Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock review by Mike Long

As someone who's worked in marketing, I can tell you that nothing beats having a marketing hook. And Buena Vista Home Entertainment certainly has a great hook with their DVD releases of the animated Spider-Man series which ran on Fox from 1994-1998. (When Disney purchased Fox Family Channel, they got the wholesale rights to many shows, such as Spider-Man and the animated X-Men.) Buena Vista has shrewdly been releasing DVDs of the Spider-Man show to coincide with the theatrical and home video releases of Sony's Spider-Man movies (and one to tie in with the release of Daredevil). The first three releases were well-timed to tie into the movies, but the release timed for the debut of Spider-Man 2, named Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock, is a disappointment and shows that Buena Vista may want to re-think their strategy.

Before we jump into the review of Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock, let's do an overview of the Spider-Man show. The show ran for 5 seasons, which spawned a total of 65 episodes. Instead of releasing full season sets, Buena Vista has opted to release DVDs one-at-a-time which contain four episodes . Once again, these were timed to play off of the Spider-Man theatrical films. The first three releases contained the following episodes:

Ultimate Villain Showdown (Release Date: 4/30/02)

1. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter II: Make a Wish"

2. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter III: Attack of the Ocotbot"

3. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter IV: Enter the Green Goblin"

4. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter V: Rocket Racer"

Return of the Green Goblin (Release Date: 10/29/02)

1. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter XII: The Spot"

2. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter XIII: Gobiln War!"

3. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter XIV: Turning Point"

4. "Partners in Danger, Chapter I: Guilty"

Daredevil vs. Spider-Man (Release Date: 2/11/03)

1. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter VI: Framed"

2. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter VII: The Man Without Fear"

3. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter VIII: The Ultimate Slayer"

4. "Sins of the Fathers, Chapter IX: Tombstone"

As you can see, with the first three releases, the episodes remained fairly consistent and in a fairly chronological order. One could almost see how season sets could be made from these releases. And the DVD did a good job of mirroring the theatrical films, as they contained the same characters. But, with Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock, things change somewhat, as the DVD contains four episodes, only one of which truly fits the title.

In "Doctor Octopus: Armed and Dangerous", Doctor Octopus (voiced by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) had a grudge against The Hardy Foundation, as they pulled the plug on his scientific research grant. To get he revenge, Octopus kidnaps Felicia Hardy (voiced by Jennifer Hale), which gains the attention of Spider-Man (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes), who attempts to rescue the young heiress. Spider-Man and Felicia Hardy appear in the next three episodes, but Doctor Octopus only has cameos in those shows. The next two episodes are "Partners in Danger, Chapter II: The Cat"and "Partners in Danger, Chapter III: The Black Cat. In these two episodes, Doctor Octopus blackmails Felicia's mother, Anastasia Hardy (voiced by Nita Talbot). Spider-Man/Peter Parker does some investigating and learns that Felicia's father was a notorious thief known as The Cat (voiced by John Philip Law). It seems that The Cat was witness to the experiment which created Captain America and was able to memorize the Super Soldier formula. Because of that fact, The Kingpin (voiced by Roscoe Lee Browne), wants The Cat, who is being held by S.H.I.E.L.D. The Kingpin is able to kidnap The Cat from S.H.I.E.L.D. and using Felicia as collateral, attempts to pry the secret formula from the old man. In these two episodes, Doctor Octopus only appears a handful of times. The final episode, "."Partners in Danger, Chapter V: Partners" introduces a new storyline in which Alistare Smythe (voiced by Maxwell Caulfield) has teamed up with aged villain Silvermane, who is now a baby, in order to steal the vitality from The Scorpion (voiced by Richard Moll) and The Vulture (voiced by Eddie Albert). (Don't ask me...)

So, Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock is a decidedly mixed bag. On the plus side, Spider-Man is a consistently good show and is amazingly faithful to the comics. Sure, they take creative license with the stories on some occasions, but the show deftly mixes the action, drama, and pathos found in the "Spider-Man" comics. (Much like Spider-Man 2. The episodes on this DVD feature a variety of familiar characters from "Spider-Man" and continue some of the episode arcs which were featured on the other DVD releases. The downside is that Doctor Octopus is the main villain in only one of the three episodes. He actually appears more on the Ultimate Villain Showdown DVD. In the past, it's been very easy to accuse Buena Vista of simply cashing in on the hype of the Spider-Man movies with their DVD releases, but this one truly fits that bill. They would have been much better off simply releasing a generic group of shows and giving it a vague title instead of promising a steady stream of appearances by Doctor Octopus. That is apparently the strategy that they are taking with the next release in the series, Spider-Man: The Venom Saga whose yet to be determined release date is no doubt going to be timed for the DVD release of Spider-Man 2. While I enjoy these DVDs, I truly wish that Buena Vista would answer the prayers of "Spider-Fans" and release complete season sets.

Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock swings onto DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The shows contained on this DVD are presented in their original full-frame format. The episodes look very good, as they show no signs of grain or any defects from the source material. The colors are very good, looking bright and showing no bleeding. The image does shimmer at times, and their are some noticeable "seams" in the animation. Still, the digital transfer only enhances the subtle use of CGI in the show. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue. The stereo effects are good, lending atmosphere to the show through the music and sound effects. There is a nice amount of bass from the front speakers as well.

The DVD carries a few extras. Each episode can be watched with an introduction from Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee -- these vary in length, averaging about 45-seconds. Also, Lee rambles on in "Stan Lee's Soapbox" (11 minutes), where he discusses the origin of Doctor Octopus and how he ties into the "Spider-Man" universe. Finally, we have two episodes from the classic 1967 animated Spider-Man show. Yes, this is the one with the great theme song. The two episodes are "The Power of Dr. Octopus" (22 minutes) and "Sub Zero for Spidey" (11 minutes). Both look pretty good despite some dirt on the image, and provide good nostalgic fun.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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