“Spider-Man” Fails to Wow B'Way Critics

After 180-odd previews, the real deal fails to thrill

By Beth Stebner
|  Wednesday, Jun 15, 2011  |  Updated 11:17 AM EDT
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After years of preparation, millions of dollars and biting reviews, opening night finally arrives for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

Katy Tur

After years of preparation, millions of dollars and biting reviews, opening night finally arrives for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

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Several injuries, dozens of rewrites and 183 previews later and “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” became the most expensive Broadway show in history, to less-than-super reviews.

The lovechild of Bono and The Edge—costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million—has been the butt of many jokes, most recently Neil Patrick Harris’ punch line at the Tonys. (“Spider-Man: The only show that warns you about strobe-light and falling actors.”)

If the critics have any say, the show--which had received a complete overhaul since its February previews—isn’t a disaster so much as it’s just boring.

Critics agreed the newly refurbished production was at least less like the “Hindenburg burn and crash” they saw a few months ago.

New York Times critic Ben Brantley asked the key question: "is this ascent from jaw-dropping badness to mere mediocrity a step upward?" He then answered it: "I would recommend 'Spider-Man' only to carrion-feasting theater vultures." 

Brantley went on to admit that, sure, Spider-Man and the rest of the cast still soar out above the audience, but things like plot and dialogue are clunky at best and get lost in the spectacle.

Even those critics who didn't have their knives out the first time around - like Time magazine's Richard Zoglin, who says "'Spider-Man' was never quite the disaster the early reviews a little too gleefully suggested" - admit that the new incarnation suffers from dull stretches and too much obvious time-filler.

New York Magazine critic Scott Brown sums it up like this: “Spider-Man is like that good-and-crazy friend with a highly entertaining substance-abuse problem, the one who went off and got clean, and came back a different and diminished person. With his manias and overmuchness, you realized, after he returned, how very little you ever had to offer one another.”

Selected ReadingNYT, Vulture, Time

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