Sunday, October 27, 2013

Recap: The Spectacular Spider-Man, "Survival of the Fittest"

The Spectacular Spider-Man was, at the time, the first Spider-Man cartoon in five years. It's immediate predecessor, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, never really caught on (despite becoming a bit of a cult classic), and the one before that, Spider-Man Unlimited, took place on an alternate Earth where animal-people ruled and humans were second-class citizens. So really, this was supposed to be as popular of a success as the 90's Animated Series which, despite subpar animation and often-corny writing, is remembered fondly by those who grew up with it, including myself and my sister.

The show's... unique art direction did little to endear it to fans, and many feared that it would begin a "kiddification" of Spider-Man, similar to concerns about Batman: the Brave and the Bold.

Such concerns were unwarranted.

The Spectacular Spider-Man has become one of my favorite Super Hero cartoons due to its humor, drama, writing, voice acting, animation, etc. It's a darn shame that more people didn't give it a chance. After Disney acquired Marvel's comics and it's properties, the show was ended, and production began on Ultimate Spider-Man, an update of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.

Still, I hope to show that, despite a more "cartoony" visual appearance, this show deserves to go down as one of the best adaptations of Spider-Man.

Now, as always, you are free to have your own opinions; I am merely here to state my opinion, my reasoning, and hopefully make you laugh. If you disagree, that's your choice. With that said...

We open with a shot of a spider on a web in New York. This is not the radioactive spider; the origin has happened already. Spider-Man flips over rooftops, swings on his webs, and zips through the city, narrating as he goes. Unlike Ultimate Spider-Man, where Spidey addresses the audience directly, this Spidey narrates like a typical comic book caption box, which I prefer infinitely.

Spider-Man: "Tell me there's something better. Go ahead, try."

He continues to exposit about his life as J Jonah Jameson looks out his window in a brief cameo. Spidey continues that being Spider-Man is great, and he can't wait to go back to school. That is, after he takes care of this robbery.  He swings through the city to the "Jewelery Center," where we see two thugs with bags of jewels on the rooftop, ready to jump to the next building.

Batsignal: You're doing it wrong.
The two thugs are Flint Marko, who will eventually become the Sandman, and Alex O'Hirn, who will eventually become the Rhino. They name drop the mysterious "Big Man," who seems to be the leader of their outfit, and get ready to make the leap. Alex jumps, and is instantly web-snagged by Spidey, who proceeds to effortlessly take the two men out, wisecracking all the way. As this goes on, a gangster with an oddly shaped head (Hammerhead) shows his mysterious, shadowed boss live footage of the fight. The boss tells Hammerhead to summon "the Enforcers."

Well, teaser over. Now we reach the theme song. I love it, and I know I'm in the minority on that. I love the energy, the pace, the catchiness, and the fact that the "ah, ah, ah-ahhhhh" parts remind me of the '66 Batman theme, if it were written by a punk band. And if it were also about Spider-Man instead of Batman. ...which it is. Although, I don't know what "arriving in the speed of time" means. What is he, the Doctor?

Oh, well, they apparently met each other.
After the intro, we cut to the next day, where Peter puts on his clothes, narrating about how pumped he is for the first day of school because he's Spider-Man, and confident, and everyone's going to like him. You can see the impending irony a mile away.  He walks downstairs, but stops before he enters the kitchen. He overhears Aunt May talk to her friend Anna about the financial trouble ever since Ben died, and Peter grabs his lunch and heads to school.

"I look forward to many years of sacrificing my own happiness for that octogenarian with one foot in the grave!"
Meanwhile, at OsCorp, an inventor named Adrian Toomes (voiced by Robert Eglund, aka Freddy Kreuger) yells at Dr. Octavius (voiced by Peter MacNicol).

Apparently, Adrian invented a hover-backpack, and Octavius told him to bring it to OsCorp. Well, being an evil company, OsCorp stole the designs. See, you should have just taken it to the Shark Tank guys; one of them would've invested in it! If the miracle of personal flight didn't impress those guys, nothing can.

As Toomes continues to yell at Octavius, Norman Osborn, the head of the company, enters the lab and proceeds to insult Toomes and demand he leave.
Osborn: "Listen, you old buzzard. You've been at this for decades without one success to your name. If you never accomplished anything as a young man, who'd believe you created tech-flight as an old one?"

