He’s mean. He’s German. He wears his sunglasses at night. Oh yes, it’s Doc Ock’s time to shine!
Story By: Stan Lee and Avi Arad
Written By: Brooks Wachtel and Cynthia Harrison
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)
THE PLOT: While on a date with Peter Parker, snotty socialite Felicia Hardy is suddenly kidnapped by a man with four mechanical arms, wraparound sunglasses and a nasty bowlcut. Unlucky for him, Peter Parker sometimes moonlight as the Amazing Spider-Man!
LONG STORY SHORT: Spider-Man beats Doctor Octopus and saves the day. Would you believe it.
MY THOUGHTS: With this episode, I feel as though the show has sort of gotten back on track to what makes it truly awesome when it can be. Not to say that the last few episodes haven’t been enjoyable, because clearly I thought so. But whether it was the TMS animation, the dialogue or the fact that we got a pitch-perfect representation of Doctor Octopus, this episode fires on all cylinders and again shows why fans of the series do like it. Bluntly put, this is one of the best, and when seen sixteen years later and still managing to be entertaining, it shows history that you can never judge a book by its notorious cover. That book may end up being bad, but everything has some redeeming quality about it. To the naysayers of the 90s Spider-Man show, I point them to “Doctor Octopus: Armed and Dangerous”.
Once again, its a simple plot. Doc Ock is introduced with his comic book origin virtually intact. Kidnaps the girl, has a mad scientist scheme, beaten by the Web Head in the end. Very 1960s. But in it’s modernity, it suceeds at what its trying to accomplish. In a hero/villain story, one must be engaged in either the hero or the villain, perferably both. Spider-Man, I find, is still very fun to watch and root for. He makes some mistakes which retains that annoying “everyman” label that fans lazily bestow upon him, while at the same time fighting Doc Ock with the gusto and bravado of the live action Zorro television series. But the real prize here is in Doctor Octopus, voiced fabulously by Efrem Zimbalist “Alfred Pennyworth” Jr., of Batman: the animated series fame. (If you haven’t watched that series, get off my interwebz)
I don’t know if it was the German accent Zimbalist Jr. brought to the character or the script itself which made Doc Ock come off as a very, very sinister person, but this iteration just rules up and down. He has the gravitas, hubris, dedication to “SCIENCE!!” and the over the top mad scientist schemes that could teach Lex Luthor a thingor two in the department. He just comes off as a very strong presence, and someone you do not mess with if you don’t know immediately how to beat him. And Spider-Man, initially, doesn’t so he gets his butt handed to him as quick as he did in ASM #3. Now he doesn’t cry himself to sleep and contemplate quit being Spider-Man in this episode, but regardless the villain in this episode is sold to us from his very first appearance. He’s presented in shadow a lot, he has a maniacal laugh which really is quite chilling, and his multiple arms, as weird as the power is when you think about it, presents quite an obstacal for Spider-Man to fight through. I don’t think there’s a single moment in this episode where you don’t feel the threat, the genuine danger that Doc Ock brings which suits the character. To reiterate from my take on the character from the Spectacular Spider-Man reviews, he’s the classic Spider-Man foe that does get sort of lost in the shufle personality-wise. Is he a dorky joke, or is he a sinister killer? Is he suave, or a loser? For someone with such a ridiculous ability, name and appearance in the first place, to make him seem anything less than a joke can not only be a challenge but an uphill battle as well. Like the Spectacular Spider-Man, the producers and the voice actor saw the potential and pushed it to the limit. Whether this momentum is carried throughout the rest of the series or not, it works here. Man, does it work.
Continuing with what else works, we see the return of the stellar TMS animation team that brought us the eye candy called “Night of the Lizard” try their hand at the series once again. It’s not as 110% crisp as that episode was (truth betold, I don’t think any episode is) but it’s still the best animation since then, and in general the animation in the series thus far has been very good. Doc Ock himself was remniscent in his body language to Spider-Man in “Night of the Lizard”, with the way his tentacles pushed and pulled in terms of fully accentuating their full abilities. We’re still before the days where repeating the animation was the word of the day, and scenes like Spider-Man’s inital battle with Doc Ock marvel because they are, as the should be, totally original. There are times when I think I could watch Spider-Man acrobatically dodge Doc Ock’s mechanical tentacles all day long, because it looks so terrific. Clearly, the animators thought the exact same thing, because in every Doc Ock appearance after this inital outing, we see the same shot of Spidey jumping across the boxes, no matter where the battle is taking place. It almost gets to the point where they could be fighting at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, and we would still see glimpses of this episode’s battle. But that’s for the future. For now, the episode stands as another shining example of great animation and fight sequencing.
One thing I didn’t think worked as well as everything else was the scene after Jameson is kidnapped and Spidey gets spanked by Doc Ock, where he’s talking to a grieving Anastasia Hardy and being chewed out by Robbie. I’m not taking issue with Ms. Hardy’s anger at Peter, but I don’t buy Robbie’s, not entirely. For one thing, it felt very heavy-handed just to have Spider-Man feel bad that Robbie wasn’t a fan of his that day. What makes it even worse is that the audience at this point hasn’t gotten much from Robbie in terms of characterization. He’s clearly the level-headed, cool editor of the Daily Bugle who tries to keep Jonah from going crazy, but the dyanamic here comes out of nowhere. This is the first instance where we learn that Robbie is a Spidey-booster, but we get it in past tense to correlate the difference with the way he felt in that scene. It’s too quick for what really is a great character, and it fell very flat to me. It should also be noted that Robbie seems to be significantly younger than Jameson here, which is a change that I’d perfer not to have happened. With Robbie always being around Jameson’s age, we see to opposite sides and reactions to people of the same era; people who come from the same place. That’s why they’re the best of friends. I’m not saying Robbie is near Peter’s age, but he’s at least 5 years younger than I think he should be. That stems the reaction he has and his scolding of Spider-Man, I think. If he were closer to the age he should be, I don’t think he would give Peter the guilt trip. It was a character beat that didn’t work at all, I thought.
That aside, I do really ike this episode and think it’s the best so far in the season after “Night of the Lizard. Is it as good as “Night of he Lizard”? Not quite. That episode still has a timeless sense of nuanced sensibility that I don’t think is quite repeated in future episodes. But you never know.
This episode does have one of my all time favorite Spidey quips ever.
4.5 “MARY JAAANE!!!”‘s/5
Best Quote Contnder-
Doctor Octopus: “How does it feel to be able to change things Spider-Man, but be totally helpless to do so?”
Spidey: “About as bad as I’d feel if I had a name like ‘Doc Ock’!”
images taken from marvel.toonzone.net