with the character of Matt Murdock, the said Daredevil. It's quite a tricky and albeit cool idea to have a superhero who cannot see but still possesses other abilities to be able to fight crime and help right the perceived wrongs of society. Like his good buddy Spider-Man, Daredevil has been around for a good forty years, yet I know barely nothing more than what I've seen on the movie screen for both of these characters.
If you've read my post in the Jury Room about the Daredevil movie, then you'll already know that as someone who has never picked up any Marvel comic book, I was less than completely appreciative of the story and the characters. While I found many faults with the movie, again, the Daredevil character intrigues me. So, when I received this disc in the mail, I genuinely looked forward to the chance to get some more information on this superhero. Then to see the title Daredevil vs. Spider-Man, I was very enthused to find out what situation would develop to make these two allies turn against each other. So, I popped in the disc and regrettably came away a tad disappointed with the main story.
Peter Parker has just begun a new job, one that he finds far more rewarding than his time at the Daily Bugle. Sadly his time at Fisk-Tronics will be brief, as he's just been arrested for stealing classified weapons technology from his new employer's database. But everyone who knows Peter cannot believe that he would have anything to do with such a traitorous act. Thanks to an anonymous benefactor, Matt Murdock will be defending Peter at his impending trial. Even with Murdock's inimitable talent, the trial does not go well for Peter and he's found guilty of espionage. During his transport to jail, Peter is freed by Spider-Man. Yes, Peter Parker is rescued from police custody by Spider-Man.
With Peter on the lam, Murdock begins his quest to learn what is happening. With reports of Spider-Man involved in Peter's breakout, Daredevil believes Spider-Man may have less than just intentions. As his hunt progresses, Daredevil finds Peter enmeshed in a complicated web of deceit and treachery involving the Kingpin, Kingpin's son, and Chameleon. In due course, he also learns that Spider-Man is still one of the good guys.
Neither Peter nor Matt is aware of each other's secret identities. By day, they are lawyer and defendant; by night, they are vigilante superheroes working to rid their city of crime. Whether that threat comes from corrupt cops, street thugs, or organized crime, Spider-Man and Daredevil work together to try and make the big city a safe place for everyone to call home.
From 1994 to 1998, Fox aired an animated Spider-Man television series that many consider to be the best of the animated lot -- which contains the Spider-Man series from the 1960s, the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends series from the 1980s, said Fox series, and Spider-Man Unlimited. Each of the five years of this series followed an overall theme, and the episodes on this disc are culled from the third year entitled "The Sins of the Fathers." The four stories that we are treated to in Daredevil vs. Spider-Man are:
* Episode 6: "Framed"
* Episode 7: "The Man Without Fear"
* Episode 8: "The Ultimate Slayer"
* Episode 9: "Tombstone"
I remember watching a few of these cartoons back in the day, and I always liked them. It was one of the few "newer" cartoons that I could tolerate. Today's cartoons -- or do I call them animated series? -- just don't know how to have fun, but when I saw Spidey on TV, I would stop the channel surfing and watch. Because I only caught a few episodes, I still know nothing of the series as a whole. Combine that with my newfound interest in Daredevil, and I was looking forward to some great, animated fun with this DVD.
As the title of the disc prominently declares "Daredevil vs. Spider-Man," I was looking forward to becoming immersed in a story where these two would be at odds. What I found instead was nothing of the sort, and that was very disappointing. First, out of the four episodes, only the first two have anything to do with Daredevil. Why label an entire DVD with these two heroes' names if they don't encompass all the stories? Why not just call this "The Best of Spider-Man" featuring Daredevil? That's far more accurate and truthful. Next, the title itself is a complete misnomer. For approximately two minutes out of the story, Daredevil is "after" Spider-Man. Beyond that, they're friends and working together to figure out who framed Peter for his alleged crime. Again, where's the "vs."? Where's the antagonism? Where's the battle? Where's hero against hero? The packaging is a complete lie.
Moving past my dismay for the misleading title, I honestly have to say that the stories contained herein are rather dull and paint-by-the-book simple. In keeping with the series' theme-of-the-year, you get a backstory on a character's "father," a wrong he did, and how it affects his son. In "Framed," you learn of Matt Murdock's father and how he worked for the Kingpin -- with one event eventually leading to Matt's blindness. In "The Man Without Fear," you learn of Kingpin's father and how that relationship created a criminal mastermind. In "The Ultimate Slayer," you learn of Alistair Smythe's father, his relationship with Kingpin, and how that eventually leads to the birth of The Ultimate Slayer. And, in "Tombstone," you learn of an incident in Robbie Robertson's youth and how that is now leading to his son's involvement in a youth gang. Each story unfolds in a completely obvious fashion; there is no suspense, no drama, no great action, and no fun. I'm not sure what audience this show was aiming for, young boys or Spidey fans, but I believe that is misses the mark in either case.
What I had hoped for in this package was to be able to learn more about Matt Murdock and the development of his alter ego, The Daredevil. While the movie gives you the McNugget version of his life, I hoped that perhaps I would be able to get more information from this disc to fill in some very obvious plot holes from his big screen debut. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. While not a complete loss, I only learned one new fact and clarified one other. Now I have to figure out the history of Stick and how that features into Daredevil's life.
