Making the Grades
With a live-action super hero spinning a web in a theater near you, I set out to see if there was something a little more family friendly lurking in the neighborhood. Something like the Saturday morning Peter Parker alter ego of my youth. After screening Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (which is releasing on DVD in time for Spider-Man 2's theatrical d0xE9but), I can assure you that this is not your childhood Spider-Man
Often corny and with flat illustrations, the old cartoon could hardly be touted as cutting edge entertainment. Its "Pow, Wam" style of violence appeared fairly innocent - and fairly boring for this young girl, who was obviously not the targeted demographic.
Should you be expecting a slightly glossed up version of the former series, than your "spidey" senses are sure to be tingling over this 2003, computer animated version of the human arachnid. Originally made for television, these episodes resemble a sophisticated video game, with slick graphics, action packed scenarios and mature themes.
Completely renovated and stripped of its kitschy theme song, this new-millennium, man-in-spandex show features a very sexy Mary Jane, a smattering of mild language with a few innuendos, and a greater intensity of violence that includes onscreen killings--although little blood is depicted.
Packaged in a three-episodes-per-disc format, the one I reviewed was collectively entitled The Mutant Menace. To start, the misunderstood crime fighter finds himself in a Tight Squeeze when three ex-KGB bad-guys in surplus Russian jet suits decide to steal some diamonds, which are more valuable for making weapons than as gems. And they aren't afraid to use their high-tech blasters to shoot down anything that gets in their way.
Next, The Law of the Jungle takes over after an amputee scientist decides to test his cell regenerating serum on himself. Unfortunately, the reptilian DNA in the injection not only gives him the ability to re-grow his arm, but also the bodily form of a lizard. Now he's a scaly critter with a vengeful attitude, looking to rip his former offenders' limbs off.
Lastly, the amazing abilities of the action figure make him the target of the Sword of Shikata. A woman, martial arts expert challenges him to a duel to the death-- as well as chop-chopping some of the lesser characters that get in her way.
Older teens and adult closet-comic book enthusiasts (who are the target demographic) will likely appreciate the increased edginess of this incarnation, but it will be a poor choice for parents looking to pacify their tot-sized Spider-Man wannabes.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Spider-Man: The Mutant Menace.
The violence in this animated series depicts similar acts to those found in the live-action Spider-Man movie. Do you find the method of depicting the action (live actors versus animation) affects the intensity you feel when viewing it? Should it?