REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN MOVIE SERIES ULTRA-POSEABLE SPIDER-MAN
While the Avengers have been dominating the box office, another Marvel Comics legend has been waiting in the wings, awaiting his turn at a new solo adventure in 2012. I'm speaking, of course, of the Amazing SPIDER-MAN!
And, of course, there's an action figure line from Hasbro to accompany the movie, and this review will be taking a look at the new "Ultra-Poseable" Spider-Man from this line. But first, a little history on the character, and his forthcoming movie.
For those few of you who don't know, Spider-Man was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko, and he first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962). Lee and Ditko conceived of the character as an orphan being raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and as a teenager, having to deal with the normal struggles of adolescence in addition to those of a costumed crimefighter.
Spider-Man's creators gave him super strength and agility, the ability to cling to most surfaces, shoot spider-webs using devices of his own invention which he called "web-shooters", and react to danger quickly with his "spider-sense", enabling him to combat his foes.
When Spider-Man first appeared in the early 1960s, teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the protagonist. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a teenage high school student and person behind Spider-Man's secret identity
Over the years, the Peter Parker character has developed from shy, nerdy high school student to troubled but outgoing college student, to married high school teacher to, in the late 2000s, a single freelance photographer, his most typical adult role. As of 2011, he is additionally a member of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Marvel's flagship superhero teams.
In Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, high school student Peter Parker is a science-whiz orphan living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. As depicted in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), he is bitten by a radioactive spider at a science exhibit and "acquires the agility and proportionate strength of an arachnid." Along with super strength, he gains the ability to adhere to walls and ceilings.
Through his native knack for science, he develops a gadget that lets him fire adhesive webbing of his own design through small, wrist-mounted barrels. Initially seeking to capitalize on his new abilities, he dons a costume and, as "Spider-Man", becomes a novelty television star. However, he later ignores the chance to stop a fleeing thief, and his indifference ironically catches up with him when the same criminal later robs and kills his Uncle Ben. Spider-Man tracks and subdues the killer and learns, in the story's next-to-last caption, "With great power there must also come—great responsibility!"
Despite his superpowers, Parker struggles to help his widowed aunt pay rent, is taunted by his peers—particularly football star Flash Thompson—and, as Spider-Man, engenders the editorial wrath of newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. As he battles his enemies for the first time, Parker finds juggling his personal life and costumed adventures difficult.
In time, Peter graduates from high school, and enrolls at Empire State University, a fictional institution evoking the real-life Columbia University and New York University, where he meets roommate and best friend Harry Osborn and first girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and Aunt May introduces him to Mary Jane Watson.
As Peter deals with Harry's drug problems, and Harry's father is revealed to be Spider-Man's nemesis the Green Goblin, Peter even attempts to give up his costumed identity for a while. Gwen's Stacy's father, New York City Police detective captain George Stacy is accidentally killed during a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (#90, Nov. 1970).
In the course of his adventures Spider-Man has made a wide variety of friends and contacts within the superhero community, who often come to his aid when he faces problems that he cannot solve on his own.
Spider-Man has become Marvel's flagship character over the years, and has been featured in numerous animated series (I wish there would be a complete DVD release of the one from the 1990's), multiple comic-book titles, video games, a newspaper comic-strip, and much more. He was, in fact, the character chosen to represent the Marvel side of the first Marvel-DC crossover, that featured company characters, when Spider-Man encountered Superman in the mid-1970's, to take on the combined menace of Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus. The two reprised their team-up in a sequel when they faced Doctor Doom and the Parasite.
Spider-Man was featured in a trilogy of live-action films directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire as the title superhero. The first Spider-Man film was released on May 3, 2002; where Spider-Man faced off against the Green Goblin. Its sequel, Spider-Man 2, was released on June 30, 2004, with Spider-Man taking on Dr. Octopus; and the next sequel, Spider-Man 3, was released on May 4, 2007, featuring Sandman and Venom as the villains. A fourth sequel was originally scheduled to be released in 2011, however Sony later decided the franchise would be rebooted and a new director and cast would be introduced.
Which brings us to the new movie, The Amazing Spider-Man. It is the fourth Columbia Pictures film that portrays Spider-Man in film and is a reboot of the Sam Raimi film series with Andrew Garfield replacing Tobey Maguire as the title role of the superhero. The cast also includes Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, a.k.a. The Lizard. The film will portray Parker as his super powers are evolving in high school and will explore him trying to discover the truth behind his parents. The film also brings to life new designs of the film franchise such as Parker inventing artificial webs like in the original comics instead of organic webs he possessed in the other films.
So, how's the figure? Very nicely done, I have to say. As one would expect, there's no shortage of Spider-Man figures in the Amazing Spider-Man line. Unlike the Avengers, which is a team of super-heroes, Spider-Man is going solo in this movie, so there's bound to be multiple versions of him, and indeed, there are, although I have to commend the line for producing figures of a number of Spidey's enemies, in a reasonably cinematic style, that don't actually appear in this movie.
So, why did I choose "Super-Poseable" Spider-Man? Two reasons. First -- if anybody deserves a "super-poseable" action figure, it's Spider-Man. All you have to do is read a few issues of his comic book to realize that that radioactive spider not only gave Peter Parker the abilities of a spider, but a contortionist as well. Secondly, this figure was the only one that I saw offhand that really accurately depicted Spider-Man's costume from the movie.
