You will believe a man can swing…
…but will you enjoy anything else?
Lets start off with the positives. Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark (aka The Spider-Man musical by Lion King director Julie Taymor) is far from terrible. The swinging and acrobatics are pretty incredible. The costumes for the most part are great too. At it’s best, it truly is an amazing spectacle worthy of the Spider-Man title.
Unfortunately, it’s a musical, and the music is one of the biggest letdowns. Written by Bono and the Edge of U2 fame, the music is a mixed bag. The heroic theme music is perfect, and really gets the heart racing. Peter Parkers big solo is great too (even though he sounds a lot like Bono), but it’s mostly downhill from here. It all sounds kind of the same, and nothing really stands out. If you just heard it playing I doubt you would pay anymore attention to it than some generic rock you might hear on the radio.
The story is also a mixed bag, and with the 50 or so years worth of story to draw from, I think they could do much better than this. At its core, it’s a highly simplified version of the first movie. This wouldn’t be so bad actually, except some of the changes really boggle the mind.
Early in the story, Peters Uncle Ben is killed by a burglar, the same burglar he failed to stopped only hours earlier. At this point he vows to stop crime as Spider-Man. Well, that’s what happened in every other version of Spider-Man right, but it’s not what happens here! Ben is still killed by a burglar, but it’s just some random guy we have never seen before. Parker says, “I should have been here to protect him,” and this leads to him fighting crime as Spider-Man. That doesn’t make any sense! His Uncle died because he wasn’t there, so his answer is to leave his remaining family and fight crime every night. Surely he should just stay home and protect them. This is the beginning of a lot of changes that just don’t make sense, and negatively affect the plot.
Finally, we come to the villains. Some, like the Green Goblin, are great, (though the actor is far less convincing as Osborn). Some are good (Carnage looks great, but Venom’s nowhere to be seen). But some look like Julie Taymor sicked up in a paper bag and threw it at the stage. Kraven is essentially a man in the comics, here he is a massive puppet with a mutant lion growing out his chest (interestingly I can’t find a picture of this anywhere), and Electro seems to have been turned into a weird welder guy (no pictures of him either, I’m noticing a theme here). But these are far from the worst, hell even the character Swiss Miss, who they invented for the show, is pretty cool looking. But the Lizard is just appalling (once again no pics available). It looks like they hired Rex from Toy Story.
Then check out this guy…
Oh my god he is terrible looking. He’s a swarm of bees (apparently anyway) called Swarm. They had their pick of all Spidey’s villains and they chose him? First of all, I consider myself a big Spider-Man fan, and I barely know who he is, and two, how do you make a bee man look good on stage? I’ll give you a hint, nothing like this! Why not choose characters who are popular, and would transfer well to stage, Dr Octopus perhaps? Doesn’t really matter though, apart from Goblin these guys are barely in it.
I could probably continue my rant for ever, go on about the mixed up story, obsolete characters (what is the point of Arachne?), mediocre music, and the fact Uncle Ben didn’t say his famous line. At the end of the day though, I had a great time. Seeing Spider-Man swinging into the audience, and spraying webs in real life made my day. And by the excited buzz from the audience at the end, I think a lot of people agreed. If you’re a musical snob you won’t like this (my wife certainly didn’t), but it’s not made for you anyway. If you’re a casual fan or have kids, you’ll have a great time. And, if you’re a big Spidey fan like me, ignore the story and singing and just enjoy him swinging around.