DEC, 21010 – I know even less about Broadway than I do about comics (I’ve been an active comic reader since 2006); so when I heard about SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK, I thought I’d go see it but I’m not really the one to best critique it. Well, after reading my dear friend’s intelligent review, I don’t think I could ever shell out money for this show.
BUNCHE is well-spoken on a variety of entertainment media from comics to B-movies to porn. I actually didn’t know he had such interest in theatre until reading his S:TOTD review. I guess shouldn’t be surprised since he truly embraces all New York has to offer. From the sounds of it, director Julie Taymor is not much more than a self-important Broadway bully who shoved Stan Lee down in the playground and stole his lunch money, if his lunch allowance was $65 million.
The review at The Vault of the Buncheness does contain spoilers but I use the term loosely since it seems like there is nothing in this world that could spoil Peter Parker’s tale more than this show. With his blessing, here are some of Bunche’s excerpts but I highly encourage you to pop over to The Vault and take the five minutes to fully understand the devastation of this musical.
The most major addition to the familiar tale is Arachne, the figure from Greek mythology who lost a weaving contest to a jealous and pissed-off Athena — who, along with being the goddess of wisdom, the city, and warfare, was also the patron deity of weaving (go figure) — and, after attempting to commit suicide, was turned into the world’s first spider for her efforts and inadvertently giving us the word “arachnid” in the process. Arachne is thus rendered immortal and portrayed as an artist frustrated at being robbed of her self-slaughter by the goddess, and as the story progresses she chooses to gift Peter Parker with spider-powers. Exactly why is anyone’s guess, and the Greek mythology element was wholly unnecessary, so I chalk that one up to Julie Taymor’s directorial/auteurist masturbation, visually impressive though Arachne may be. Nonetheless, the character shows up at various intervals in the show, but more on that later.
Also of great irritation to me was the totally pointless “re-imagining” of the death of Peter’s Uncle Ben, the single most important element in galvanizing Peter into becoming a true hero who understands the maxim that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
…mediocre though it may have been, the first act was at least carefully thought out, but after that the show’s creators must have went off and downed some serious quantities of the highest grade peyote imaginable. And let me be clear: I do not mean that in a good way.
Peter eventually gets it together and recovers his suit from the office of J.Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle (as seen in the movie), but when it comes time to confront the villains, although we see an impressionistic depiction of the retrieval of the suit and Spider-Man donning it, a maskless Peter shows up to fight wearing a jacket with a big red spider emblazoned on the back and a pair of jeans. As Mary Jane dangles from one of the gargoyles on the Chrysler Building, Peter stands in front of huge projected images of his foes and strikes stylistic combat poses meant to symbolize him punching and defeating the villains, and neither actively has a final confrontation with the Green Goblin nor is seen rescuing Mary Jane. No climactic, cathartic battle, no romantic rescue of the girl he loves.
Then a huge banner with a drawing of Spider-Man drops from the rafters and obscures the stage. When that happened, Thaytia sat stunned, looked at me and observed, “Well, that certainly ended on a strange note,” to which I observed, “Nah, it’s not over yet. He’s still got to fight the Goblin and save M.J.” But I could not have been more wrong; the house lights came up, the banner was reeled in, and the cast came out and took their bows to less-than-thunderous applause. I sat there feeling like I’d been beaten about the head with a burlap sack full of quarters. This admittedly visually spectacular triumph of stagecraft did not have an ending.
From the sounds of it, S:TOTD is not even as entertaining as it could be if Craig Mazin (director of Superhero Movie) was given $65mm and a stage to launch an intentional spoof of the comic book medium.