Premiering earlier this year, The Spectacular Spider-Man made a big splash on Saturday mornings for both new and long-time fans. It was a smart show, working for both kids and adults. The series manages to stay true to the core of each character while presenting fresh spins on each. And, as a bonus, it currently does great in the ratings, ensuring us at least a second season of web-slinging fun. Now, Sony Home Entertainment has collected the first three episodes and animated them into a “full-length” animated movie. Does it work? Well, let’s get that pesky synopsis out of the way and find out!
Witness the original web-slinger’s mythology from the beginning! It’s been a tough week for Peter Parker. His two best friends are mad at him, Aunt May is behind on the bills and Flash Thompson is still bullying him at school. It hasn’t been a cakewalk for Spider-man either. The Enforcers are trying to destroy him, the Vulture is seeking revenge on Mr. Osborn, Electro is wreaking havoc on the city and his mentor, Dr. Connors, just transformed into The Lizard – a reptile on a rampage. But with great power comes great responsibility and Peter Parker wouldn’t have it any other way! Movie comprised of 3 episodes tied seemlessly.
The first of three-single disc releases collecting the first 13 episodes of the series and editing them into “full-length adventures,” The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attacking of the Lizard is a fun and faithful retelling of the early days of our favorite Webhead. While each episode may be a great experience, how do they play when edited together as one feature? Surprisingly well, mainly due to the fact that one subplot manages to neatly tie the first two episodes together before erupting in the third. That subplot, of course, is in reference to the emergence of the Lizard, one of Spidey’s classic villains. In terms of content, for both the writing and animation, it’s absolutely stellar across the board. The story is great, the characters are likeable and true to their comic roots, and the updated take on many of the them really exceed expectations.
The three episodes strung together do manage to create a coherent story, even if it seems jumpy at times. Given that these were originally regular 22-minute episodes, it’s understandable for this feature to feel episodic and a bit unfocused. Thankfully, the interwoven and underlying subplots manage to keep this feature somewhat stable for the duration. When watching the entire DVD from start to finish, you do get the sense that a full story was told, but it’s also quite apparent that this is definitely not a regular movie in the sense that Sony Home Entertainment is trying to promote it as. However, it does fill the running time nicely and they do manage to pad out the episodes nicely to make it feel more than just a movie composed of edited-together episodes. Plus, the new opening credits sequence created for this release is kinda nifty, labeling the movie as Biology 101: Attack of the Lizard, and featuring what appears to be new music and still shots of various characters from the series. The end credits are similar, but be sure to stick around as, you guessed it, there’s a short animated epilogue to the feature-length program.
However, it’s also quite obvious that this “feature” was culled from the TV series. The episodes are usually bridged by a simply fading to a new scene, or using some apparently new animation to change the locale to where the next episode picks up without it being a direct fade. For example, at the end of the second episode, the camera pans up to the sky (where you half expect the “Spider-face” that ends every episode to pop up) and night turns to day, and then they pan over to the city and day turns to night and the next episode begins. It’s not exactly sloppy, but it’s not the exactly perfect, either. It works, though, and it moves things onto the next episode quickly enough as to not be bothered by it. Little bits also seem to be added here and there, including slight scene extensions.
I know I focused more on the production presentation of the episodes, instead of what each episode is actually about, but I have nothing but praise for this series and feel that how each episode was presented was more important to look at than the episodes themselves, which I would have just endlessly praised. The Spectacular Spider-Man is a great series and will likely end up being the definitive animated series for Marvel’s top hero. Fans already enjoy this series and care more about how it’s presented, so that’s what I focused on.
Overall, it’s a good presentation, and, based on the feature program on the disc itself, I’d have to Highly Recommend this release, but the DVD itself is a different story. It’s a fun series that definitely more than meets the eye. It has great action, great characters, and it’s probably going to go down as the best Spider-Man-based animated series to date. This series gets it right in ways that previous ones simply couldn’t. It’s a testament to the creative team behind the series, and it’s quite obvious that the affinity they have for this character is shining through. The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard is a great kick off to a new animated series and the perfect one to get whole new generation of fans interested in one of the best comic characters ever created.
Sony Home Entertainment has released The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard on a standard DVD release. There’s no cardboard slipcase, but there is a promotional insert advertising the toy line for the animated series.
The audio and video here is passable for this release, but by no means reference quality. The video does have a few transfer problems, particularly slight compression and aliasing. It does happen frequently in the release but not so much that it becomes a constant problem. The audio doesn’t fare much better. The 5.1 mix is good, but could have been better. It’s a typical audio transfer for a television cartoon release, meaning that it doesn’t go beyond or really try anything special than spread out the music and special effects a little while keeping the dialogue focused solely in the front. Again, standard.
The extras are, well, extremely disappointing, but that’s not unexpected. One can assume that any real extras, like featurettes, are being kept for The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete First Season box set, set for a 2009 release. The only extras here include a music video and a collection of trailers, including one for Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (which comes highly recommended, review here). The music video is essentially an extended version of the show’s opening credits. The DVD does contain additional footage in the episodes themselves, which amounts to a new opening credit sequence for the DVD and some slight new footage spliced in here and there, which could count as bonus material, but that’s not stated on the packaging.
Now, when it deciding on whether or not to purchase this release, it all boils down how big of a fan you are. There is some new footage included in the episodes which probably only the most die-hard fan would notice, save for the new opening credits, of course. The extras are barely worth noting, so, it simply boils down to whether or not you want to own the first few episodes in a single-disc release, edited together as a full-length adventure. For die-hard fans, this is a no-brainer, but casual fans may want to consider a Rental before deciding on whether or not to purchase it. The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard is a great kick-off to Sony’s single-disc releases of the animated series, but given the lackluster extras, it’s worth at least a rental before deciding whether or not to make it a permanent addition to one’s collection.
The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard arrives on DVD September 9th, 2008.