Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Spider-Man: The New Animated Series

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
9 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
Neil Patrick Harris as Spider-Man/Peter Parker
Lisa Loeb as Mary Jane Watson
Ian Ziering as Harry Osborn
Angelle Brooks as Indira 'Indy' Daimonji
Michael Dorn as Kraven the Hunter
Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin
Ethan Embry as Max Dillon/Electro
Eve as Cheyenne/The Talon
James Marsters as Sergei
Rob Zombie as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard
Gina Gershon as Shikata
Kathy Griffin as Roxanne
Ed Asner as Barr
Tara Strong as Christina
Cree Summer as Professor Williams
Jeffrey Combs s Dr. Zellner
Stan Lee as Frank Elson
Virgina Madsen as Silver Sable
Clancy Brown

Special Features:
13 episodes on two discs

Each episode has audio commentary by various contributors to the series, including producer Adu Paden, Stan Lee, and Neil Patrick Harris

Amazing spider facts

Test footage

Outtake reel

Building with Layers (multi-angle featurette)

The Making of Spider-Man

Creating the Models

Animating Performance

Spider-Man Music: The Composers

Production artwork

DVD-ROM: Character Modeler

Theatrical Trailers

Other Info:
Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 276 Minutes

Synopsis:
This animated series appeared on MTV in 2003. This two disc set features all 13 episodes from the first (and so far only) season of the series.

If you're reading this, you more than likely know what Spider-Man is about. This particular series takes place during Peter Parker's early college years and is loosely based on the movie and the comics. Mary Jane Watson still doesn't know Peter is Spider-Man and Harry Osborn still seeks vengeance against Spidey for supposedly killing his father. Instead of keeping his secret identity hidden from Aunt May, he must juggle his college career and classes while still fighting crime.

This series is not rated.

The Movie:
When this animated series hit TV I was thrilled. I'm a huge Spider-Man fan and I follow the comics religiously. As much as I love it though, I was unable to catch every single episode of the series. For some bizarre reason MTV scheduled the show to air late on Friday evening, just the time when most people are out doing something besides watching TV. This time slot unfortunately caused the series to get low ratings and apparently no new series will be following it. However, for those like me that missed episodes, this DVD is a great treat. All the episodes are here in their high definition glory with additional extras to boot.

This series is amazing. (Pun intended.) It's one of the few comic adaptations that absolutely nail the heart and soul of the source material. The action is spectacular. The characters are human and sympathetic. There's humor, romance, and drama. It's everything the Spider-Man comics are. Maybe that has something to do with famed Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis acting as producer on the show. What's also cool about it is that it is accessible to both fans of the comic and people that only know the movie. No matter what you're familiar with, you can watch this show and be totally up to speed.

Fans of the comics will be glad to see new incarnations of classic characters like Electro, The Lizard, Kraven, Silver Sable, and others. The Kingpin even makes appearance, ironically voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan who played the character in the Daredevil movie. (Nice bit of continuity there!) But at the same time they introduce new characters with awesome new powers. I like how they build on the Spider-Man universe rather than just rehashing old stories.

Spider-Man is voiced by Doogie Howser himself, Neil Patrick Harris. He does an excellent job with the character. What's more amazing is the supporting cast. As the show aired on MTV, they were able to get all sorts of rock stars to play other roles on the show. You've got Rob Zombie, Lisa Loeb, Eve, and others. You've also got recognizable talent like Michael Dorn, Gina Gershon, Kathy Griffin, James Marsters, and Ethan Embry among others. Chances are you'll find someone you know and love doing voices on this show.

The animation is also quite unique. It is done with computer animation by the people that created Reboot, but it is made to look like a traditional 2-D cartoon. The final effect is very interesting and gives the show a very stylistic feel that other shows lack. One of the cool things about the animation is that they give Spider-Man very spider-like movements. They are something you could never convincingly achieve on live action film, but they are still very true to the character. When Spidey crawls on walls, it is very bug-like. When he flies around and does impossible jumps, it truly feels superhuman. It makes the action scenes all the more impressive and jaw dropping.

