The Review And The Pan

“Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” has not yet officially opened on Broadway, and it will not for over a month.  Nonetheless, this has not stopped critics from various publications from already publishing their reviews.  One of these critics is the self-appointed Lord Of Broadway Ben Brantley of The New York Times.

I have no doubt the show is awful.  The name alone is atrocious.  And does anyone seriously want to hear Peter Parker sing a song about what a nerd he is?  Furthermore, if a musical costs that much money to make ($65 million), then it can’t be any good.  Despite what the modern investor may believe, it is still the little things like plot, character, and hummable tunes that live on for years as standards that make a successful musical–if the show costs too much than the audience is merely paying for spectacle, and why not go to the circus instead?  I am not going to see Spider-Man; I cannot afford it.  Even if I could, I would not.  A musical score written by Bono and The Edge sounds like an audible Hell, but at least Bono isn’t singing it (yet).  Hopefully there are no lyrics about third world debt.

I wonder if the creative team behind the show has seen The Producers one too many times.  If so, they clearly didn’t stick around for the ending when Bialystok and Bloom ended up in prison.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the show was clearly going to be a bomb from the moment someone said “Hey, there hasn’t be a musical about Spider-Man yet,” it seems a bit cruel to release a negative review so far in advance.  Either let the show open first or let the pre-publicity buzz kill it.  And I question whether Ben Brantley hated the show nearly as much his review suggests.  Reviews–particularly reviews of big budget popular-like things–all have a common trope: when the review is a rave, everything about the show is wonderful, and when the review is a pan, everything is awful, irredeemable crap.  This may be due in part to lazy writing, but most likely it is because the critic knows that for once people will actually read the review.  This is especially apparent when something popular gets panned–it is difficult to attempt humor and wit in a rave and easy in a pan (although difficult to do it successfully.)  The critic knows he will be quoted and the sharper he is, the further his review will spread.  Anthony Lane, one of The New Yorker movie critics can be vicious, but Lane also is very witty (as one would expect from a successor of Pauline Kael), and his pans are brilliantly funny.  Check out his review of The Phantom of The Opera movie or his article about Eurovision.  By contrast, Brantley is just mean.

While I would not advise anyone to go to Spider-Man, this is based solely on common sense.  Don’t worry about the reviews; let the theater prices keep you away.


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