Josh Wilding Reviews: SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK
That's right, I travelled all the way to New York to see it so that you don't have to! However, is Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark really as bad as we've all so often heard and assumed? Well, hit the jump to read my in-depth verdict!
Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark was a disaster from the start, but here we are three years later and it finally seems to all be up and running without a hitch on Broadway. However, while there may no longer be any technical issues or nasty injuries to speak of, it is still a complete and utter mess. Despite hiring comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to help improve the musical, it's impossible to escape the fact that this was clearly put together by someone who knows absolutely nothing about the comic books that the Marvel character was created in and simply wanted to tell a love story which we've seen countless times in the past. Anything and everything Spider-Man related is lazily just copied and pasted - and not very successfully - from the first two Sam Raimi movies.
Perhaps the biggest change is the nonsensical inclusion of Arachne; I'm not sure what she's supposed to signify, but there's absolutely no reason for her presence in this musical other than to warble the equally baffling titular song. Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark also offers up a very different take on Norman Osborn, which DOES work in some ways, but ultimately leaves us with a silly pantomime villain whose motivations are as ridiculous as the Sinister Six he creates. While his creating them does help remove the need for any complicated backstories, they have zero personality and are simply dispatched by Spidey with a bit of webbing. I know this is a musical, but it far too often stretches believability and that ultimately cheapens the impact of almost the entire thing.
The first act of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is actually quite good, and although it seems to promise an action-packed second half, that ends up mostly consisting of just a bunch of repetitive songs that all sound the same. There are still a fair few catchy ones to be fair ("Bouncing off the Walls", "Pull The Trigger" and "A Freak Like Me Needs Company" for example) and the cast clearly have a lot of fun. At my performance, Jamison Scott was standing in for Reeve Carney and he made for a great Peter Parker. Robert Cuccioli was also fantastic as (a Southern!) Norman Osborn, while Rebecca Faulkenberry delivered a suitably spunky and convincing take on Mary Jane Watson. Vocally, this trio took on the majority of songs and were all very good.
Perhaps the biggest draw of this musical is the fact that Spidey actually swings across the stage and audience. There's nowhere near enough of these moments, but when they do come, they're brilliantly handled and great fun for the audience (it's particularly cool to see one of the stuntmen dressed in the costume high fiving and fist bumping the kids in the front row of the upper tier before taking off). However, some clever choreography, a handful of catchy songs and some pretty costumes and sets can't help Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark when the story is such a mess. There's simply not enough Spider-Man and recycling a clichéd love story as well as ripping off far too many elements from the movies just end up making it feel utterly boring in places. Oh, and we get it already - enough with the U2 jokes!
It should hardly come as a surprise to learn that Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is yet another botched retelling of the origin story of this beloved character and a thoroughly underwhelming example of a musical.
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