DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (Vol. 1-3)

Michael Osadciw

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SPIDER-MAN: THE NEW ANIMATED SERIES
Volume 1: The Mutant Menace
Volume 2: High Voltage Villains
Volume 3: The Ultimate Face-Off






Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2003

U.S. Rating: TV-PGV
Canadian Rating: G
Rated for: Parental Guidance, Moderate Violence

Each Disc Length: 64 minutes
Episode Length: 22 minutes approx.
Genre: TV Animated Action

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: None
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $14.95 each






Release Date: June 1, 2004



Show Rating:
/


Starring Voices of: Neil Patrick Harris, (Peter Parker), Lisa Loeb (Mary Jane Watson), Ian Ziering (Harry Osborn)

Also starring: Rob Zombie, Eve, Kathy Griffin, Gina Gershon, John C. McGinley, Keith Carradine



Setting up more hype for the highly anticipated theatrical release for Spider-Man 2, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment releases the MTV-aired animated series of Spider-Man as a best-of collection on DVD. Reviewed here is Volumes 1-3. Available separately, each includes three episodes mastered in High Definition. They are released along side of two other Spider-Man DVDs: a Deluxe set including the previous release with a bonus third disc and a high-end Superbit release of the film featuring the best picture and sound quality. Spider-Man fans have a lot to take in before the theatrical release of the second film.

Without drifting far from the base story of Spider-Man, the animated series continues our superhero’s adventures as the spider-bitten high-school teenager Peter Parker. Donning his mask and tights to save New York City from its villains, this human spider takes on the responsibility of saving the lives of those in danger. With his arachnid-like powers to perform death-defying stunts above the skyline of NYC, it’s no wonder that Spider-Man became one of the most famous of Marvel Comics today. Given this show appeared on MTV, the stories also reflect its audience in terms of character appearance and situations. Did I mention a charged electronic soundtrack too?

The new series has our hero as a college student. He continues to struggle between his superhero life and his social life, or what’s left of it. No matter what social event is in the works, Peter Parker is always late or a no-show. To Harry he’s a let down in that regard, but MJ always has the confidence that one day Peter will come through for her. In each of these episodes, Peter has a new set of villains to triumph over. Each of them are very well done offering slick animated viewing angles for the audience in a fast-paced episode of good vs. evil. As an adult I find this animated series very entertaining because of the mature nature of the episodes. Even though kids are watching it on MTV, the series is clearly aimed at mid-teens. My favorite episode of the bunch: The Party. Unfortunately it doesn’t put fraternities in a good spotlight (maybe I was fortunate enough to be a member of a respectable chapter?), this episode is the darkest of the bunch and I absolutely loved it.

Here is a list of the episodes on each disc:


VOLUME 1: THE MUTANT MENACE

Tight Squeeze
Three ex-KGB agents take a group of people hostage, including Peter and his new crush Indy. Their simple demand is they want Spider-Man! Peter will need to use his cunning and cleverness to figure out a way to appease the agents without revealing his alter ego.

Law of the Jungle
Peter's professor, Doc Connors, injects himself with reptilian DNA, which slowly changes him into the angry, vengeful lizard. As the serum affects Doc Connors' brain, Spider-Man must stop his beloved professor as he begins seeking revenge on those who have harmed him – including Harry!

Sword of Shikata
The master martial artist/swordswoman Shikata, is sent to capture Spider-Man for a wealthy man's collection of rare animals. Shikata determines that Spider-Man is too noble a foe to simply capture and they must fight to the death!


VOLUME 2: HIGH VOLTAGE VILLAINS

The Party
Peter Parker's nerdy high-school friend Max is hazed in a deadly fraternity prank that turns him into Electro, a high-voltage villain that threatens the campus. Only Spider-Man can stop him from exacting his revenge on the students.

When Sparks Fly
Electro returns. This time he wants to zap Sally and make her just like him so the two of them can be together. Can Spider-Man arrive in time or will Sally be changed forever?

Keeping Secrets
Spider-Man is out to catch Talon, a female thief who's behind a series of high-risk robberies in the city. Things get complicated when Spidey learns Talon's true identity--she's his best friend Harry's new girlfriend!


VOLUME 3: THE ULTIMATE FACE-OFF

Spider-Man Dis-Sabled
Peter covers a press conference and inadvertently videotapes incriminating evidence against Silver Sable, an Eastern European assassin for hire. Now she will stop at nothing – including killing Mary Jane and Harry - to get the tape back.

Mind Games Part 1
The Gaines Twins, a brother and sister with uncanny mental powers, escape from an armored transport convoy, but Spider-Man apprehends them by overcoming their brain blasts with his own superhuman will-power. Later, just as Spider-Man reveals to MJ that he's really Peter Parker, Kraven the Hunter confronts Spider-Man. As payback for the years he spent in jail, Kraven attacks MJ with one of his poison darts. Spider-Man rushes to her side too late, as her life slowly slips away. Now, Peter is out for revenge!

Mind Games Part 2
Spider-Man realizes that the diabolical Gaines Twins have brain-blasted him into believing MJ has died at the hands of Kraven the Hunter. He corners the Twins--but things take a turn for the worse when they once again use their mental powers to trick Spider-Man. This time Indy is mortally wounded. Will guilt cause Peter to hang up his Spider-Man suit forever?


