Thursday, 5 February 2009

Spider-Man Animated - My Thoughts: Part Two

Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003)

The next animated series starring Spider-Man (I am not counting Spider-Man: Unlimited) was Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, that used a revolutionary form of CGI Cel shaded animation, and was broadcast on MTV. Heavily influenced by Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man series, it also loosely followed the continuity of the Spider-Man film series, something that helped to attract fans of the movies, but arguably hindered the show in the long run.

Peter Parker:
In many ways the Peter Parker of this series is actually an improvement on his Spider-Man: TAS counterpart. His design, as with most of the characters is a lot sleeker and more modern looking, and Neil Patrick Harris while being different to previous Peter Parker voice actors is definitely a good fit for the character, and is generally excellent . The characterisation is more hit and miss. Peter has always been shown as unlucky in love in the comic books, and an the writers attempted to do this here, giving him the dilemma of having to choose between two girls. However, the results just make Peter look a bit selfish, toying with Mary-Jane's feelings, and leading her on. Although this isn't the case in every episode, with Peter often shown as caring deeply for Mary-Jane, it was something that often bothered me, and in my opinion harmed the character.

The Supporting Cast:

Again, the supporting cast in the show is very mixed. The characterisation of the core supporting characters (Harry and Mary-Jane) is spot on, even moreso than Peter Parker, and they were animated better than ever before. However, many other characters didn't fare so well. Poor old Aunt May didn't actually make an appearance, beyond being shown in a photo frame, a consequence of MTV trying to appeal to the younger generation. J Jonah Jameson was also lacklustre, and brought little to the show, beyond being blessed with a very irritating voice actor. The original characters created for the series were horrendous. Indie in particular looked annoying, sounded annoying, and was annoying, playing little part apart from creating needless romantic tension between Peter and Mary-Jane.


The Villains:
Without a doubt the thing that harmed this show most was the poor quality of its villains. Due to it being based in the continuity of the movies, the vast majority of Spidey's classic foes were off limits, so the creators were forced to insert brand new villains specially created for the show, many of whom were very very shoddy. Although as with the rest of the show they were animated very well, and could boast some excellent fight scenes, they often lacked the depth of Spider-Man's more traditional rogues gallery. His classic villains that were animated ranged from excellent (The Lizard, Kraven) to atrocious (Kingpin). While Lizard and Kraven were given modern updates, and portrayed as genuine threats to Spider-Man, the Kingpin was a joke, and was taken down in one episode, a far cry from his untouchable status in Spider-Man: TAS.

Despite being produced years after Spider-Man: TAS, and being aimed at a more mature audience, the overall narrative of this show is comparitively undeveloped. Although it was sadly only given one series, and this is something that may have been worked on with subsequent episodes, there is very little in the way of episode to episode continuity, and for the most part they can be watched in any order. There is also little in the way of character development, although again this could be something that could have been worked on during subsequent series. It seems harsh to judge the series on just thirteen episodes, but unfortunately this is all we have to go on, and it doesn't compare to the frequent multi part episodes, and series spanning storylines seen in Spider-Man: TAS.


Pros -
Superb animation, beyond anything ever seen in Spider-Man animation, mature style, good dialogue, solid characterisation.

Cons - Lack of classic villains, little episode to episode continuity, few significant supporting characters.


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