Spider-Man: The Animated Series Review

Spider-Man: The Animated Series is a 1994 superhero action animated television series developed by Bob Richardson, starring Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jennifer Hale, Gary Imhoff, Edward Asner, Roscoe Lee Browne, Rodney Saulsberry, and Sara Ballantine.  Based on the Marvel Comics superhero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the series follows a young man with spider-like abilities fighting crime as a superhero in New York City while trying to have a normal personal life.


Positives:

  • Well-written
  • Great intro
  • Great voice performances
  • Great characters
  • Great score
  • Good animation
  • Clever, gripping stories
  • Witty dialogue

Negatives:

  • Poor CGI backgrounds
  • Cheesy dialogue
  • Censorship affects writing

Plot:  The series follows a young man named Peter Parker during time at Empire State University. Due to a freak accident he develops spider-like abilities and begins fighting crime as a superhero in New York City while trying to have a normal personal life. He takes a job at the Daily Bugle as a part-time freelance photographer. A lot of the episodes feel a episodic with some nice extended ones. The series is comprised of some great stories that are perfectly adapted from the comics.  Among some of the best stories is the Venom Saga and the Clone Saga. Over the course of the series Peter deals with his love interests Mary Jane Watson and Felicia Hardy. I would’ve liked for some of the episodes to be more of a developing arc for the other characters, namely the villains.  Loved Eddie Brock’s developing arc. (4 out of 5)

Characters: The series features an awesome roster of characters.  The series follows Peter Parker, a young man who is gifted with spider-like abilities which he uses to fight crime.  Peter goes through a lot as he balances his crime fighting with his normal life.  He stays with this Aunt May and his girlfriend is Mary Jane Watson dubbed MJ.  MJ is a pretty damn cool character, pretty likable, and a good contrast to Peter. Loved the love triangle between Peter, MJ (representing Peter Parker’s normal life), and Black Cat (representing Spider-Man’s). Many of his supporting cast includes Eddie Brock, J. Jonah Jameson, Perhaps as important as our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man is his rogues gallery.  The villains are just awesome.  Personal favorites are Venom, Black Cat, Shocker, Man Spider, Kingpin, Carnage, Lizard, Green Goblin, and Scorpion.  What’s also cool is the fact that many other superheroes as well as other supervillains make their appearances.  Some episodes feature characters such as Iron Man, War Machine, the X-Men, Punisher, Blade, and yes, even the likes of Doctor Doom among others.  (5 out of 5)

Cast: There is no denying the talent behind the voice cast.  Barnes is a great Peter Parker, giving the character a lot of personality.  Other performances include Edward Asner (J. Jonah Jameson), Sara Ballantine (Mary Jane Watson), Roscoe Lee Browne (Wilson Fisk/Kingpin), Linda Gary / Julie Bennett (Aunt May Parker), Jennifer Hale (Felicia Hardy / Black Cat), Gary Imhoff (Harry Osborn / Green Goblin II), and Rodney Saulsberry (Joseph “Robbie” Robertson).  Loved Jim Cummings as Shocker. thought he gave the character some grit and loved the accent.  The cast feel true to their characters and deserve a thumbs up to the great voice performances. (4 out of 5)

Animation Style:  Sometimes the CGI backgrounds of the cityscape can be a bit crappy and for me, some of the costume designs could look better, more tactical less theatrical.  The character models are pretty damn decent though nearly all the men are built and cut.  The swinging sequences are done well and the action has a great presentation to it. (3 out of 5)

Score:  The sound and music are pretty damn awesome, a big thumbs up to Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, and Udi Harpaz.  Come on, who doesn’t love the intro.  Great emphasis on the guitar by Aerosmith’s own Joe Perry.  The series does have its share of deep themes that emphasize on action and drama. (4 out of 5)

Writing:  The writing is damn good.  The dialogue is great and there is some really good monologue by Peter.  Characters banter can be witty and sometimes cheesy, providing humor which is most notable when Spider-Man is fighting villains.  The action is written well so that it can be violent and intense. The censorship sometimes is pretty annoying.  The fact that the guns fire lasers and not bullets does not make it any less violent.  For example, in the episodes with Morbius where he’s a vampire.  But instead of him biting his victims to draw blood, he has this holes in his hands to suck it out through contact. Blade’s mother is turning people into vampires with a laser gun instead of biting people.  Even as a child I thought that was pretty stupid.  The series does have a really dark tone.   All-in-all, the writing feels grounded making for an engaging experience. (3 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Spider-Man: The Animated Series is a great adaptation of Our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.  Yeah, some of the writing could be better, the cencorship sucks, the 3D cityscapes are lackluster, and the animation is slightly dated.  But the series actually has fantastic performances by a great cast, good animation, solid music, compelling stories, memorable characters, and good writing.  Spider-Man: The Animated Series gets 4 out of 5.

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