Critics have finally weighed in on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the disaster-prone $65 million superhero musical — and the results aren't pretty. The New York Times' esteemed reviewer Ben Brantley was just one of many critics to give Julie Taymor's show an emphatic thumbs down. Only Glenn Beck has offered an unqualified good review. Theater critics ordinarily don't review a show until opening night — but decided to contravene their own rule in dismay at the show's seemingly endless run of preview performances (It officially opens on March 15). Here's what they had to say:
Broadway theater doesn't get much worse than this: "Spider-Man is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway," says Brantley in The New York Times. "It may also rank among the worst." The sets are "flat and cardboardish," the masks "grotesque," and U2's songs reminiscent of a "persistent headache." Forget waiting until opening night. This show is already so "grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair."
"Good vs evil, hanging by a thread"
What happened to the story? Spider-Man's producers have emphasized their extraordinary new special effects, says Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. But, "to revise a handy little political catch phrase, 'It's the storytelling, stupid.'" Taymor's book is an "absolute farrago," an incoherent hodgepodge of narrative lines, layers, and subplots. You'll leave the theater feeling as if you've been "lured inside someone's psychotic hallucination."
"Theater review: Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark"
It's dreadful, but entertaining: Yes, the plot "defies understanding," says Scott Brown in New York. Yes, "U2's textural atmo-rock score" seems out of place. But even in the depths of its "certifiably insane" second act, I was "riveted." Call it "underbaked, terrifying, confusing, [or] distracted" if you like, but Spider-Man is "never, ever boring." As far as campish spectacle goes, Spider-Man "succeeds thunderously."
"Stage dive: Scott Brown sees Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark"
This critical pile-on is unseemly: Talk about "bad buzz," says Mark Blankenship at NPR. Critics were already angry at Spider-Man for pushing back its opening night even as producers have sold tickets hand over fist. Now, they've chosen to vent their frustrations in a "shrill and vicious harange." Am I the only one to find "something unseemly about the frenzy?" As cultural consumers who hunger for excess, we are "partly complicit in all this uproar." Let's quit the rubbernecking and move on.
"Spider-Man The Spectacle: Can we move beyond rubbernecking at a calamity?"