VIDEO QUALITY
/


I am very impressed with the picture quality on these discs. They are superb! The animated series is presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and are enhanced for widescreen displays. For an animated title, the image is so pleasing to watch I felt myself being drawn right into it. There is no MPEG noise, compression artifacts, or edge enhancement to be found on these discs. The image always has excellent contrast and there is plenty of information in darker areas of the picture without any noise. The Party is a good example of using deep black levels in contrast with colours. Speaking of colours - colours are as about as natural as any series is going to look. They are never pumped up to unrealistic eye-popping levels nor are they ever under saturated. Apparently this series is done in CGI – I would have never guessed. I honestly thought I was looking at cell animation, but now when I think about it, the image was far too clean to be that. Mastered in High Definition, I wouldn’t doubt this is a direct digital transfer to DVD.


AUDIO QUALITY
/


Also equally impressive is the audio design for this series. Spider-Man: The New Animated Series has a very active soundstage up front. The encoding is Dolby Digital 5.1 (no DTS despite the press releases saying so). The soundstage is wide with directional effects that are integrated nicely into the sound mix. Music is prominent in this soundtrack and never sounds veiled or strained, and at times adds to the punctuating bass throughout the soundtrack. The bass can be very deep at brief moments and comes mainly from the main channels rather than the LFE channel. Surrounds are used sparingly for directional effects and provide mostly ambience to enhance the front soundstage. They are always played back at a much lower volume than the main channels. Sometimes the dialogue is the only drawback because its not always spatially integrated. It sounds more forward than the rest of the effects, and is most forward sounding in the Tight Squeeze episode. Lisa Loeb’s voice sounded the least integrated probably because of the mature sound of her voice not fitting the young character of Mary Jane Watson.


SPECIAL FEATURES ZERO /


No special features to be found on here, unless if you consider previews for other animated titles available on DVD a special feature. An insert with the episodes on each disc is included, and each episode does have chapter stops. That’s a nice feature.


THOUGHTS…

I recommend these titles for you Spider-Man fans out there not only because they look and sound awesome, but because they hold the same adrenaline as the Spider-Man film and keep true to the overall tone. I think these are well written and enjoyable and definitely worth the 22 minutes per episode. Go web!

Michael Osadciw
04.06.09
 

Gary Seven

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I felt this series had too much of the MTV influence to make it true to the source. The production values are excellent but the tone is not true to the comic, 60s and 90s animated series, or the movie.

I'm looking forward to the 1967 series released later this month.
 

Michael Osadciw

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Hi Gary

I agree its not true to the source of Spidey in every respect, but I felt the "tone" was similar in addition to a modern MTV element. I should be a little more clear on that.

Regards,
Mike
 

Bill Williams

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Not going to pick these discs up at all, since I have the really great 2-disc release of all 13 episodes from a while back - and at a really affordable price, too.

Good review, though.
 

CoreyII

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I have to respectfully disagree with Gary, this animated series is excellent and stays true to what Spidey is all about; an ordinary person given extraordinary abilities and the choices that come with those abilities.

This is easily the best Superhero cartoon since the Warner Bros. Batman and Superman animated series that came out a few years back. And like you said Michael, this show is not geared for a kiddie crowd but rather mid teens on up, unlike the Cartoon Networks Teen Titans series.

The series supposedly picks up where the first movie ended because Harry definitely has a grudge against Spider-Man.

I hope the next batch of episodes MTV produces will introduce other Marvel Heroes like Captain America. Maybe MTV will do a vampire episide where Spider-Man has to team up with Blade.

I'll definitely be picking up this series but I'll probably just get the the two disc version that was released a few months ago.
 

Gord Lacey

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I really don't understand why Columbia TriStar released these. They're the same episodes as on the special edition, but without extras. It would also cost more to buy these than the SE. What's with that??

I REALLY liked the series, and the audio is so amazing. I think it's the best TV set that Columbia TriStar has released. The 2 disc set is great.

Gord
 

Rocky F

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The 2 disc complete series also does have DTS.
 

Gary Seven

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From that perspective, I agree with you. However, the characterization was not quite right. They made Peter Parker to "hip and cool". Peter Parker is anything but.

I only watched a couple of episodes but the one I saw where Electro is now some kid with a bad attitude is just MTV's infulence all over it. Not even close to the original (although the 90's series also was not right, but at least they kept the same costume and age).

Are they continuing with this series? I haven't heard anything about it since its debut.

The production values are excellent, no question. From a general perspective, it does seem to follow the source. But if you dig a little deeper, the characterizations are off and that's why I stated what I did.

I'm not trying to change your mind or create a debate... I'm just explaining where I'm coming from in my previous post.
 

Aaron.S

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I really find the computer animation in this series distracting. I think movement is stiff and the overall look is rather cheap. Poor computer animation is as bad if not worse than cheap hand-drawn animation. I watched a couple of episodes and that was all I could stomach. I find it ridiculous that anyone would compare this series to Warner's excellent Batman: The Animated Series. There is just no comparison.
 

Rolando

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Where could I find a COMPLETE break down of all the Spidey animated shows that have ever aired as well as a break down of how many seasons and episodes each.

Example, I remember the 70's cartoon with the cheesy repeating drawings and music (loved it). And I remember Spiderman and his amazing friends. I really loved that series, with appearances by Daredevil and Ironman and others.

There was another series recently, 90's I believe. I remember an episode that starred moebius the "plasma" seeking vampire.
 

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