'Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark' - The Wall-Crawler's Broadway Bomb
After a long wait, Spider-Man: No Way Home is finally swinging into theaters. To celebrate, Cracked is doing a deep dive into the pop-culture web that our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler has spun for almost six decades. Check the previous installments here:
The Most Amazing Thing About Spider-Man (Is That He Even Exists)
How Sam Raimi's 'Spider-Man' Changed Everything
Spidey's Bonkers '60s Cartoon All The Spider-Man Memes Came From
How 'Spider-Man: The Animated Series' Got It All Right
Miles Morales Succeeded Where Other Spider-Man Successors Failed
Emo Spider-Man's Defense: How 'Spider-Man 3' Dared Make Power Uncool
The ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Movies Saved (And Killed) the Franchise
We're also giving away a year-long subscription to Marvel Unlimited. Learn more here, or add your email below to enter.
Let's take a moment to remember a time when our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was not a box office draw. No, it wasn't The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That movie might have sucked, but it still made money. No, to find Spider-Man's biggest flop, you have to step away from the big screen and into the world of musical theater. This is the story of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, an ill-conceived, critically-panned, and dangerous relic of the early 2010s.
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark was co-written and directed by Julie Taymor, famous in the business for directing the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King. Musical legends Bono and The Edge from U2 wrote the music. As for choreography, Turn Off The Dark would feature an advanced system of harnesses and wires to perform stunts worthy of Spider-Man.
Despite all of these things in the show's favor, Spider-Man's musical debut was a punchline before anyone even saw it. Behind the scenes, the show was an absolute mess, and everyone knew it. For starters, the score was just weird as Bono and The Edge reportedly didn't know much about Broadway musicals. Producers gave them a CD of Broadway hits as inspiration, but they didn't care for show tunes and instead just wrote what were essentially mediocre U2 songs. Meaning songs not nearly catchy enough to warrant a place in a big-budget Broadway show.
Next, there was Julie Taymor. So, for some reason, Taymor really wanted Spider-Man's Broadway musical to heavily feature Arachne, a figure in Greek myth. The mythical Arachne has nothing to do with Spider-Man, but Taymor insisted that she be a major character, much to the confusion of basically everyone. This and other plot oddities made Turn Off The Dark a lot less fun and more serious than someone might expect from a musical adaptation of Spider-Man.
So, the music sucked, and the plot made no sense. They had a real winner on their hands. This isn't what made the musical infamous, though. That was the numerous cast injuries and other technical malfunctions. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark relied on high-flying spectacle to capture the audience's attention, and this spectacle resulted in broken wrists, broken feet, and concussions. The danger that was Spider-Man on Broadway became such a joke that there was even a Saturday Night Live sketch about it.
It should have been a bad sign that on November 28, 2010, during the first act finale of their first preview, Spider-Man got stuck. One of the systems malfunctioned, and it left poor Spidey hanging over the crowd. Stagehands had to come help get the Webslinger back down to safety, ruining any amount of magic the illusion could have possibly had.
Previews sent the producers into panic mode. When reviews came out, they were not good, as critics panned everything that has been discussed here. Audiences were laughing at the superhero on Broadway, and the prospect of recouping the budget of $75 million seemed next to impossible.
Major changes were made before the show's public premiere on June 14, 2011. Julie Taymor was fired and replaced with Philip William McKinley, and another writer was broad on to help edit the show. The product that was shown to the public reduced Arachne's role significantly and attempted to make the show more fun overall. This version of Turn Off The Dark played on Broadway until January 4, 2014, and the critical reviews were … also not great. Still, they did generally regard the musical as better than its initial dangerous mess of a production.
That said, Spider-Man's musical did have some fans, and Glen Barger, who co-wrote the show's book, had a lot of good things to say about the experience. One interesting point that Barger brought up that often gets lost in any discussion of the musical is that it had great potential to be an introduction to musical theater for non-musical audiences. Someone could come to see the show strictly because they loved Spider-Man but leave with the possibility of being more open to exploring other musical productions. But all that hope came crashing down like some many Spider-Men.
The dedicated fandom and optimistic ambitions could not save Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark from its inevitable fate. It lost about $60 million. To be fair, even if the show was good, making back its budget would require nearly impossible ticket sales. After the Broadway production closed, there were talks of a revival of the show in Vegas. However, this idea and others failed to make any ground, and Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is now mostly remembered for being, as J. Jonah Jameson puts it, a menace.
Top Image: 2010 Broadway
For more Cracked deep dives, be sure to check out:
In The 1990s, The Simpsons Were A Danger To America
The '90s Officially Turned Gaming Into A Pop-Culture Fixture
How '90s Superhero Cartoons Prepared Us For The 'Cinematic Universe' Era Facebook Twitter Pinterest
The '90s 'Star Wars' Special Editions Kicked Off The Never-Finished Movie Era
3 Ways 90s Internet Changed Everything
The 'Avengers' Comic That Basically Created The Modern Superhero Movie
Why Marvel Studios Is Branching Out Beyond Superheroes-- Sort Of
Marvel's Long And Confusing Path To Figuring Out Television
How Marvel Handles 'Black Panther' Is A Heartbreaking Task
All of the New Marvel Characters Getting Set Up In Phase 4
The Long, Stupid Road To A Watchable ‘Fantastic 4’ Movie
4 Reasons Anyone Who Says 'Superman Is A Boring Superhero' Is Full Of It
4 Reasons O.G. Superman Is Even More Relevant Today
5 Superman Stories That Are Canon Kryptonite
4 Ways 'Death Of Superman' (Accidentally) Changed Pop Culture
4 Superman Movie Scenes That Were Dumb AF In Retrospect
The Early Obstacles On Joker's Path To Comic Icon
Why Do We Even Have Batman Movies Today? The Joker.
No One Was Ready For Mark Hamill's Joker ... Least Of All Mark Hamill
That Time DC Comics Turned The Joker Into David Bowie
A Dark Knight's Tale: How Heath Ledger Created A 21st Century Joker
The Weird Confusing Tale Of The Most 'Huh?' Movie Joker: Jared Leto
'Joker' Made A Billion Dollars, And That's Too Much Money To Ignore