Spider-Man on MTV was very good. I’m not sure it was excellent, but it was very good.
The voice acting was nearly flawless. The only complaint I had about that was an instance or two of what seemed like choppy editing, and that isn’t really the actors’ fault. Neil Patrick Harris is Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Lisa Loeb is Mary Jane Watson, and Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills, 90210) is Harry Osbourne. The show also has some pretty solid reoccurring characters (who didn’t show up in the first two episodes) and some nice choices for guest characters.
The animation? It’s cel-shaded, which means that even though it’s done entirely in computer graphics, it’s done in a way so that it looks like traditional animation. This effect has been around in video games (Jet Set Radio Future, Sly Cooper, Auto Modelista) for several years, but I believe the new Spider-Man cartoon is the first televison show ever to use it, and I don’t think there have been any films done with the technique. What Spider-Man delivers might not be as good as Finding Nemo or any of Pixar’s latest, but I like it better than any traditional animation. And it’s the best cartoon television series I’ve ever seen. The team behind the visuals is Mainframe, the same house that produced the ReBoot Saturday morning fare that was on ABC(?) a few years back. I enjoyed ReBoot while it was on because it was entirely CG, and that was different back then.
Of course, I like to nitpick. When Spider-Man’s costume rips it’s pretty obvious that the animators put a patch that looks like skin on top of the costume. Everyone’s clothes seem to be a little too tight, particularly those on the male characters. Everyone’s waists seem to be a little too small in relation to their chests – especially on Peter. However, I’ve felt for a long time that one of the biggest quality tests on any animation is whether characters’ feet stick on the floor when they walk, or if they slide because of timing errors. As far as I could tell, when characters walk in this show it is absolutely convincing. Animators may have gotten this to look right beacause when Spider-Man crawls on walls not only does it look believable, it looks unlike anything I’ve ever seen. At first I thought it looked too much like they tried to make him look like a spider … but the more I thought about it, the more I think that it looked exactly like it should have.
The stories so far have been less than perfect, but still better than any cartoon series or any superhero television series up to this point. Villains kill helpless humans, villains kill other villains … it’s grittier than I expected, and I welcome that. The depictions of fatal wounds aren’t particularly graphic, but you can clearly tell when a person is killed. In a show like the Spider-Man cartoon that was on Fox Saturday mornings, I’m sure that no characters ever died or at least were ever shown being killed.
The dialogue is about 100 years ahead of any Saturday morning fare, but I think it could still use some slight updating. Ever hear a joke like, “Jaromir Jagr just called – he wants his hair back”? In one episode, Peter Parker uses a variation of that joke. It’s better than the pedestrian stuff you hear on Saturday mornings, but that joke is at least five years old.
I do have to give the show a lot of credit. The characters are in college. They drink coffee out of cups that look like they came from Starbucks. They go to parties. They drink alcohol. It’s a good time.
Short Take 1: So I have multiple email addresses. I have one for friends and family, one for job applications and resume sites, and my yet-to-be-deactivated RIT address. My personal address is on Yahoo! Mail, which I feel is the best free email service available. It’s so great, I wish I could use a second Yahoo! address for my resumes and applications. I would do this, but you can only be logged into Yahoo! with one username per computer at any given time. Why is that? If I were to download and install Netscape 7 or Mozilla or both, I could be logged into Yahoo! with two or even three usernames at once. So if I can accomplish it with a little bit of work, why not just let me accomplish it with one browser? Hear that, Microsoft? I mean, if I can open multiple browser windows, why can’t I check two different Yahoo! email addresses at the same time?
Short Take 2: On the latest episode of MTV’s The Real World: Paris I noticed that the desktop on the chateau PC had an image from Digital Blasphemy. It’s a 3D desktop site. For a while I used one. The images are very high quality. You have to pay to get access to all of them, but a lot of good ones are available for free.