Presented in its original full frame format, each episode shines with the nice, vibrant colors of the animated world, with solid blacks and sharp details. While the print is clean and clear of any grain, there is a heavy dose of artifacting throughout each episode, which is decidedly distracting. On the audio front, the Dolby Digital mono track has a lot of punch to it. It's a very good presentation with clear and clean dialogue and some nice kick out of the subwoofers; it goes beyond what a mono track should do. Hence, while the video has an awful amount of artifacting, it is somewhat offset by the above average audio track.
Making up for some of the weak stories presented in the main course, the bonus materials offer up quite a bit of additional goodies that make this disc far more appetizing. (I wonder if the Thin Mints that I'm currently eating are affecting my writing?) There are four features that certainly add value to the disc and will be appreciated by casual viewers and comic fans alike. In the order presented on the disc, the extras are:
* "And A Blind Man Shall Lead Them" -- Fantastic Four Bonus
Episode featuring Daredevil (23 minutes): After a brief introduction by Stan
Lee, you're treated to a great cartoon episode. There's an excellent
story, grand action, some convincing human drama, and some captivating character
development with the Four. Toss in a nice cameo by Daredevil, and this is really
fun. This is what cartoons are all about, in my humble opinion. It's a great
adventure that will captivate you and make you want to see more.
* "King Pinned" -- Classic 1966 Bonus Spider-Man Episode (21 minutes): After another brief introduction from Mr. Lee, you get to watch an episode from the original animated series from near the time of the creation of Spider-Man. Wow, does this cartoon stink! And I said the main cartoon was paint-by-numbers? This cartoon makes that one look like Renoir in comparison. Everything is so blatantly obvious and simple, I kept wondering why we needed a superhero in the first place? Even better is the fact that, literally, at least five minutes of the story is simply watching Spidey sling from one side of town to the other and back. I'm not exaggerating. Bad, bad, bad! Toss in a dirty print with atrocious sound, and this could possibly ruin your appreciation of Spidey for all time.
* Introductions for each episode by Stan Lee: Available only through this menu, Stan Lee offers a one to two minute introduction for each of the main stories. He gives a simple plot synopsis with some cursory background information. Alas, it's moderately uninformative. This option should have been located on the main menu near the "play" feature.
* Stan Lee's Soapbox (18.5 minutes): Not a true soapbox, per se, Stan takes some time to talk about his superheroes: their flaws, their origins, their changes over time, their loves, their losses, and so forth. He covers a wide range of topics, but it all feels pretty superficial, which is to be granted. Just with Spidey and Daredevil alone, how do you condense forty years of history into a little segment on a DVD? Fortunately, he's been given additional forums (on other DVDs) to espouse further. Overall, I'm sorry to say I was a tad bored by the information. Also, I would tend to think that most true fans already know all of what he said, so I don't see a lot of value from that perspective.
By the way, is Murdock's hair supposed to be blonde, orange, or red?
Spider-Man and Daredevil are two of the best superheroes in the Marvel universe. They've endured for decades because of their realistic portrayal of imperfect and tortured souls. Watching all of the episodes on the disc, you get a feel for what the characters can do, and you can also watch how they've changed and matured over time. Looking at vigilantism from two points of view, this is disc will entangle you with its pure and unadulterated fun.
Can someone explain to me who or what is Madame Web? She pops up on the disc, and I've seen her in some other episodes, yet I have absolutely no idea what she's guiding Spider-Man to do.
What I was expecting from this disc is not what I received, as my hopes of learning more about the background of Daredevil were quickly dashed. I still grant that Daredevil has the potential to be a fascinating character, but I have yet to see him in a story to show me his full capability as a superhero. Obviously, I'll have to get acquainted with the source material to consummate my craving. Now, who out there wants to lend me some classic Daredevil comics?
As much as I hate to do so, I really can't recommend this disc for numerous reasons: (1) the packaging is completely misleading -- so please forgive me for being literal and expecting a standoff, and (2) the chosen stories are less than inspired. The tales from that third year are adequate at best, and I would surely have to believe that there are better adventures that have been told and should be on a disc before this one. As a true fan of Daredevil or Spider-Man, you will be content with the disc, and I assure you that you will like what you see. Though the video has some problems, it won't dampen your experience.
All in all, I was hoping for the energy level and charm from "And A Blind Man Shall Lead Them," but instead was given the wilted offering of "The Sins of the Fathers."
Buena Vista is sentenced to two years of community service for the misleading nature of the title of this disc, the lack of subtitles on the feature, and a poor selection of stories. A comic book hero does not survive for decades unless there are quality adventures to be told. This disc does not support that conclusion, and Buena Vista needs to carefully examine its holdings before haphazardly picking episodes simply to capitalize on a big budget movie release.
Review content copyright © 2003 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "And A Blind Man Shall Lead Them": Fantastic Four Bonus Episode Featuring Daredevil
* "King Pinned": Classic 1966 Bonus Spider-Man Episode
* Introductions for Each Episode by Stan Lee
* Stan Lee's Soapbox
* IMDb: 1994 Fox Spider-Man Series
* IMDb: 1967 Spider-Man Series