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DVD Review - Spider-Man: The Venom Saga

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Description: When an alien element falls into the wrong hands, a lethal new criminal is unleashed. Experience all the high-flying animated action and spine-tingling excitement of this spectacular clash.

Release Information:
Format: DVD
Street Date: 6/7/05
Packaging Type: Amaray
Media Quantity: 1
Run Time: 95 Minutes
Episodes:
-The Alien Costume, Part 1
-The Alien Costume, Part 2
-The Alien Costume, Part 3
-Venom Returns
-Carnage


Reviews By Stu and Jim Harvey
Scans By Stu


Review By Stu

Note: Stu's review is the Region 2 DVD.

Ever since Disney announced that Spider-Man: The Animated Series was to be released in randomly selected single disc volumes instead of a box set we all know it deserves, this is one of, if not the most requested releases from the show.

Since the entire appropriate movie tie in discs had episodes from the third season of the show, many were dishearten to learn that Disney would be skipping "Venom Returns" and "Carnage" out, as they were some of the most popular episodes from that season, if not the entire season. Luckily, as Disney already released there Doc Ock tie-in DVD for Spider-Man 2, this left another disc available for the movie's DVD release. Disappointingly, we still donít have a box set, or even a single disc release in the correct order of the show, but they did us something of a favour by finally putting the Venom episodes on DVD, both the previously missed episodes, and the original critically acclaimed Alien Costume episodes.

Often considered the highlight of the show, the first 3-part story deals with Spider-Man, now framed for robbing John Jameson's shuttle of a priceless new alloy from space and his strange new costume, which amplifies all of his powers but also brings out his darker, more aggressive side. Once he rejects the symbiote, it bonds with Peter's rival at The Bugle, Eddie Brock, who now has all of Spider-Man's powers, memories and a passionate hatred to go with it. While the conclusion to this story isn't as good as it's set up, it's still a damn fine story, with outstanding storyboarding, animation and a brilliant script.

Its follow up isn't quite as good, but still an entertaining story all the same. It suffers for having one or two characters few many, should as the relatively unneeded Mordo and Dormammu, but still, it looks pretty, which was quite rare at the time.

Features wise, it's unfortunately lighter than Disney's other discs. Whether or not it's because it (was) a region 2 exclusive is unknown, but the main 'problem' is relatively simple. Most of the features focus on Stan Lee, who appears to know very little about the two main characters of the disc, Venom and Carnage. Stan was fine for Ock, Green Goblin and Daredevil, as he created them all, but here, he really does seem to struggle to talk about the characters. Heaven forbid they get David Michellin or hell, even John Semper to talk about the show.

Transfer and audio wise, the disc is fine. No bleeding colours, black are solid, and overall it's pretty grain/dirt free. It's nothing outstanding, but I have no complaints. The animation does look greaT on DVD though.

However, the discs main fault is no fault of it's own. It's a simple matter of fact this show needs season sets. Badly. The way the stories are told, how the characters develop and grow and to allow the story to make complete sense is simply too difficult to do without them. The show deserves them. Overall, it's a thoroughly entertaining disc, and I have no regrets about my purchase. However, as with all Spider-Man: The Animated Series discs, I'm disappointed to see we're no closer to getting the show released, as we want it.




Review By Jim Harvey

Note: The disc reviewed here is a Region 1 DVD release, and contains additional features not included on the Region 2 release reviewed above.

Spider-Man faces off against his alien symbiote nemesis in Spider-Man: The Venom Saga, the newest DVD compilation release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Collecting five episodes spotlighting the nefarious Venom, this is easily the strongest Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD release to date, even if it does fall a little short in the extras department.

Often considered the highlight of the series, the disc kicks off with the three part "The Alien Costume," the storyline that introduces the infamous black costume into the animated series for the first time. Thankfully, the cartoon keeps the convoluted "Secret Wars" backstory from the comics out of the picture, instead bringing their own interpretation to the small screen. The alien costume is now a black alien ooze discovered on the moon during a routine science expedition, and it causes the inevitable crash into the George Washington Bridge during the space shuttle's chaotic return to earth.

Spider-Man gets involved and, of course, manages to get the goo on his costume. After a spectacular nightmare sequence, we discover the alien goo has taken hold, covering him in a new, symbiotic black costume. As we all know, there's more to this costume than meets the eye. Eventually Spider-Man rebels against the costume, and seperates from it. After finally finding a very willing host who shares his hatred for Spider-Man, the symbiotic black costume is reborn as "Venom," a dangerous foe for the arachnid hero.

This leads to the inevitable showdown and an apparent victory for Spider-Man. The third act is a bit of a disappointment in terms of storytelling and animation, but the story remains pretty enjoyable.

The disc also features the two-part follow up storyline, "Venom Returns/Carnage," which brings back the famed villain and introduces his red-tinted offspring Carnage. The follow-up suffers from too many extra characters and an unnecessarily complicated explanation for Venom's return. Still, it's enjoyable to see Spider-Man go toe to toe with Venom and Carnage, regardless of the compromises made to get these two violent killer aliens onto a TV-G Saturday morning show.

The audio and visual on this DVD is on par with previous Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD releases. There's very little grain and the interlacing and pixelation are very minimal; both are hardly noticeable and not at all distracting. The audio is solid, with the episodes sounding clear and precise.

Like the Spider-Man: The Animated Series discs before it, Venom Saga gets a fair amount of extras, though the focus is often disappointing. Stan Lee appears in the majority of the extra features, discussing the appeal of Venom, a character he didn't create. He also talks about the influence of Spider-Man, but it all feels extremely familiar.

It was great to see the DVD include an extra featuring Venom's actual creator, David Michelinie. He provides a plethora of information on Venom, such as his powers and origins, but never appears on screen, making for a fun, if brief, featurette.

The DVD also contains a hefty amount of television spots, trailers, and commercials for a wide assortment of Disney productions.

Once again, the DVDs leave out anyone involved in the animated series. In previous interviews for Marvel Animation Age, both Stan Berkowitz and John Semper, writers who worked on these episodes, discussed the interesting ordeal in bringing these popular characters to animated life, and that's all information that should be on this DVD. Considering the complications in bringing Venom and Carnage to the animated series, it would have been great to hear the thoughts from creators who worked on the cartoon and these episodes in particular.

Overall, it's the best Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD release to date, even if the selection of extras is frustrating. However, given the complicated, season-length storylines featured in the series, single disc releases aren't going to be acceptable much longer. Buena Vista will need to start releasing this show in multi-disc collectionss soon to keep fans pleased. That said, Spider-Man: The Venom Saga should be a thoroughly entertaining release for fans of the web-slinger and the savage symbiotes.