In an effort to capture the popularity of the film franchise and character in general it's not really surprising to see that an updated cartoon was produced. Given how successful DC has been with shows like Justice League, Superman, and Batman I'm honestly surprised that Spider-Man didn't get this treatment sooner. Airing on CW4Kids The Spectacular Spider-Man premiered earlier this year and it filled a nice little void on Saturday mornings that was in need of some superhero action.
The goal of the series aims to focus on the adventures of Peter Parker as he discovers his new powers and goes through high school. With 26 episodes to date and potentially more on the way it's safe to say that this version of Spidey is a bit different from the several prior animated outings. Rather than present the show as a seasoned boxed set though, the first DVD Attack of the Lizard combines the first three episodes and promotes it as a full length animated feature.
Taken as three episodes of a kid's cartoon these standalone stories would have been more than adequate but as a movie they simply don't stack up. The reason for this is that during the course of the action there's nothing to separates the storylines from each other. This lapse of chapters causes it to jump from one to another and to another without any break in the pacing.
As I was watching Attack of the Lizard I found myself kind of overwhelmed as the flashy, made-for-kids-with-ADD pace kept throwing things at me left and right. In the short runtime of this DVD you'll see Spider-Man face some men from the Enforcer, tackle the Vulture, beat up on Electro, and fight the Lizard. Tossed in between are bits of origin for each of the villains and developmental bits for Peter Parker as well. There's simply too much going on for this to be considered a "feature" so if you're going to check it out don't approach it as such. Ironically, even though there's too much material, there's not a lot of substance. In between the story driven moments are diversions that feel like wasted space as they don't necessarily pertain to the "film".
On the other hand, taking in Attack of the Lizard from the standpoint of watching three episodes the experience has more cohesiveness. It loosely follows the origins of Peter and doesn't exactly show you the before and after of being bitten by the radioactive spider. Instead the series hits the ground running and we join Peter who has already explored his powers and has carved a name for himself. When the show picks up he's headed back to school with his friend Gwen Stacey and attempts to behave like a normal nerd when being pelted by water balloons and being harassed by jocks. That's Peter's life during the day time but after school and during the summer break he spent the nights moonlighting as Spider-Man fighting crime and whatnot.
Over the course of Attack of the Lizard Peter doesn't go through an awful lot of development; at least none that hasn't been explored with the character before in the comics or on screen. He has to deal with Aunt May and the fact that he lost Uncle Ben, he works his way around trying to get a gig for the paper, he hangs out in labs with smart people, and chums with his college-bound buddy Eddie Brock (Ok, so this part is definitely not canon). This makes The Spectacular Spider-Man a very familiar and traditional outing for fans of Web-Slinger and though its marketed towards a younger audience and dumbed-down, the experience isn't a total wash.
If you're looking for a quick little dose of Spider-Man then this title is probably worth a rental. Taken as individual episodes Spectacular Spider-Man proves to be an entertaining diversion. It's unfortunate that it's not being marketed as such and the DVD was constructed with Attack of the Lizard being an animated feature. It simply fails as the latter and only mildly succeeds as the former. You just really have to take the release with a grain of salt and appreciate it for what it is; a kid's cartoon about Spider-Man that is very flashy without a whole lot of substance.
Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The show features some strong designs and nice animation that translates well to the screen. Given the artistic style employed here it's hard not to reference the attempt at a unique, but familiar, look employed by Bruce Timm and the DC line of cartoons. There are some sharp edges and dynamic plays on old characters especially with the Vulture and Electro. Thankfully the show looks pretty sharp on DVD with vibrant colors and a solid image but it's not a mind-blowing experience. Some digital artifacts make their way into the picture though and it's easy to spot some aliasing in some of the faster moving scenes with lots of animation; unfortunately there are a lot of those.
Presented with an English 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track Attack of the Lizard sounds better than your typical Saturday morning fare. The rear channels pick up some sound effects and music to help spread out the experience. Dialogue is restricted mostly to the front and in all honesty the rear channel support isn't as great as it could have been. While the overall quality is fine the sense of immersion is a tad underwhelming and lackluster. It's a better effort than we would have gotten from a 2.0 stereo mix but not by much.
The DVD for Attack of the Lizard only comes with some trailers and a music video for the show, which isn't exactly a highlight.
If you're a Spider-Man fan looking for something, anything, to satisfy your Web-Slinging cravings then Attack of the Lizard isn't a bad way to spend an hour. The three episodes of Spectacular Spider-Man are entertaining in their own right but with this presentation they have been slapped together sloppily like a PB&J made by the Rhino. The end result is a bombardment of cool bits and nice fights with some developmental dialogue peppered in for good measure. It's greatly unbalanced and poorly paced but at the end of the day it's undeniably Spider-Man and at least worth a rental for fans of the character.
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