Yes, because old men can never invent anything groundbreaking. Isn't that right, Einstein? Or Hugh Lyman?

Anyway, Toomes is escorted out as we cut to Midtown High School, which the characters refer to as "M to the third" because the full name is Midtown Manhattan Magnet High School. Why did I include that? To keep people from telling me that I forgot it. Peter walks into the courtyard, and meets up with Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy, his besties. For this series, they are both adorkable nerds, though Harry's not as smart as the others.  They talk about their summers, and Peter goes off to go ask out the girl of his dreams...

...this girl! Whoever she is! "Sally," apparently. She loudly rejects him, and her boyfriend, Rand, comes over to confront Peter. Rand's reaction?

Rand: "S'cool."

Flash Thompson, the resident bully, warns Peter about doing the same thing with his girlfriend, and the entire school laughs at Peter's attempts to sound tough. To add insult, Flash starts eating Peter's lunch. This is where you need to start booby trapping your sandwiches with Dulcolax, Peter.

We then cut to a mysterious room in an undisclosed warehouse. A door opens, and Hammerhead enters and turns on the lights. The Enforcers follow him in. The Enforcers are made up of Fancy Dan, a small gangster-type, Ox, a burly man with a handlebar mustache, and Montana, a man with a thick accent, whip, and cowboy hat. A speaker on a stool tells them that their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to take down Spider-Man.

Back at Midtown, the teacher wants Peter and Gwen to stay after class. He asks them if they remember the field trip to Dr. Curt Connors' laboratory, and Peter flashes back to the spider-bite. The teacher continues, as his accent wavers somewhere between Manchester and Australia, that they've been selected for the lab's student internship program.

We then cut to a mysterious someone putting on a mysterious armored outfit with metal wings, which may or may also be mysterious. Despite adjectives to the contrary, this is not Mysterio.

We then cut again (does this show have ADD?), to the penthouse where Harry lives. Peter's killing time with Harry as he talks about quitting the school paper.

Peter: "Someone else can take pictures of Flash prancing around the gridiron."

Um, please don't use the words "flash" and "prancing around" in the same sentence again, please and thanks. I look forward to my now-inevitable nightmares regarding naked football players dancing on a field.  ...there is a sentence I never thought I'd ever type.

Peter talks about all the monies he'll make interning at the lab, and Norman Osborn calls for the boys.  Norman, because he likes Peter better than his own son in every adaptation, asks about Peter's lab job, doing a good job of backhandedly insulting his own son in the process.

Suddenly, Toomes, in an armored flight suit, swoops down and picks up Norman with the spikes on his feet. You know, if I, like Peter or Harry, hadn't seen the bit earlier at OsCorp, I cannot imagine how random this bald guy abducting Norman would seem. Harry goes to call the cops, and Peter removes his shoes and jumps after the winged menace as Toomes does some harrowing aerial acrobatics. I'm certain I'm not the only one who yelled "Do a barrel roll!" at this part.

Norman: "Toomes?" 
Toomes: "Not 'Toomes' now. I'm what you called me; I'm the Vulture!" 
Norman: "I called you a buzzard!" 
Toomes: "What?" 
Norman: "You can't even get the name right."

Vulture responds with more harrowing flight tricks, and demands that Norman reveal how he stole Vulture's technology as well as all the royalties and a public apology. Norman demands that he never apologizes. What, that was the most unreasonable demand?  Actually, what with Norman's actual crimes, yeah; The apology was the most unreasonable of Vulture's demands. Ironic. Vulture drops Norman as a scare tactic, but Norman gets saved by Spider-Man.

Spidey: "Whoa, guys, you play 'hot potato' hardcore!"

Vulture gives chase and Spidey cracks wise, confusing and frustrating the crap out of Norman, who demands that he be put down. Look, Norman, it's poor choices of words like that which led to the Joker dropping Rachel Dawes out of a window. You fail hostage. 

Spidey continues cracking wise, and Norman and Vulture demand to know who this motormouth is. Spidey introduces himself, and barely recovers from Vulture cutting his webline. He deposits Norman right in a police officer's face, and Norman rushes into the police station. Vulture heads after Spidey, who tries the bit about power and responsibility, and Vulture ends up fleeing.

