Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kill Bill and Miltonic Allusion: Navajo Joe

Tarantino's Kill Bill is almost like a collage of other movie moments. But not like a high school girl's best friends collage. Like one of those collages from early 20th century art or whatever by like Picasso or somebody (did Picasso do collages?). Like smart so that seeing all that shit arranged in that way really makes you think, you know?

Music plays at the start of the clip. Navajo Joe confronts Duncan, gets shot and throws a hatchet at him from like ten feet ending him. Different music plays to the end of the movie. You can hear the final music and see the hatchet here:

Thurman Kills a Crazy 88 by throwing at him the hatchet he threw at her.

Bad guy Duncan and his team massacre an indian village and scalp people. Navajo Joe, played by Burt Reynolds, kicks their asses. He also saves two hookers who know about Duncan's plot to collude with the town doctor to steal the town's money arriving by train. Navajo Joe will protect the town from Duncan and his men for money in exchange for scalps. He goes back and forth with Duncan but manages to steal the train, return it to the people, then go after Duncan because Duncan, it turns out killed his wife in the initial massacre. They kill each other. The end.

The scene above is the end of Navajo Joe, in which they kill each other. In that scene are three crucial things from Kill Bill.

For starters there is the hatchet, which shows up in Kill Bill. If you think it is a coincidence, notice this -- why would that one dude in the Crazy 88s even HAVE a hatchet when EVERYONE ELSE has samurai swords. The hatchet stands out and it stands out to bring up this movie at this moment. And it is only one of many Navajo Joe overlaps with Kill Bill.

The music at the start of the Navajo Joe clip above you can here more fully in this clip, which is an earlier scene where Duncan's men wait for Navajo Joe's attack:

The music from the start of the Navajo Joe clip above plays as Duncan's men are about to be attacked.

Just as it is used twice in Navajo Joe, it is used twice in Kill Bill -- both times in vol 2. It anticipates the showdown with Bill in the first Kill Bill clip from the opening of Vol 2. And it IS the showdown with Driver in the second clip.

The same music plays as Thurman narrates from her car at the opening of Kill Bill vol 2.

The same music plays just before the final clash of Driver and Thurman.

Let's talk about why. Take a look at this clip between Duncan and his Brother:

Duncan's brother calls him a "half-breed" and he smacks him.

Navajo Joe also kills Duncan's brother, and Duncan wants revenge. This is why Budd wants revenge on Thurman -- because she hurt his brother Bill. But there is something more important to notice here -- the accusation of "Half Breed." It echo's Lucy Liu's sensitivity to someone bringing up her mixed race status -- in both instances, if you bring it up you bring violence on yourself.
And just as Navajo Joe kills this half breed guy who killed his woman, so Thurman will kill her mixed race antagonist who robbed her of her child. And just before she confronts this mixed race woman we get a Navajo Joe reminder with the hatchet. And how is the mixed race Lucy Liu killed? She is scalped (by a Samurai sword).

But there is one final major Navajo Joe allusion left. The music that Navajo Joe ends with you can hear more fully in the opening credits, where Duncan scalps Navajo Joe's woman.

The music that ends Navajo Joe also starts it -- it is used in the opening credits as Duncan scalps a woman.

Watch where the Navajo Joe music gets used again.

That music plays as Bill walks out into his garden to die.

Navajo Joe music opens and closes Kill Bill Volume 2, and both the opening and closing music of Navajo Joe appear in Kill Bill. The music that ends Navajo Joe is the same music that ends BILL.

Why? Because Like Liu's character, whose death is preceded by a Navajo Joe reference, Caradine is also mixed race, and so we get the music that is used to end the mixed race guy in Navajo Joe to end Bill. Why does Bill's race matter? Because it was a big reason that he worked in Kung Fu the Television Show -- he is American enough, foreign enough. Unlike Bruce Lee who was far too foreign for American audiences. Now look at your killers. Thurman, a white woman who in volume one is the avatar for the Chinese Bruce Lee. And BURT REYNOLDS AS AN INDIAN. In both moments the mixed race actors, mixed race characters and/or cross race casting is an issue in both movies.

I hope I have sufficiently impressed you up to now, because honestly I am not quite sure where to go next. On the one hand I can see a narrative that involves Pure Bruce Lee vs Mongrel whatever, but as much as Tarantino is on the side of Bruce Lee he is really on the side of MIXING EVERYTHING, crossing cultural, racial and gender lines as he builds COOL. And I am reminded that accusations about Tarantino using the N-word in Pulp Fiction had a lot to do with this idea that he thought he could get away with the cross race thing himself, using a word reserved for blacks. Crossing these divides, for this white guy who loves Blacksploitation movies, is the marker of cool, of being with the in-crowd. I am not quite sure how this factors into Kill Bill, but if you will forgive a weak ending, I will promise to keep thinking about it. And of course you might want to help me out in the comments section.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kill Bill and Miltonic Allusion: Green Hornet

Quentin Tarantino has a point when he has bits of his movies look like other movies. He is remixing images with purpose, giving new life to things dead, reminding us of what is important, and making his story larger by connecting it to stories past -- while also revising those stories relationships to each other. John Milton did this is Paradise Lost with Virgil Homer and Dante and Tarantino does it with Bruce Lee, and Navajo Joe and Lady Snowblood.

