Maybe they should retitle it Spider-Man: Ignore the Bad Reviews.
As if things couldn't get any worse for Peter Parker & Co., a group of major newspapers and online outlets have gone ahead and run reviews of Julie Taymor's Broadway fiasco otherwise known as Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark ahead of its oft-delayed, official opening. Despite early raves from the likes of Glenn Beck and Oprah Winfrey, the critics are using words like "webslinging folly," "silly," "atrocious," "just unbelievably bad" and "high-flying flop" to describe this juggernaut.
Tell us what you really think. So here's a roundup:
• "Julie Taymor does herself no favors by including a program note about a mythological creature brought down by hubris. In an ungainly mess of a show that smacks of out-of-control auteurial arrogance, the parallel speaks for itself," writes the Hollywood Reporter. which also called Spider-Man "chaotic, dull and a little silly" and "an artistic form of megalomania."
• "The sheer ineptitude of this show...loses its shock value early. After 15 or 20 minutes, the central question you keep asking yourself is likely to change from 'How can $65 million look so cheap?' to 'How long before I'm out of here?'" laments Ben Brantley of the New York Times, adding that Spidey "is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst."
• "If watching actors in latex land in the mezzanine is your idea of an evening well spent, Spider-Man won't seem a gargantuan waste. Musical lovers, however, might wish the whole unsalvageable thing would just take a flying leap," blasts the Washington Post.
• "A breathtakingly beautiful scene is followed by a laughable one. The flying sequences can be thrilling, as when Spider-Man first takes off over the orchestra; other times, they look barely good enough for Six Flags, the harnesses making the movements clunky," opines the New York Post, though the paper does praise the show's stars Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano and gives props to the music in several numbers.
• Not everybody likes the tunes. Writes a scathing Newsday: "More dispiriting is the music...[Bono and the Edge] transformed their sound into stock Broadway schlock pop—sentimental wailing from the early Andrew Lloyd Webber playbook, winceable lyrics and the kind of thumpa-thumpa music that passes for suspense in action flicks."
• "Weaknesses lie with the book, music and lyrics, a kiss of death for most musicals; Taymor and her producers seem to think this a minor flaw, and initial box office returns suggest they might be right," offers Variety.
• "To revise a handy little political catch phrase, 'It's the storytelling, stupid.' And on that front, the failure rests squarely on Taymor's run-amok direction," bemoans the Los Angeles Times, which, while calling the aerial acrobatics "impressive," adds, "Incoherence isn't much fun to sit through."
The heavily hyped $65 million musical has been riddled with production delays, major tinkering by Taymor and U2's Bono and the Edge, who penned the rock-themed music and lyrics, and most publicized of all, accidents that landed one Spidey stuntman in the hospital and caused the premature departure of a key castmember who sustained a concussion.
But through it all, producers kept insisting that because the show, which debuted at the Foxwood Theaters last November, was designed specifically for that venue, a very long preview process was necessary so its creators could make whatever story, stunt or design adjustments were necessary. They also demanded that critics wait until the tuner was "frozen" before reviewing it, all the while pushing back its premiere date five times.
That miffed theater critics who were not only incensed by the record-breaking length of previews and the massive marketing blitz behind it, but the fact that producers were charging top dollar for tickets and refusing to grant refunds or exchanges as is common practice during the preview period. Then there were the headline-grabbing injuries and the feeling that Taymor and her team were attempting to snooker critics: By continuously postponing the official premiere and stringing reviews out over a few months, Spider-Man could potentially avoid an avalanche of negative notices and minimize their impact on ticket sales.
On that last point, they may have succeeded: Spider-Man has been one of the best-selling performers along the Great White Way, raking in more than $12.5 million so far during previews alone and, with the occasional exception of Wicked, repeatedly topping weekly receipts.
But that didn't stop the critics from offering their own spin, ostensibly breaking the age-old tradition of waiting until opening night (originally scheduled for Dec. 21) to review this
turkey Spider on what would've been its fourth official premiere date of Feb. 7.
The curtain on this "work-in-progress" will officially rise now on March 15.