Made for 6th Graders…By 6th Graders?
Some takes, like the ones on Sleeping Beauty, Wing Commander, and Brisco County Junior are labors of love. This take on Ultimate Spiderman was just labor. This show straddles the borderline of being below the criteria for our attention. The shows schizophrenic nature yields scenes that are definitely way below our criteria, and some that are just barely above.
If you’re looking for show that’s trying to be hip to grammar school boys and their fantasies of heroic action, this is it. The “Peter Parker – average kid” angle is hit very hard. Almost every episode includes the “amusing antics” of his life with aunt May, bullies at school, problems with friends, and generally life balance issues.
A schizophrenic season in a sentence? Spiderman is unfathomably recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. and given a Spidey cycle (*cough* toy marketing *cough*) and for some reason groomed to be a leader, even though he’s one of the most solo acts of the Marvel universe, and in that contrived role is forced to team up with a group of multi-cultural teenaged superheroes as they battle super criminals out of their league, come across questionable depictions of established Marvel characters, and bash you over the head with trying to be hip.
In contrast, the similarly off-beat Batman the Brave and the Bold started out semi-seriously (in its first 13 episodes) and had just enough good shows and clever writing to appeal broadly. Ultimate Spiderman smashes you in the face with constant cutaways to super deformed versions of characters doing inane things.
That touches upon our chief criticism of the series, it’s constant cutting away out of the narrative. Under the guise of being hip and different, the producers freeze anytime they want in order to fill in plot holes or say something to keep the viewer interested. It can allow the storytelling to become lazy when you know you can always explain something away in such a segment rather than showing it.
This also has the unfortunate side effect of breaking up the action beats and diluting the drama. It does have its fun moments, but this mechanic was overused. Some of the cutaway content also seemed overindulgent. While we may have understood 1950s style “Leave It to Beaver” and 1930s style the “Wizard of Oz” theming for a couple of these segments, we wonder how many sixth-graders did.
The plots were contrived. And to use a cliche, forcing a leadership role onto high school aged Peter Parker/Spidermen is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The last two episodes, the finale of the season, were particularly filled with forced contrivances with Spiderman telling his team to, “Stay out of this! I need to do it alone.” Please.
It was fun seeing Clark Gregg reprise his oft-played role of “Agent Coulson.” Overall, the show had some decent effects, some decent action scenes, and rather standard art direction.
Marvel Universe Character Depictions Rated:
- Ironman: Playboy angle overplayed, and not very likable.
- Hulk: Rather contrived usage.
- Doctor Doom: Decent effort, but lacking… something.
- Captain America: Solid and well done.
- Wolverine: Eh. Kinda one-dimensional. (And out of place!)
We will spare you talk about the “Spider-ham” episode. we may watch next season for casual entertainment, but we doubt, unless it changes greatly, we will be doing any more takes on the series.