Spider-Man only has two minor drawbacks. The first is that some of the language and content is very adult oriented. If you have little children come into the room wanting to watch Spidey, you may not want them repeating some of the things said. They also may be scared by some of the action. MTV never promoted it towards children, but anything Spider-Man related is definitely going to attract kids. Parents might want to think twice before setting children in front of this DVD. Screen it first.

The other problem with this DVD is that the creators were counting on there being a second season of the show and wrote the season ender as such. So far, there isn't going to be a second season. Unfortunately, they ended the show on a cliffhanger with Peter Parker abandoning his Spider-Man persona. Rather than ending it on a high note or drawing the series to a close, we're left with this dark and depressing dead end that is unresolved.

All that aside, though, this is a fantastic DVD. Comic fans will love the show and at over 4 hours of web slinging goodness, there's more than enough excellent storytelling and animation to satisfy any Spidey fan's addiction.

The Extras:
This two disc DVD set has quite a few extras on it. Here are the highlights:

Audio commentary by various contributors to the series, including producer Adu Paden, Stan Lee, and Neil Patrick Harris Surprisingly, every one of the thirteen 20 minute episodes has commentary. I can't imagine someone listening to every single one, but they all have something interesting for listeners. Each one covers some different aspect of the making of the series. One will cover the writing, another the animation, another the voices, etc etc etc. Some of the time they'll actually discuss what is happening on screen while other times the commentary has very little to do with the particular episode. Listen for Stan Lee, Neil Patrick Harris, Brian Michael Bendis, and others. Unfortunately I didn't hear Lisa Loeb or the other voice talents on any of the episodes I saw.

Amazing spider facts When you turn on this option, random bits of trivia about the episodes will pop on the screen. They are usually pretty interesting and worth reading, especially if you're a Spider-fan.

Test footage When the series was just getting started, Sony asked several animation studios to submit demos of Spider-Man to help them decide who to award the contract to. The folks that made Reboot eventually won out and their demo reel is included on the DVD. It is pretty cool and easy to see why they won. Their animation very much has the look of John Romita Jr's artwork. Also included are rough versions of the show. It gives you quick idea of what the early versions look like before they are polished off with CG detail.

Outtake reel This is a real quick gag reel showing Spidey doing funny things in various sequences from the show. Cute stuff.

Building with Layers (multi-angle featurette) As the show is built up in the computer, various layers are added upon each other to make the final shot. In this extra, you can push your angle button to toggle between the different layers. It gives you a new appreciation for how the show is created.

The Making of Spider-Man This is the main feature among the extras. It's a 15 minute video on the making of the show. They discuss the early concepts for it, the development of the look, the animation, and more. There are interviews with Stan Lee, Neil Patrick Harris, and others. Glaringly absent, though, are Lisa Loeb and any discussion of the great cameo guests from the show. Overall, though, it's a nice concise look at the making of Spider-Man.

Creating the Models This is an in-depth look at the creation of the models. They talked about getting the cartoon look to the CGI, the backgrounds, motions, and other aspects of the show. It is, at times, a highly technical discussion but it's still interesting.

Animating Performance This feature gets into great detail about how they did motion capture, animated the faces, and generally tried to give emotion to these computer creations. Again, it gets technical at times, but it's still very cool.

Spider-Man Music: The Composers This featurette highlights the music created by famous British DJs who worked on the show, both of whom I've never heard of. I was never crazy about the music in the show, but apparently these guys are internationally famous. It is interesting to hear about how they used the internet to do their work in the UK while production went on in Canada and Los Angeles.

Production artwork A full collection of concept art for the characters can be seen.

The Bottom Line:
This is an awesome DVD that is full of hours of entertainment for Spidey fans. If you're a Spider-Man fan of any kind, you'll definitely want to add this to your collection.

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