I have to give a lot of credit to the previous Spider-Man trilogy. Sam Raimi and company didn't really mess with Spider-Man's costume. They gave it some layered texture, which was pretty cool, but they didn't mess with the design, which is more than can be said for some super-hero films out there.
The new Spider-Man film modifies the design A BIT, but certainly not disagreeably so. The character is still abundantly recognizable as Spider-Man, and all the basic parameters of the costume are still in place.
The figure stands, not surprisingly, just slightly over 4" in height, about 4-1/8". Hasbro does seem to have largely cornered the market on this scale of action figure. Spider-Man, Avengers, Marvel Universe, G.I. Joe, Star Wars -- all pretty much fit in the same scale.
Also no great surprise as such, this Spider-Man figure does work well alongside the Avengers figures. While various legalities may prevent the characters from interacting cinematically, there's not a thing in the world to keep you from having the movie figure of Spider-Man team up with the movie figures of the Avengers. Heck, if you want, you can have them team up and battle a squadron of Cobra Troopers, but that's a whole different matter.
To describe Spider-Man's new movie costume as it appears on this figure, I think I would have to call it "near-iconic". On a scale of 1 to 10, with a "10" being a precise duplicate of Spider-Man's most familiar costume from the comic, I would give the new movie costume a 9. Maybe a 9.3.
The head is essentially identical. Spider-Man is wearing an all-covering red mask, with large, more or less oval shaped white eyes, outlined in black and slanted upward at the outer edges, to a point, with a web-like pattern sculpted into the mask.
The shoulders of the costume are red, and the red area tapers down in a narrow section on the front to slightly below the waist. The back of the costume has a large red spider on it, and the red section of the front has a somewhat smaller black spider image on it. There is a red belt on the back of the costume that tapers in to points on the sides.
The sleeves, sides, and legs of the costume are dark blue. There are very narrow red stripes that taper down the arms and legs, and a great deal of credit should be given to the sculptors and painters for duplicating this costume detail on such a small and complex figure.
Spider-Man's gloves are red, but there are lines of blue interspersed within the gloves, and the design is intricate enough that it must have driven the figure painters nuts, even through a stencil. The boots are red, with silver soles. I'm not sure what's up with that. I've never seen that on any Spider-Man before, and I have to admit, if one costume detail looks very odd, it is this.
Slightly less odd, but still rather off in my opinion, is the modification to the spider emblems on the front and back of the costume. For whatever reason, the lower-pointing four legs on each spider image have been drastically elongated, extending to the belt on the back, and to the tip of the red detail on the front. It's really quite strange, and I'm not entirely sure I much like it, but given what I've seen happen to some other super-hero costumes, in the movies and for that matter in the comics (Superman), it certainly could have been far worse.
The entire costume has a certain amount of texturing to it. I wish I knew how they did this for the action figures. It's too consistent to have been done by hand. But it is impressive. Most of the red areas of Spider-Man's costume also have additional sculpted detailing that looks like web lines.
There's almost an indication on the head that they tried to bring out the web lines by painting black paint over the head, and then wiping most of it off. However, it's so minimal, and doesn't appear anywhere else on the figure, that I almost find myself wondering if they just changed their mind at the last minute and decided not to bother. Either that, or I got a particularly lightly detailed figure in this regard, which is fine with me. Needless to say, this particular version of Spider-Man in the movie line has been extremely popular, and hard to find.
The painted detail that is present is very neatly done, and is a good enough color match so that there are some parts of this figure that I'm honestly not sure if they were molded in red or blue, or painted red or blue. That's what I call some seriously impressive color matching and effective detailing.
Naturally, Spider-Man lives up to his "super-poseable" moniker. The figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The ankles have an extra articulation joint that lets the feet rotate from side to side a bit, as well as move up and down. Most of Spider-Man's articulation points have a multiple range of motion.
Interestingly enough, the figure doesn't come with any accessories. This is certainly atypical for the line, especially of you consider some of the other entries in the Amazing Spider-Man line, such as Zip Rocket Spider-Man, Web Cannon Spider-Man, or even Reptile Blast Lizard, who all come with some sort of zip-line device, or spring-loaded, missile launching something-or-other to enhance play value.
This tells me that Super-Poseable Spider-Man, doubtless because of his structural complexity relative to other entries in the line, was probably more expensive to produce. Either that, or Hasbro realized that this particular Spider-Man would have the greatest appeal to collectors such as us, and we don't really need any missile-launching gadgetry to enjoy our action figures. For me, the lack of any sort of device is no big loss.
So, what's my final word? Although I remain a little ambivalent about rebooting the movies, although I do think that perhaps Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire had done what they could, I am impressed with this action figure. The look of the costume is certainly close enough to the iconic image of Spider-Man, it's certainly very nicely designed, well-detailed, and superbly articulated. If you're looking for a cool cinematic Spider-Man figure for your collection, perhaps a growing collection of Marvel Cinematic Universe action figures, then this is assuredly the Spidey for you, and you won't be disappointed!
The SUPER-POSEABLE SPIDER-MAN figure from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN movie line of action figures definitely has my highest recommendation.