Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Turn Off the Dark

Amidst the weekly coverage about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and its problems, I've tried to keep things at an arm's length. But when my parents got to see a preview over the weekend, I felt compelled to read this thorough article in the New York Times on the play's troubled production.

I have yet to hear from my parents on what they thought of the show, but I already wonder what constitutes a great adaptation of a comic book into another medium, be it a movie or a musical.

Whether or not the Geek Chorus (yes, you heard that right) and Arachne will be in the final version of the play since director Julie Taymor has left the project, I'm curious what kind of appeal this play is going for. Given how much money has been spent so far, it's definitely for a very broad audience, but I wonder how broad it is meant to be.

These days, its appeal is on the same level as watching a certain portion of a highway that is often the sight of bad car wrecks. This plays right into our constant fascination with life going haywire, somehow putting our life's hang-ups into perspective.

I think about my parents and what could appeal to them with a play like this. I believe they know the basics of Peter Parker's superhero story. Yet ask them about Dr. Curt Connors or even Gwen Stacy and they'd probably ask you to say those names again.

In my case, my knowledge is based mainly on the various Spider-Man cartoons I watched as a child along with the three Sam Raimi movies. I know about some of the major plotlines from the comics, like the one where Peter gives up his masked life. Yet trying to tell you the Vulture's origin story off the top of my head, I got nothing.

But I wonder, am I, along with my parents, supposed to feel together in (hopefully) enjoying something with nods to Greek tragedy? What's supposed to breathe new life into something while also being faithful to its source material?

I'm all too aware of geek culture's whines about previous adaptations of comics. I can't believe how much nipples on the Batman suit still infuriates people. Really? Mere inches on a costume is a big reason why people want to castrate the director, writers, and producers of Batman & Robin? Will the same happen for those who are involved (even in the smallest capacity) with Turn Off the Dark?

In the end, I hope people get their money's worth and this isn't thought of in the same arena as that Bob Dylan play.

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