Somewhere around mid-December, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," the $65 million Broadway production featuring music by U2's Bono and the Edge, almost began taking on the characteristics of the show's protagonist Peter Parker. Like Parker, who experienced bruises, concussions, and hard falls as he acclimated to his nascent super power, the musical had to endure its own much-publicized growing pains. Like Spider-Man, the show was ostracized thanks to its ballooning production cost, constant postponements, confusing plot, revolving door of actors, tabloid headlines and every else that could possibly go wrong when premiering a Broadway musical.
We were kind of expecting that by opening day the musical would overcome, rise above the hardships, and emerge as a superhero among the other shows on Broadway -- like Spider-Man. But the first reviews for "Turn Off the Dark" are out in some major publications, and they are not good. In fact, they are epically bad -- like a Spider-Man villain.
Let's put it this way: When one of the show's infamous and unplanned technical gaffes is recognized as the highlight of the night for both the crowd and the critic, that doesn't bode well for the rest of the production. But for the New York Times, witnessing one of the show's now-legendary "mechanical difficulties" after months of reading about them in the press was better than the musical as a whole. The New York Times says "Turn Off the Dark" is "not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst." Ouch.
"'Spider-Man' is so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair," writes critic Ben Brantley. But what about U2's score, the main attraction for music fans? "The songs by Bono and the Edge are rarely allowed to take full, attention-capturing form. Mostly they blur into a sustained electronic twang of varying volume, increasing and decreasing in intensity, like a persistent headache," Brantley adds.
One could argue that this is just one critic's opinion, but it really isn't. This compilation of 11 reviews of "Turn Off the Dark" reads like an Ivy League-educated episode of "Yo Momma," with each critic attempting to come up with a cleverer way to verbally eviscerate "Spider-Man." "After all this expenditure of talent and money, 'Spider-Man' is probably unfixable because too much has gone into making humans fly, which is not what they are good at. It imitates poorly what the 'Spider-Man' movies do brilliantly with computer graphics -- and without putting live actors in jeopardy," reads the review in Bloomberg, while the Hollywood Reporter says "Spider-Man is chaotic, dull and a little silly."
Despite the bad press, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" is still selling out at a decent pace, which is probably all producers care about after sinking $65 million into this critical train wreck. But somewhere, New York Times op-ed contributor Bono is probably very, very sad.
[Sad Bono photo made with Meme Generator]