'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark': What the Critics Say

10:04 PM PST 06/14/2011 by THR staff
Jacob Cohl

THR's David Rooney describes the revamped show as "terminally clunky" and the music "mediocre," while the New York Times' Ben Brantley calls it a "bore."

After months of technical glitches, cast injuries and opening-night delays, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark finally opened on Broadway on Tuesday night.

The reviews are now in, and for the most part, they're not good.

Of the show, which underwent several changes since critics' scathing first reviews went out in February, The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney writes: " When a show is as misconceived as Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, it’s more realistic to expect cosmetic improvements than miracles. That’s exactly what the new creative team has accomplished in this significantly overhauled but still terminally clunky reworking of the troubled mega-musical, now officially open after a record 183 previews."

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He adds that the show "still lacks a unifying look and tone" and that the score by U2's Bono and the Edge, is "mediocre" and "makes this third-rate entertainment." He also argues that the production shouldn't even be a musical.

"As Peter’s adolescent identity issues develop into the dilemma of the reluctant superhero, wrestling with responsibilities and sacrifices dictated by powers he never wanted, this retelling of familiar material all feels drearily pro forma," Rooney writes. "There’s nothing that comes close to the complexity or suspense of either the original comics or the popular Sam Raimi movies. So there’s no compelling reason for Spider-Man to be a musical."

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New York Times critic Ben Brantley also remains unimpressed.

"This singing comic book is no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It’s just a bore," he writes.

He adds: "Spider-Man now bears only a scant resemblance to the muddled fever dream that was. It is instead not unlike one of those perky, tongue-in-cheek genre-spoof musicals (Dames at Sea, Little Shop of Horrors) that used to sprout like mushrooms in Greenwich Village, with witty cutout scenery and dialogue bristling with arch quotation marks."

Still, he says the story line is much easier to follow, he might consider taking a 10-year-old if he had "several hundred dollars to throw away."

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New York Magazine's Scott Brown also didn't have much good to write about the musical.

"I'm sorry to report that the eight-legged, nine-lived megalomusical -- which finally opened tonight, in its newly tamed, scared-straight and heavily Zolofted post-[Julie] Taymor state -- has deteriorated from mindblowingly misbegotten carnival-of-the-damned to merely embarrassing dud," he writes. "Awash in a garbage-gyre of expository dialogue pumped in by script doctor/comic-book vet Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, its lavish stage pictures turned to colloidal mush by director Philip William McKinley and choreographer Chase Brock, Spidey 2.0 is indeed leaner and more linear, and its story has been brutally clarified: It's now all too clear how very, very little was there in the first place."

RELATED: Steve Lillywhite on the Music of 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' (Exclusive)

IndieWire's Caryn James is even more blunt: " Act I sucks. Really, really bad. Act II sucks less."

She writes that several of the songs are "tiresome," the show features a "head-spinning, inexplicable mix of time frames" and villain the Green Goblin "livens things up but makes no sense at all."

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Inquirer's Howard Shapiro is a fan of the revamped production saying it's been greatly improved.

"The new Spider-Man is all for fun, a live-on-stage comic book, pure and simple -- precisely what the last version wasn't, and what its team, on hiatus for several weeks of rewrites and rehearsals, reimagined," he writes. "It will by no means assume a spot in the pantheon of great Broadway musicals, but it's now far more than a tortured curiosity. It has humor and winks gamely at itself. It has flight sequences that make sense, are not repetitively tiresome and, most of all, work technically."

RELATED:  'Spider-Man' Owes Julie Taymor $300,000, Union Says

USA Today's Elysa Gardner writes that some of the changes improved the show, while others didn’t. She writes that the revamped version is "more of an overt crowd-pleaser," with spider-woman Arache now "simpler, sweeter" but that new "hokey jokes" have been added to lighten the tone.

"The new Spider-Man is cuter and more cautious than its predecessor, more in line with the winking musical adaptations of famous films and brands that have lined the theater district in recent years," Gardner writes. "Clearly, producers heeded the critics and fans who hoped to see the title character represented more as he'd been in comic books and movies."

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