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The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/9/2008

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/1/2008

So, what's the verdict on poetic license? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? If an artist has taken the time and effort to create something and it's suddenly become your job to adapt that work of art, should you stick to the original or put your own spin on it? Spider-Man was created over 40 years ago by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko at Marvel Comics and since that time, the character has been presented in many ways. Some, such as two animated TV series in 1967 and 1994, were very faithful to the comics, others, such as the 1977 live-action show, strayed from the original source. It seems that everyone has their own take on this classic character. A new animated television series, The Spectacular Spider-Man, once again takes a crack at the wall-crawler, and it's choice to go back to the beginning is an interesting one.

In a unique move, The Spectacular Spider-Man opens after Peter Parker (voiced by Josh Keaton) has been bitten by the genetically altered spider which gives him super powers. (The show assumes that after all of the comic books, shows, and movies, we know that story). Peter lives with his Aunt May (voiced by Deborah Strang) and he attends Midtown Manhattan Magnet High School. There, he is friends with Gwen Stacy (voiced by Lacey Chabert) and Harry Osborn (voiced by James Arnold Taylor). He tries to avoid school bully Flash Thompson (voiced by Joshua LeBar). As Peter and Gwen are both stand-outs in science, they have been chosen to intern with Dr. Curt Connors (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). While Peter is dealing with that, and the fact that Aunt May is behind on the bills, Spider-Man is busy battling The Vulture (voiced by Robert Englund), Electro (voiced by Crispin Freeman) and The Lizard. During all of this, Peter learns that he can make money by selling photos of Spider-Man to the Daily Bugle.

I've been a fan of Spider-Man since early childhood and I followed the comics off and on until 1995. After that, I began hearing about how Marvel had changed everything and redone the origins of many major characters, including Spider-Man. This did not sit well with me. When the first Spider-Man film arrived, I was OK with the fact that the web-shooters were made organic, because that idea makes perfect sense. (Not to question Stan Lee, of course.) But, despite the fact that brining Venom's origin from the comics to the big screen is nearly impossible, I still didn't like the liberties taken with that character in Spider-Man 3.

So, apparently, Marvel will give anyone the freedom to with Spider-Man what they want. This fact makes The Spectacular Spider-Man all the more interesting. While the series is set in the present, the main focus of the story goes back to the original 1963 comics. We have Peter Parker, high-school nerd extraordinaire, who is actually Spider-Man, web-swinging superhero. Peter must rely on web-shooters attached to his wrists to spin his webs. All of the old characters, Gwen, Harry, Flash, Norman Osborn, are there, and, as of the beginning of this series, Mary Jane Watson has yet to be introduced. I also liked the fact that Spidey is facing old-school villains The Vulture, Electro, and The Lizard. Those original stories worked great when they were first introduced and they've been revered for years, so why not simply update them? The one major detour here is the inclusion of Eddie Brock (voiced by Ben Diskin), the character who will one day become Venom. Unless I've missed something from the "new" Marvel Universe, the makers of The Spectacular Spider-Man have definitely taken license with Brock, as they've made him Dr. Connors lab assistant. Really?

The show's style is interesting as well. The animation is colorful, but also very simplistic in a way. It reminds me of the animation from Kim Possible. The characters are recognizably human, but rarely realistic looking. Spider-Man is drawn as somewhat thin and wispy, similar to the art of Erik Larsen from the early 90s. As Spider-Man is, in reality, a slender high-school kid, this approach makes sense. Electro is somewhat odd looking, but The Lizard retains that classic, semi-crocodile look. As this is a Saturday morning show (they still have those?), the tone of the program varies. The violence is of the cartoony kind and characters like The Lizard are never too scary. On the other hand, we've got the serious topics of Aunt May's financial problems and the way in which Electro reacts to the accident which gives him his powers. Those who aren't familiar with comic books often fail to realize just how "soapy" they can get, and this show brings many of those elements to the table.

So, in the end, The Spectacular Spider-Man is a mixed-bag. I admire the fact that the show goes back to the comic book roots of Spider-Man and sticks to those storylines. And it's nice to see characters like The Vulture and The Lizard introduced to a new generation. However, despite some serious sub-plots, the show is a bit lightweight, and I never felt any real suspense or excitement. The Spectacular Spider-Man is certainly good for what it is, and it could probably grow into a great show. But, it will have to work hard to beat the huge story-arcs from the 1994 Spider-Man series.

The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard swings onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The disc features the first three episodes of the series edited together as one 70-minute presentation with no breaks. The show is letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here looks fantastic, as it is very sharp and clear. The picture shows no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look amazing and the image is never overly dark or bright. There were some jagged lines in the animation at times, but otherwise, this transfer rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track brings us notable stereo effects, which show nice detail. The action scenes show off surround effects when Spider-Man swings towards the screen. Explosions arrive in subtle, but effective subwoofer tones.

The only extra on The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard DVD is a MUSIC VIDEO for the show's theme song, performed by The Tender Box.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long