Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Web of confusion


It looks like the major critics have abandoned waiting for “opening night” — whenever that will be — of  the musical “Spider-man:  Turn Off the Dark,” and are now running reviews. Their calculation, no doubt, is this:  The show is doing major box-office business, it’s big talk in theatre circles, and it’s essentially being reviewed daily on the internet by people who’ve seen it. So yet again, old media and its old way of doing business is responding too slowly to new dynamics.

So the “professional” reviews are in, and they are punishing.  The LA Times’ Charles McNulty calls it “a teetering colossus,”  a “frenetic Broadway jumble,”and “an artistic form of megalomania.” In his review for the New York Times, Ben Brantley shares his paper’s decision making process in going ahead with a review, before swooping in for the first strike:

But since this show was looking as if it might settle into being an unending work in progress — with Ms. Taymor playing Michelangelo to her notion of a Sistine Chapel on Broadway — my editors and I decided I might as well check out “Spider-Man” around Monday, the night it was supposed to have opened before its latest postponement. You are of course entitled to disagree with our decision. But from what I saw on Saturday night, “Spider-Man” is so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair.

Of the many effects in the show, he adds:  “But they never connect into a comprehensible story with any momentum. Often you feel as if you were watching the installation of Christmas windows at a fancy department store.”

To me, two things are worth noting from these reviews:

  1. What he and McNulty are describing is spectacle. Whether or not one subscribes to Aristotle, it’s good to bear in mind that he ranked spectacle low on the level of artistic achievement. Story is important for a reason. Even the elementally simple “Waiting for Godot” has  a story — and a good one. And I can personally testify that Spider-Man has featured prominently in any number of good stories for the past 50 years.
  2. The character on the right in the photo above is Hammerhead. Hammerhead is bar none the lamest Spider-Man villain, even lamer than Stiltman (who, really, is a Daredevil villain). Stiltman is just a guy on, well, stilts. Hammerhead is just a guy with a steel plate in his head. I once met a guy with a steel plate in his head; it didn’t give him superhuman abilities, it just protected what was left of his brain. He was almost as dumb as Hammerhead. I didn’t realize that Hammerhead was in the Spider-Man musical; seeing him there alerts me to just how misbegotten this show must be, and makes me wonder how much better the show might have been had they hired any one of the writers who’ve written all those solid comic-book stories to at least consult on this.

One Response to “Web of confusion”

  1. leewochner.com » Blog Archive » Web of confusion, part three. Says:

    […] A week and a half ago, I proposed that the Spider-Man musical might have been better if they’d had an actual Spider-Man writer involved.  Sounds like the producers have now gotten one of those involved — and, importantly, it’s one who is also a playwright. […]

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