His airplane impression is really good.
Later, at the lab, Peter talks to Harry on the phone about the situation before hanging up when Gwen gives him "the look." They go inside, where they run into college student Eddie Brock, Peter's best childhood friend. Peter and Eddie refer to each other as "Bro," which should instantly break the heart of any Spider-Man fan who knows about the inevitable Venom storyline.
"Hey, bro. I'm here to tug on the audience's heartstrings."
Eddie, as it turns out, is Dr. Conners' lab assistant, and remarks that Flash must have stolen Peter's shoes again, seeing as how he's not wearing them. Hey, Peter got off easy. I had both my shoes stolen one at a time, back in Elementary School. Guy threw one of them out the bus window to avoid being caught. Meh, the guy's in his 20's now, and he's much less of a meanie-face. What? Oh, yeah, Spider-Man.

Peter and Gwen are introduced to Martha Connors, the doctor's wife, and the doctor himself, who's sporting a nifty robotic arm and injecting himself with something before he meets the teens. So, to anyone who's seen The Amazing Spider-Man or read the comics, it's obviously the Lizard serum. But, if you have a robo arm which is exactly the same as a normal arm.... Well, I can understand wanting a real arm, but not the desperation or the urgency.

Back on task, Peter deflects inquiries regarding the spider bite,and asks when he's going to get paid. Eddie laughs. High-School interns don't get paid! Later, at the bus stop, Peter angsts to Gwen about his situation, and she delivers a pearl of wisdom before she leaves.

Gwen: "It'll come to you."'re not helping, Gwen. Sitting around and waiting for something to happen rarely works. To illustrate the point, Peter raises his arms and demands, "Well? I'm waiting!" to the heavens. Fate decides to spit in the face of logic as a Daily Bugle newspaper hits him in the face. He shows up and applies for a job after JJJ confuses him for an intern, but overhears JJJ's demand for Spider-Man photos while leaving.

Later, Spidey shows up at Osborn's place to retrieve his shoes while complaining about his life. As Norman gets the all clear from his bodyguard while exiting his limo...

Vulture: "Osborn!"

Worst bodyguard EVAR. Although, I do hope that becomes Vulture's catchphrase. Norman gets back in and the limo speeds away as Spidey gives chase. Meanwhile, the Enforcers (remember them?) follow after Spidey in a heavily armed helicopter. Spidey kicks the octogenarian Vulture in the face before launching a webline, trailing after him.

Montana: "We're flyin' with th' freaks now, boys."

Montana expresses his appreciation that the Vulture's keeping Spidey occupied, and fires a net missile, which ensnares Spider-Man. He escapes, after a fashion but the Vulture flies off after Osborn while Ox and Fancy Dan jump down and attack Spidey on top of the building he landed on.

The mooks have some good moves, with Ox displaying immense strength and Fancy Dan able to stay toe-to-toe with Spidey. Montana fires a laser to keep Spider-Man from running away as Vulture tears the roof off of Norman's limo.

Spidey webs up Fancy Dan, swings him around to make the helicopter change position, and slams him into Ox. Spider-man jumps off the building, but gets tackled by an apparently suicidal Ox in midair. Spidey sticks to the building, making Ox let go, but Spidey saves him by webbing his hands to a convenient flagpole. Spidey swings off to save Norman, and goes hand-to-hand with Vulture in midair as Montana fires his laser wildly. Spidey lands on Vulture's back, and Vulture- yes! 
Vulture does a barrel roll! Okay, technically, it's an aileron roll, but I'm counting it!

Anyway, the limo hides in a parking structure, and Vulture shakes off Spidey. Spidey hides under the helicopter, and tricks Vulture into flying into the stabilization prop, forcing it to land. Vulture becomes unable to steer his suit without his wing, but is still able to hover, to Spidey's amazement. Spidey disables Vulture's backpack, and swings away with Vulture in tow.
"This part wasn't important, was it?"
Having left Vulture webbed to a lamppost for the cops, Spidey checks out the now-empty helicopter and finds nothing.

Spidey: "Now, if I can just get my shoes...."

Having presumably retrieved his footwear, Peter heads home to his disapproving aunt. She tells him that he can't stay out until midnight. He has to be home at ten. If he isn't, he has to call her and tell her why he's late and that he'll be home soon. Peter accepts, and has some banana cream pie. 
In his closing narration, he remarks that overall, he's thankful for what he has.

Spidey: "Tell me there's something better. Go ahead, try."

And with that, the episode ends.
Now let's begin the review!

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