Sony // 2008 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // March 17th, 2009
Swinging from the highest ledge, he can leap above our heads.
Like Stan Lee's comic of the early '60s, The Spectacular Spider-Man follows the adventures of high school student/superhero Peter Parker. As in Sam Raimi's feature film trilogy, the basic foundation of Lee's characters and stories have been updated for the new millennium. In this animated retelling of the Spidey mythos, Peter Parker is a less nerd than scientifically gifted hipster doofus. He's still picked on by football star Flash Thompson and his clique of Big Men on Campus, but he responds to their fairly mild abuse with sarcastic wit, élan, and a believable cool-headedness given that Parker is secretly as strong as ten men, swings through New York on homemade webs, has the physique of a kung fu master, and regularly does battle with a rogues' gallery of powerful supervillains. Parker's best friend Harry Osborn captures something of the painful nerdiness of the original comic book Peter Parker: he's scrawny, has zero self-confidence, his voice cracks, and he's awkward around girls. Worse yet, Osborn's high-powered executive father Norman has no respect for the poor kid. The token chick in Parker and Osborn's sorry little circle of friends is Gwen Stacy, a science-loving blonde whose cuteness is safely hidden behind a bad haircut and glasses. New to the scene is smoking red-head Mary Jane Watson, a whip-smart and sarcastic beauty who digs Peter's quirkiness and relishes every opportunity to humiliate Flash Thompson and his buddies. As in the early years of the comic book, Parker lives with his Aunt May and does freelance photography work for the Daily Bugle in order to help her make ends meet. His job puts him in regular contact with abrasive publisher J. Jonah Jameson and his foxy administrative assistant, Betty Brant.
The first season of The Spectacular Spider-Man is built on an interconnected series of three-episode story arcs. The first DVD release, Attack of the Lizard, contained the shows first three episodes and concerned Peter Parker's evolution into the superhero Spider-Man. In Volume Two's episodes, Parker struggled to make a go as a freelance photographer while facing off against a New York crime lord named Tombstone who was intent on destroying Spider-Man. This third volume offers up the seventh, eighth, and ninth episodes of the series and is focused on Spider-Man's extended battle against his arch-nemesis The Green Goblin.
Peter Parker's arrival at the Fall Formal with hottie Mary Jane Watson turns the school pecking order upside-down. Unfortunately, his fun is interrupted by the arrival of the most dangerous criminal Spider-Man has yet faced. The Green Goblin is determined to take Tombstone's place as the king of crime in New York.
The Green Goblin turns OsCorp scientist Otto Octavius into the nefarious Dr. Octopus. The angry Doc Oc is out to recover a power source he created for OsCorp and exact revenge on Norman Osborn. Gwen Stacy is worried about Harry, who is experiencing strange side-effects after having secretly taken the Globulin Green formula.
* "The Uncertainty Principle"
Spider-Man faces a cluster of villains as Green Goblin's insanity brings out the worst in Hammerhead and Tombstone. Meanwhile, the heat shields on Astronaut John Jameson's space shuttle are damaged during a mission.
By my count, The Spectacular Spider-Man is the eighth animated Spidey television series since 1967's Spider-Man (I may have missed a show or two, though). Because of excellent animation that makes for fast-paced action sequences, plenty of humor, strong characters, loads of melodrama, and story arcs that simultaneously reinvent and pay homage to comic book continuity, The Spectacular Spider-Man is the most entertaining Spidey series yet. Updating a much-loved comic book icon to include cellphone-using, smart alecky teens is a risky proposition by any measure, but the show succeeds because it's faithful to the basic foundations of its characters (it also helps that Spidey's always had a smart alecky teen side to personality). Peter Parker may not look and act exactly like the pencil-necked version of him that first appeared in comics in 1962, but it's still fun to listen to him banter with Harry Osborn, romance Mary Jane Watson, and get chewed out by the always exasperated J. Jonah Jameson. It's also a blast to watch Spidey throw down against villains like the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, and Tombstone, cracking jokes even as he kicks ass.
The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three looks great on DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer provides a spacious canvas for the show's smooth and fluid animated action sequences. The image displays no combing, macro-blocking, or other digital artifacts. A Dolby 5.1 audio mix is reasonably spacious and offers decent dynamic range. The full soundstage is utilized to create a reasonably detailed ambient space, considering this is a television show.
There are no extras.
Because of the presence of the Green Goblin and Doc Oc, the episodes contained in The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three are even more fun than those in the previous two volumes. The only downside of this release is that 15 bucks is a lot to pay for only three episodes of the show. If you love the series, you might want to wait for a complete season box (rumored to be coming later this year).
Review content copyright © 2009 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated