Critics dangle faint praise for revamped 'Spider-Man' musical

It opened at last and no one in the orchestra seats was hurt by plummeting performers – a good thing with the likes of Matt Damon and Bill Clinton in the house. Yet as the reviews came in yesterday, the impression lingered that the false starts for Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark have been more diverting than the show will ever be.

The highwire acts inside the Foxwoods Theatre could be seen as a symbol for the terrors suffered by the producers of the comic-book musical, the cast and the writers of its score – Bono and The Edge of U2.

The show has been largely rewritten since it began previews last November. Five performers were hurt after stunts went wrong and the original director, Julie Taymor, was fired in March. She was cheered at the premiere as Bono and the Edge welcomed her on stage with kisses and hugs.

It is imperative for the $70m (£43m) musical that every seat is filled, preferably at full price, for three or four years. When American critics broke an embargo and wrote their first reviews last winter before the show's official – and delayed – formal opening, they were derisive. It was therefore vital that they like the retooled version better .

And they did like it better, but that is not saying much. If the critics blew their collective noses loudly after seeing the original version of Spider-Man, they were still a bit sniffy yesterday. The least kindest among them described the musical as a "bore" and a "bloated monster".

Others agreed that it may have risen to the level of a bona fide tourist attraction with legs to run for a while, but remained artistically mediocre.

"This singing comic book is no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It's just a bore," wrote Ben Brantley, chief critic at The New York Times. "The first time I saw the show, it was like watching the Hindenburg burn and crash." The Washington Post, similarly unimpressed, said: "This Spidey just can't get off the ground."

And The Hollywood Reporter was equally unimpressed: "While the emergency surgical team has injected fanboy humour and self-conscious acknowledgments of the production's rocky gestation, they have not located a heart in this bloated monster."

All the technical issues appear to have been resolved and the aerobatics still thrill. But some of the early criticisms have not been entirely answered, notably that the plotlines are feeble, the characters are shallow and the music from Bono and The Edge is especially disappointing.

In interviews this week, Bono admitted that there was "no way on earth" he and The Edge would have become involved in the first place if he had known it would be so time consuming. Even now, he considers the show to be only 90 per cent along the way to where he would like it to be, he said.

"Everything just went out of control but tonight we pulled it back again," Bono told an NBC reporter at the opening night. He said the show and his part in it had been victims of over-inflated expectations and the media's delight in seeing the famous falter. "Watching a couple of rock stars slip on a banana skin is kind of fun," he said.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before