Spectacular Spider-Man: the animated series #8: “Reactions” Review


Tell me, O Octopus, I begs- Is those things arms, or is they legs?” Credits

Written by Randy Jandt
Directed by Jennifer Coyle
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation

THE PLOT: Mild mannered science bum Otto Octavious is forever transformed from a simpering bootlick into the all powerful Dr. Octopus. With his four mechanical arms, he rampages through the city to do…stuff. Can Spider-Man defeat him?

LONG STORY SHORT: Spidey defeats Dr. Octopus. Flash Thompson breaks up with Liz Allen. In the other rising subplots, Harry Osborn shows signs of heavy addiction to his newfound miracle formula, while Col. John Jameson has launched into space.

I like how the black arms seem to yawn when Ock proclaims his new supervillain name. Its like they though he could do better.




MY THOUGHTS: I have very mixed feelings on this episode. On the one hand, we now have Dr. Octopus who is pretty much THE classic Spider-Man villain. Goblin’s great and Venom’s got charm, but when you think of Spider-Man villains that have always held up, Doc Ock should be the one who comes to mind. He’s such a classic 1960s Marvel mad scientist character, but you gotta love him. And he is played very nicely by Peter McNicol, who apparantly is a long-time fan of the character. ON THE OTHER HAND, sitting down and watching this with a halfway analytical eye reveals very telling problems that really do get in the way of enjoying the episode by its merits. As much as Reactions has going for it, its almost matched by a recurring theme of annoying convinience and typicality which really shames this show since until now it had none of that.

My main problem is this: as much as I commend the portrayal of Doc Ock in this show, it felt almost entirely forced and hurried in how it happened. For me, part of the problem was the portrayal of Otto Octavious before he had his “accident” that fused the arms to his spine. I was never really that big a fan of making Octavious a complete wimp, which he was again and again and again every time we saw him up til now. Oh, I understand it and how it differentiates from previous incarnations. And really, Doc Ock is a personality that’s better known after the accident, not before. He was a normal scientist in his first appearance in the comics, and a camp science teacher in the 90s cartoon. Its a clean slate that lends itself to change. But I just felt that for a show which has already been repeatedly bricked at for its character designs and “kiddy” look to it, making Otto a punk pre-arms does one of two things. It relies on lazy writing in terms of making the scientist the wimpy fat guy that little tykes can laugh at, and it somewhat implies that Otto was a good person before the accident. Okay, the arms have always historically made him insane. But its always more interesting to have a character do evil things of their own volition rather than excuse it with an accident of the physical body. That just comes off as too neat and tidy, and I’ve always felt that an appeal of the Spider-Man universe was that most things were always shades of gray and were never neat and tidy. And I can’t say that Otto had day-dreams of killing Norman before the accident because he was wearing the arms at the time. Someone may come up and say that it was his deep-seated anger at the world, but since he was wearing the arms that leaves me to believe that the arms are to blame.

"Get it together, Grouch."

After he’s fused with the arms, I can easily buy Otto attacking Osborn. This crazy experiment gone wrong exonerates him from rational thought. Of course he’s probably gone evil. But why does he call himself Dr. Octopus if he found the name demeaning? Thats a codename cliche that often times doesn’t work when used like that. It works for Daredevil because it’s something which can be seen in a positive light. It barely works for DC’s Scarecrow because he has a history of revenge against his tormentors who called him that. It doesn’t work for Octavious because he is the ultimate know-it-all conehead. He thinks he’s so intellectual and so superior, that it doesn’t make sense for him to take a name that even his previous “weak” self thought was annoying. He can’t gain any respect from it. Really, this is the show’s bag because from what I’ve read in the comics Octavious refers to himself as just that and not Dr. Octopus. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The previous villains had logical reasons for adopting stupid names like Electro and Vulture. Dr. Octopus pretty much calls himself that because he knows he has to or the licensing department will get on his case. And then after becoming “Dr. Octopus”, he battles Spider-Man who saved his life and from then on vows revenge on him. From what Ock says, his whole goal is to kill Spider-Man.

