Warning: Article contains minor spoilers about The Amazing Spider-Man 2
When I was a kid, the 90s Spider-Man: The Animated Series (TAS) played an incredibly important role in my developing love for superheroes. It was my first introduction to the world of Spider-Man and, like many of my generation, I instantly fell for the cartoon incarnation of the wallcrawler. Even more than the web-sliniging action and cleverly arced storylines, my favourite thing about the show, then and now, was the light, jocular tone. Here was a hero who took to crime fighting like it was a game, taunting his opponents and making wisecracks like it was pickup basketball. A stark contrast to his cartoon cousin in Batman TAS. So, when I saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had used Spider-Man TAS as their source material.
Right from the start, we’re plunged into a riotously colourful Manhattan, with Aleksei Sytsevich tearing through the streets in a stolen van full of plutonium, shouting his own name as Spider-Man juggles the radioactive vials in the back. Paul Giamatti steals the spotlight and hams up his performance so much that I thought he was going to be playing the Hog at the end instead of the Rhino. Everything about this scene made me feel like it was Saturday morning and I should have a bowl of soggy, sugary cereal to munch on instead of a bag of popcorn.
The movie moves on from there at a pace only a jittery five-year-old could follow, with Peter going from making out with Gwen to deciding to break up with her in less time than it takes to change out of his Spidey costume. It’s exactly this kind of quick, unmotivated writing that kids and adults still love in the cartoon.
Electro’s origin is equally cartoony: his back and forth with Smythe (and imaginary Spider-Man), his fall into the eel tank, his “rebirth” in the morgue. It all had that same light-hearted tone, like it was a big joke, and Max repeatedly reminding us that it’s his birthday was the punchline.
Andrew Garfield‘s take on Peter Parker also screams TAS. From the very first time we saw him in full Spider-Man garb in the first film (leaping at a car thief with his memorable battle cry “Crotch!”), it’s been clear that this Spider-Man was going to deal with the stress of life-or-death situations with a very healthy helping of humour. This is just as true in the new film, with Spidey crackin’ wise every chance he gets. His banter with Electro becomes increasingly ridiculous, and he’s even taking pot shots at Green Goblin as Gwen Stacey falls to her death. This is the same attitude we see in TAS‘ Spider-Man, who jabs at his villains with quips instead of punches.*
*The censors at Fox forbade Spider-Man from punching anyone on TAS, it being a kids show and all.
Ultimately, the film wraps back around to pit Spider-Man against the newly minted Hog – I mean Rhino – and it reaches the pinnacle of cartoonishness. Alexei’s boasts are even more ludicrous than before, and the fact that his suit looks like something you’d find in Tony Stark’s scrap heap just adds to the outrageousness.
Now, for some, the fact that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 took so many cues from the animated series made it less enjoyable and harder to take seriously coughWILLcough. But for me, it was just what I wanted: a Spider-Man film that fully embraced it’s cartoon origins and ran with it like a rampaging Rhino.
Did you think the cartoon roots of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made the film more enjoyable or worse than Electro’s dub step? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!