‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ Review: “Science Is the New Currency” of This Excellent Series
Spider-Man stories have long been favorites of mine, whether they’re told in Marvel comics, animated series, live-action movies, or video games. Part of the appeal is, of course, the super-powers: super-strength, spider-sense, and an incredible acrobatic ability. However, the part of Peter Parker’s adventures that were even more thrilling–like zipping along the New York City skyline with the help of his web-shooters–were not just due to his powers, but to his incredible scientific genius. That aspect of Spider-Man was included in the 90s animated series, all but forgotten in the Sam Raimi films, and a big part of the latest movie and more recent comic arcs. Disney XD’s new series Marvel’s Spider-Man makes a bold, innovative move by focusing Peter Parker’s story around a scientific center, and it pays off in fantastic ways.
I had a chance to check out the two-part, hour-long premiere of Marvel’s Spider-Man ahead of its debut tomorrow morning at 7:00 am ET/PT on Disney XD (and on the Disney XD App and VOD), and I can’t wait to see more. Luckily, fans will soon get their own opportunity to see the new series for themselves, but if you want to know more about it ahead of time, check out these recent articles:
- Meet the Cast of ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ in a New Video; Series Premieres This Saturday
- ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ Showrunner Kevin Shinick Focuses on “Science and Relationships”
- ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ Lead Robbie Daymond on His Fresh, Exciting Take on Peter Parker
Before I jump into the finer details, take a look at this sneak peak of tomorrow morning’s premiere:
In the series premiere of the all-new animated series Marvel’s Spider-Man, Spider-Man makes his first debut as a hero, but it’s a trial by fire, as he must battle the Vulture. Marvel’s Spider-Man premieres on Saturday, August 19 at 7AM on Disney XD!
You can tell a lot about whether or not you’re going to like Marvel’s Spider-Man from this brief look. The first thing that should jump out at you is the series’ animation style. It’s a change from what you might be used to, especially if you’re following up after Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man series or haven’t checked in since the 90s animated series, but I’m a fan of the new look. This version of Peter Parker is an honest-to-goodness teenager, not a 20-something workout warrior or a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in training. The characters themselves have a much more youthful design and even the costumed villains our hero faces are vibrant, colorful, and playful, right from the pages of classic comic book stories.
The backgrounds throughout the city and within the halls of Horizon High–a magnate school for science enthusiasts where Parker soon finds himself enrolled–are rich and detailed, but don’t detract from the action playing out in front of them. I particularly enjoyed the brief usage of rain effects–used to great effect in a very atmospheric scene–and the attention to detail and continuity, such as the rips and tears in Parker’s early costume.
Another aspect that you should pick up on fairly quickly is Parker’s penchant to narrate his particular troubles, especially when it comes to battling super-villains. Spider-Man’s often been a chatty character who likes to break the fourth wall and Marvel’s Spider-Man is no exception. The conversational style of Robbie Daymond‘s version of the character nails both the humor and the “science geek” aspects of Parker’s personality. We get to hear his inner monologue while he’s fine-tuning his web-shooters in the midst of battle or sussing out a solution to a ticking time bomb before it literally explodes. The techno-speak takes a little getting used to, but it’s a fun way of cluing the audience into the fact that Parker is still trying to get accustomed to both his superpowers and his own proprietary technology.
And it’s that tech, or rather the scientific knowledge behind it, that’s at the core of Marvel’s Spider-Man. Parker’s position at Horizon High allows him to improve on his crime-fighting suit and gadgets while also furthering his academic pursuits. However, that access to scientific research and equipment gives his fellow students (and teachers) a level playing ground; that’s great in the real world since it fosters healthy competition and innovation, but in the world of comics, it means the possibility for more superheroes and super-villains emerging. You won’t be surprised to find out that’s exactly what happens, but it’s a clever twist that freshens up a familiar story and cast of characters.
One of those characters, Uncle Ben, gets a subtle change as well. Flashbacks, when done well, can give insight into a character’s motivations and outlook; they work particularly well in Marvel’s Spider-Man since, unfortunately, Uncle Ben is no longer around to give Parker advice. Uncle Ben may not have been a scientist, but he does his best to pass his personal mantra on to his nephew. (I love that Parker literally sews this mantra into his backpack and keeps it as the background on his phone, a nice touch.)
Many of the names heard in the premiere will be familiar to comic book fans, though Miles Morales (Nadji Jeter), Anya Corazon (Melanie Minichino) and Max Modell (Fred Tatasciore) might only be familiar to those who’ve been reading the more recent arcs. Whether they’re new or old names to you, I think you’ll like the versions you see in Marvel’s Spider-Man. Fellow classmates and teachers at Horizon High may well become super-powered allies of Peter Parker in the near future, but early on it’s established that egomaniacs emerge from this school as well.
There’s no hiding the villainous intents of Spencer Smythe and his son Alistair, who repeatedly attempt to sabotage Max’s school and reputation, but exactly why they’re doing this and who they’re working for remains to be seen. That’s a strength of Marvel’s Spider-Man that’s apparent from the beginning: They’re setting up some longer arcs here that will play out over time. Whether it’s the Smythes’ misdeeds, the Osborns’ tech falling into the wrong hands (even if it’s ultimately their own), or imposing introductions of characters like Dr. Otto Octavius and Adrian Toomes, something bigger is going on behind the scenes.
Keeping all of this in mind, perhaps my favorite part of Marvel’s Spider-Man is how it treats Peter Parker as a real human kid without a lot of resources who still has to make ends meet. As if the weight of his great power and great responsibility weren’t enough, Parker also has to worry about keeping apace with his fellow science geniuses, keeping the city safe from super-villains, and making sure he’s not over-taxing Aunt May with either his expensive tuition or his dangerous nightlife. That relationship alone could serve as the heart of the series, but it’s just one example of how strong the writing and performances are when it comes to character interactions. If viewers don’t care about the hero and his friends and family, then the prettiest pictures and the most intense action sequences in the world won’t mean a thing. Luckily, Marvel’s Spider-Man checks all these boxes. Tune in for the premiere this Saturday and hopefully you’ll find good reason to mark your calendars for Spidey’s all-new weekly adventures!
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent