Thursday, December 31, 2015

Spectacular Spider-Man: "Shear Strength"

Premiered October 27, 2009.
Note:We recently reviewed "Reinforcement," the Christmas episode of this series.  The episode reviewed here is the follow-up to "Reinforcement."  This review contains more SPOILERS than usual.  I strongly recommend you watch "Reinforcement" before checking out this New Year's Eve episode.

It's New Year's Eve in the Big Apple.

The super-villains known as Electro (Crispin Freeman) and Vulture (Robert Englund) escaped police custody after Spider-Man (Josh Keaton) defeated them on Christmas Eve.  They are brought by the Tinkerer (Thom Adcox-Hernandez) to a lab where they will meet their mysterious new boss who calls himself the Master Planner.  The criminals are surprised to learn that the Planner is none other than Doctor Octopus (Peter MacNicol)!

With the help of the Tinkerer, Doc Ock has wired his brain to every computer in New York.
He uses this new power to create chaos in the city.  This makes traffic lights malfunction and creates  accidents.  Doctor Octopus also taps into the NYPD's communications and sends the police on wild goose chases all over town.

At the same time, Peter Parker is hanging out with his friends Gwen Stacy (Lacey Chabert) and Mary Jane Watson (Vanessa Marshall) at a Manhattan coffee shop.  Mary Jane, wanting to play match-maker for her friends, tries to get Gwen and Peter to join her in attending the New Year celebration in Times Square.  But Gwen is still not sure Peter is truly interested in her.  MJ informs Gwen that she's all he ever talks about.

Plans change when Gwen is zapped by Electro...

...and taken away by the Vulture to the Doc Ock's hideout.

Ock, using his "Master Planner" identity, contacts Gwen's father, New York police Captain George Stacy (Clancy Brown).  The villain tells Stacy that if he wants to see Gwen alive, he has to give Doctor Octopus Homeland Security codes that will give access to every computer in the country. Stacy reluctantly says he will comply with Doc Ock's demands.

Captain Stacy is forced to give in to Doc Ock's demands.
Peter is furious over this and puts on his Spider-Man suit to rescue Gwen.  Spidey catches Tinkerer, who tells him Gwen is being held in Doc Ock's underwater headquarters.

Spidey shakes down the Tinkerer for information.
Spidey finds Gwen, but if he wants to rescue her, he'll have to go through Doctor Octopus.

Their battle destroys Doc Ock's headquarters and Spidey ends up buried under tons of machinery.

Will Capt. Stacy give Master Planner the codes?  Will Doc Ock honor their agreement and release Gwen?  If not, can Spider-Man rescue Gwen?  Will Peter and Gwen share a New Year's kiss at midnight?

J.A. Morris says:

The holiday spirit isn't as strong in "Shear Strength" as it was in the previous episode, but it's adorned with some holiday trappings. Mary Jane says she'll be attending the Times Square's New Year celebration at the beginning, and it ends with characters watching the ball drop on TV.

Peter's Aunt May (Deborah Strang) counts down the last ten seconds before the New Year and two characters share a kiss (I won't say which characters) at midnight.  "Auld Lang Syne" is played over the closing credits instead of the usual theme music.  And Aunt May's house still has some Christmas decorations on the wall, so it still feels like the Holiday season.

The plot of "Shear Strength" is a loose adaptation of one of Spider-Man's greatest stories that was originally published in 1965.  So old school fans of the webhead will appreciate this episode.  We get lots of great fight scenes, plus some dramatic developments in Peter Parker's personal life.   I hated to reveal the true identity of the Master Planner, but Doctor Octopus reveals himself about two seconds into "Shear Strength." 

While Gwen's life and the fate of the world are at stake, there's also plenty of humor in "Shear Strength."  For example, check out Doc Ock's "Evil Genius" coffee mug!:

The voice cast of Spectacular Spider-Man was always good and this episode is no exception.  Josh Keaton was always great delivering Spidey's trademark sarcasm.  This episode he switches back and forth between smart alec and deadly serious, since Gwen's is endangered by his enemies.  Peter MacNicol (an actor best known for roles in Ally McBeal and Ghostbusters II) is also outstanding as Doctor Octopus.  MacNicol's Doc Ock is no cackling madman, he's a cold, calculating, brilliant criminal tactician.  

Doctor Octopus pins Spidey to the wall!
This is a good episode, but it works better if you think of it as a follow-up to "Reinforcement." Maybe watching both episodes back-to-back is the best way to enjoy them.

"Shear Strength" has been released several times on home video.  It's available on The Spectacular Spider-Man:The Complete Series blu ray set.  You can also find it on a standalone dvd called The Spectacular Spider-Man:Volume Five.

This is how the Times Square New Year's Eve celebration is depicted in this episode, Peter & Aunt May watch it on TV.
This is a good episode, but it works better if you think of it as a follow-up to "Reinforcement." Maybe watching both episodes back-to-back is the best way to enjoy them.

Peter gets a surprise midnight visitor on New Year's Eve.
Just like New Year's Eve is the less festive sister holiday to Christmas, "Shear Strength" is solid, but slightly less enjoyable than Spidey's Yultide outing.  

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 champagne flutes.

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