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MTV's Spider-Man

Almost as soon as Spider-Man the movie became a box office smash in 2002, MTV announced that it was planning on giving birth to another incarnation of the Spider-Man cartoon show. Many long time fans were immediately skeptical.

This would be the 6th cartoon show Spider-Man had been given and 4 out of the previous 5 were horrible (yes, I'm talking to you, Spider-Man Unlimited). Also, the thought of MTV putting their fingerprints all over Spider-Man in an attempt to update him seemed like a bad idea.

Unfortunately, all of our concerns were justified.

The MTV Spider-Man show, which debuts Friday July 11th at 10pm, picks up where no previous Spider-Man movie or TV show left off, though it has heavy influence from the 2002 movie. The writers have chosen to push Peter a little further in time than we are used to. He's a college student now, busy dealing with the first year college student dilemmas. Mary Jane is working hard to become an actress while Harry Osborne is still living the life of the spoiled rich kid. At least MTV doesn't stray too far from the known Spider-Man lore (curse you, Spider-Man Unlimited.)

One of the updates that MTV has given Spider-Man is a computer. Computer graphics, that is. Rather than animate it the old fashioned way, Spider-Man is in his own virtual world where he can fight crime.

The computer generated show has a very stylistic look to it, similar to the work Clayton Henry is doing on Marvel's Exiles, but mixed with a heavy dose of Peter Chung's Aeon Flux. It's distracting at first because it is new but you eventually get used to it.

What you don't get used to is the hollowness of the show's graphics. Everything lacks texture. When Spider-Man picks up a car, the car has no real feel of weight to it. Mary Jane's apartment has furniture in all the right places but no dirty dishes, no thongs drying on the door knobs or any of the other details that actually show that someone lives there. The streets of New York City are all pristine without any signs of litter or hobo urine anywhere. Clearly, Spider-Man lives in an anal-retentive universe.

Much of the dialogue also fall flat due to the lack of any city noise. New York is the city that never sleeps, yet you never hear cars, subways or theater patrons talking about how wonderful Mamma Mia was.

MTV gives everyone an extreme makeover to update their look. Peter Parker no longer looks like a nerd but rather like one of the thousands guys you seen on MTV in bands that sing about being a nerd.

Mary Jane has been dressed in skin tight pants and a belly shirt. For some reason her head is egg shaped. I'm not sure what today's generation is doing to make their heads egg shaped, but they should really stop before someone gets hurt.

Harry Osborne is now blonde and looks oddly like FanboyPlanet's former webmaster, Andrew Preston (gay euro-trash).

One of the most promising things that got the Fanboy Planet staff interested in the show was that Brain Michael Bendis, the man that so successfully updated Spider-Man in comics, was announced as an executive producer for the show. But none of Bendis' trademark witty dialogue or character depth can be seen in the first few episodes. It may at times look like Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man, but it never feels like it.

Neil Patrick Harris and Lisa Loeb provide the voice over work for Peter and Mary Jane. Both of them are adequate but Mary Jane in particular isn't given much to say other than "Spider-man, look out!" Updated for a new generation and yet still so cliché.

Action scenes are really where MTV is hoping to shine (I guess). Spider-Man moves about the city with great ease and his fight scenes all hold true to the way you'd expect Spider-Man to fight (minus the annoying Matrix effect).

But when Peter isn't crime fighting, the rest of the scenes are as interesting as video game cut scenes. Characters move around and talk to advance the plot but never show real emotion or anything that would make the audience care about them. It's strictly two dimensional characters living in a computer generated three dimensional world.

Like all shows however, you are welcome to judge for yourself. The episodes we saw were the early ones and should be given the chance to prove themselves and find their niche. I just don't see how, on the network that invented the 3 minute attention span, that's going to be possible.

Michael Goodson

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