The Chinese Web (1979)

THE CHINESE WEB (1979)
aka SPIDER-MAN: THE DRAGON’S CHALLENGE
Article 1999 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-4-2006
Posting Date: 2-1-2007
Directed by Don McDougall
Featuring Nicholas Hammond, Robert F.Simon, Rosalind Chao

When a Chinese politician finds himself under suspicion of murder and selling military secrets, he comes to the United States in the hope of locating the men who can clear his name. He appeals to J. Jonah Jameson for help, who puts Peter Parker on the case. However, an industrialist, who will lose a billion-dollar contract if the politician remains alive, decides to have the politician killed, and it is up to Spider-Man to protect him.

This movie is two episodes of the the 1978 “Spider-Man” series edited together to make a feature, and since the two episodes are part of the same story, it comes across better than those attempts where they try to edit together episodes that have nothing to do with each other. I’m not really a big fan of the live-action superhero TV series of the seventies; it always struck me that the limitations of the medium required some heavy compromise; the heroes themselves had their powers curtailed, and were usually given only ordinary villains to contend with rather than the super-villains you would find in the comics. Apparently, both “Wonder Woman” and “The Incredible Hulk” were successful enough to overcome this; in fact, I’d go so far to say that the TV version of the Hulk is more well-known and widely accepted than the comic book version. This series was not the success of those others.

In terms of the compromises the series made with the comic version, the biggest problem I have is the conversion of the cantankerous, bad-tempered and near-villainous character of J. Jonah Jameson into a nice older guy who has no problem with Spider-Man at all; this takes all the flavor out of his character. As for the whole “movie” itself, the writing is pretty weak, the action is tepid, and the acting is uneven. Though Spider-Man still has is Spidey sense intact, having him show it by freeze-framing him and having his eyes flash is pretty weak, and his ability to react with a faster reaction time is not in evidence; he is shot twice here. Though he still has most of his powers, he doesn’t use them near as often as the situations warrant. The first half of the movie works best, but by the time the action moves to Hong Kong in the second half, it becomes rather repetitive and dull.

 

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