Netflix high-concept dystopian sci-fi mystery-adventure black comedy (gasp, pant) Spiderhead is a collision of types (as you in all probability seen) and expertise. Producer and star Chris Hemsworth headlines, adopted by Top Gun: Maverick and Whiplash man Miles Teller, the underrated Jurnee Smollett, director Joseph Kosinski (whose profession simply whoa-nelly super-duper peaked with Top Gun: Maverick) and Deadpool/Deadpool 2 screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, adapting a quick story by bestselling writer George Saunders. Of course, all this artistic muscle isn’t assured to add up to one thing resplendent or coherent, which I’m gonna get into proper about now.
SPIDERHEAD: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Steve Abnesti (Hemsworth) is a pharmaceutical science man creating little vials of coloured liquid that may considerably manipulate or alter a individual’s moods and feelings. The medicine are administered through little not significantly utopian battery-pack thingy on the base of the backbone; one swipe of Steve’s cellphone and a physique’s laughing euphorically at mass demise, or overwhelmed with such love and lust it will possibly’t assist however schtup the residing tar out of the opposite individual within the room (hopefully who is also on the identical drug; we don’t see it occur every other approach, fortunately). Steve’s setup is like so: Big concrete bunker-base close to the ocean, which serves as residence and testing lab for himself, his assistant (Mark Paguio) and a bevy of convicted felons who’ve been provided snatches of freedom and a few creature comforts in change for being guinea pigs. Good deal or Faustian pact? The former wouldn’t make for a lot of a film now, wouldn’t it?
Our protagonist is Jeff (Teller). We’re privy to his flashbacks, which closely characteristic a drunken and fiery automobile wreck. There’s a scene wherein he sits throughout from Heather (Tess Haubrich) within the experiment-o-lab. They’re requested to assess one another’s bodily attractiveness. When they don’t say a lot, they get a dose of Verbaluce, and thus movement the superlatives. Then they get some Luvactin, which is adopted by an occasion of untamed coitus. When Steve dials down the juice, his topics stop their postcoital spooning and, feeling awkward and embarrassed, rapidly dress. Jeff has a much less fleeting, extra genuine curiosity in fellow inmate Lizzy (Smollett), who’s a helluva prepare dinner and reciprocates a few of his emotional affection, a state of affairs that doesn’t in any respect appear ripe for exploitation by glib, amoral shitheads like, oh, say, Steve, proper?
There’s two fascinating hitches on this situation. One, the experimentees can’t take part in Steve’s loopy scientist shit with out consenting first. And two, similar goes for some unusual psychological sport Steve units up the place he units up two inmates Jeff as soon as Luvactin’d actual exhausting, and tells Jeff to select which one will get a drug known as Darkenfloxx. Jeff would moderately no person ever get Darkenfloxx, as a result of he had it as soon as and it actually floxxes with you, placing you in an unholy traumatic state that’s a white-hot mix of ache, despair and rage. Why anybody would concoct such a drug is past me, however hey, I assume that’s why I’m not a scientist and simply a movie critic who’s about to kick this one within the ribs.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Spiderhead consists of a drug-trial plot (Netflix’s Maniac, uh, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and chilling dystopia (Gattaca) in an remoted rich-guy bunker (Ex Machina), loads of bizarre science (Weird Science), a cheeseball ’80s soundtrack (additionally Weird Science) and a failure to congeal many concepts into a high-concept darkish comedy (Downsizing comes to thoughts).
Performance Worth Watching: Between Hems as an annoying, overcaffeinated sociopath and Tells as a bland protag, Smollett is the bubbling presence Spiderhead may use a lot extra of.
Memorable Dialogue: “The time to fear about crossing strains was a lot of strains in the past.” – And but, Steve right here is simply positive with that, apparently
Sex and Skin: “Comedic” crazed intercourse sequences that sound a lot extra graphic than they give the impression of being.
Our Take: Oh, yet one more factor: Don’t bump the spine-box on the door jamb or something if you happen to don’t need your physique to be flooded with sufficient of the ’floxx to make you go insane or Hulk out or no matter. You’d suppose that scientists in a state-of-the-art futuro-facility testing hyper-experimental medicine would have a failsafe on their thingamajigs, or gear that isn’t so vulnerable to rudimentary unintentional bodily contact, however each Movie Plot wants its handy Plot Hole, or else somebody would have to provide you with a intelligent concept to generate battle as a substitute of simply being a monkey smashing a huge dumb pink button on the Screenplay-o-Matic.
Yet there’s one thing to Spiderhead, conceptually – it has a bunch of Philip Okay. Dick Lite concepts rattling round in its bucketheaded screenplay, most compellingly, the tangling of moral considerations inside scientific and punitive contexts. But Jeff’s psychological river runs shallow, and solely the twittiest of twits wouldn’t suspect a smug and smarmy chode like Steve of nefarious scheming. He has a dozen arrows pointing at him saying VILLAIN – I imply, take a look at his concrete lair, and his nasty little concoctions, and his khaki floods with no socks, and propensity for buttery yacht rock, and he’s all the time smiling, a smile that you just belief so far as a mouse fart will blow you throughout the room. It takes the movie 90 minutes to crack open a philosophical walnut, which it rapidly feeds to the closest squirrel so it will possibly undermine the seriousness of its implications by wrapping every part up with a loud, violent, quasi-comic conclusion riddled with grade-school-level irony and goofy soundtrack cues. I deep-sigh on this film’s common path.
Our Call: Dud metropolis. SKIP IT.
John Serba is a freelance author and movie critic primarily based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read extra of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.