The dreaded LOOK

Why? What in the world has Spider-Man done besides joke around while Ock tried to kill him? Yes, Spidey beat villains whose powers Octavious was partly responsible for. But Octavious never expressed any anger or hatred towards Spider-Man before. I don’t think he’s ever even mentioned him before. I understand finding the power cell for his arms was a priority, but he says its a priority so he can find and kill Spider-Man. Why doesn’t he kill Norman Osborn? He’s the guy whose been giving him crap for the past several episodes. And okay, Spider-Man would try to stop him from doing whatever he wanted. But the way Ock’s written so arrogantly here, it’d be more in character for him to go about his business and deal with Spider-Man whenever he saw him next. His whole thought process just reeks of plot contrivance and its a terrible shame that he’s the villain that the writers seemingly burned out on. They were on such a roll up to this point. But it kills me that Doc Ock’s motivations are basically completely pointless. Its almost literally-

“I’ve been good Mr. Osborn!


“I’m Dr. Octopus!”

“Curse your mouth Spider-Man! You’re a minor annoyance. See you later.”

“Now I better go out and kill Spider-Man before he kills me, that minor annoyance!”

Again, it was nearly saved by Peter MacNicol’s wonderful performance. I just hated what the character was doing. Very annoying.

WIN: Made of it

Speaking of things that were annoying, I suppose if you’re going to reference Spider-Man 2 it would be best to do it in a Dr. Octopus episode. But this seriously got out of hand here. The train homage at the cold opening was okay, but done much better in the movie so it really didn’t have much of a place here. Then we proceeded to have several more movie references in the span of seven minutes. The whiplash across town, the close up of the neural trigger melting into Octavious’ neck, the brown jacket Ock wears throughout the episode..I can imagine that the producers were referencing the movies to lend a sense of connection to the young viewers, but I don’t think kids are THAT stupid to realize that nearly half the crap that went on in this show was done four years earlier on the big screen. It wasn’t even subtle, which is the worst part. If you want to reference the movies, do it subtely like in the Shocker episode (IIRC) where Spidey swings to school exactly as he did at the end of Spider-Man 2. That didn’t grab you by the face and scream “REMEMBER THIS?!!” as much as the references in this show did. And the worst part about it is that these are nowhere near the most gratuitous movie references in this season, but you’ll know it when we get there.

This episode of Degrassi is brought to you by the Merry Marvel Marching Society!

And the way Ock was taken out was lame.

I’m done ranting. As I said, this episode was not without its pros. First and foremost, the animation was beautiful throughout. It was really popping, and lively which fits a Doc Ock episode nicely. The scene at the end where Flash dumps Liz was excellent with the Carnaval lights shining behind them. Very dramatic. The dialogue was solid as usual, especially the Dr. Octopus birth scene where Spider-Man just won’t shut up.

On a less angry but still inquisitve note, are we supposed to be going somewhere with this Ned Leeds subplot? I know the point of his scenes were to show that John Jameson was going into space, but there’s been I think three scenes in the series now where Leeds and Robbie talk about his stories for the Bugle. But we don’t see much of him whenever things hit the fan. Maybe I’m missing something.

Finally, the Harry subplot is really boiling by this point. Harry’s acting like a typical jerk, ignoring Gwen while randomly passing out. Its great fun watching this kid utterly destroy himself, and gleefully do it like at the end when he downs the vial of Globulin Green with a smile on his face. Its a very well done part of the overall story.

Overall I have to say I always liked this episode, but seeing the flaws it has now it was very dissapointing. Not a bad episode, but not up to par as the previous ones have been.

3/5 web heads

*Best Line Contender- Spider-Man:”Come on Doc…I’m an arthropod, you’re a cephalopod. Can’t we just hug it out?”

All images taken from Toonzone.net