You can here the song here:

Thurman's plane lands and the theme to the Green Hornet plays.

The Crazy 88s have masks like the one Kato wore in the Green Hornet. You can see this in the trailer:

This post is going to be a kind of placeholder. Though you are reading this in May I am writing in in January, just after the release of the Green Hornet movie. I cannot understand why the Green Hornet television show with Bruce Lee is not easily available on DVD. This is a bit worse than it normally would be because in addition to not being able to show you clips, I also have not seen the show. I would have skipped this one, but I think at least one connection is clear enough that I can talk about it without all the facts.

My sense is that The Green Hornet, the one from the 60s, is about a crime fighter whose sidekick is played by Bruce Lee. The sidekick's name in Kato.

Tarantino obviously intends to invoke the Green Hornet. The theme song for the show plays as Thurman lands, and the Crazy 88s all wear Kato masks. And of course when Thurman lands in Tokyo she becomes a kind of superhero -- a masked and costumed avenger taking down the bad guys.

A bit of an aside about the song. Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov originates in an opera from 1900. It is the music that is played as the prince is changed into a bumblebee to fly away and visit his father, who does not know he is alive. It is hard to imagine Tarantino quoting an opera through the Green Hornet TV show but that is exactly what he seems to be doing, as otherwise we will have to dismiss as coincidence that the big reveal at the end of the House of Blue Leaves sequence is that Thurman's daughter is still alive, though she does not know this.

The main point I want to make here is that obviously Bruce Lee is too awesome to be anyone's sidekick, and the reason he is a sidekick is obvious. There was a perception that people did not want to see an Asian guy in a lead role, but sidekick was ok. Lee found the role demeaning. He was so popular in Hong Kong the show was marketed there as The Kato Show, and even in America there was a TV series tie in coloring book called Kato's Revenge Featuring the Green Hornet. (Wikipedia is awesome).

The reason this link is so important I am putting it up with no clip and no experience of the show is that it completes a picture we have been putting together. Thurman is the avatar for Bruce Lee' spirit, as symbolized by the fact that she is dressed as Ultimate Bruce Lee, the Bruce Lee of Game of Death. As Lee, she fights many of the things that impinge on Bruce Lee's purity: fighters dressed as Kato the crummy sidekick; weak sauce Bruce Lee inheritor Jackie Chan as embodied by GoGo (who does the move Chan does in Shanghai Noon, a kind of total sell out movie). Thurman-as-Lee fights through settings and situations similar to those in Lee's movies (surrounded by the team of Japanese guys, fighting a Japanese Swordman, fighting in the garden -- as in Fists of Fury).

Thurman is linked to Lee because they share the same goal: the Takedown of David Carradine. She wants him because he shot her in the head. Lee wants him because he stole the lead role in Kung-Fu the television series from him, and maybe the idea for the show as well. And along the way all of film history -- from classic Samurai movies to Spaghetti Westerns to Italian Horror movies surround them, as they should. Because Lee DIED and CARRADINE GOT THE PART AND WAS TOTALLY SUCCESSFUL, and JACKIE CHAN IS FAMOUS, and LEE WAS KATO. If you imagine The House of the Blue Leaves as a kind of time travel story then what you are seeing is that in trying to go back and change film history to make Lee the winer (and of course to go back and change film history to make it into a ramp up to Kill Bill) THURMAN AND TARANTINO HAVE BROKEN TIME ITSELF and FILM CLIPS FROM MOVIES PAST ARE SHREDDED AND REARRANGED. This is the allegory of the House of the Blue Leaves.

Why does Tarantino need Lee to win? Because he needs Lee's power to defeat his own major influence -- Lady Snowblood. But that is for another day.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Kill Bill and Miltonic Allusion: Yojimbo

Quentin Tarantino movies do look like he took scenes from other people's movies and put in a blender. But only if it is some kind of super-intelligent blender that does not blend randomly but places things next to each other to form a kind of careful commentary on where the foods are from and how they relate. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, also had such a blender.

A Japanese sword fighter looks out across the big road of a small town where dust swirls. He fights a gang. One guys yells and he yells at him and lets him run away. Here is the trailer:

Thurman fights and one of the Crazy 88s is revealed to her as very young. She spanks him with the sword and tells him This is what you get for fucking with Yakuza. Go home to your mother and he runs off.

Yojimbo is the story of a masterless Samurai who goes to a town where two gangs are at war. He pretends to be working with each of them, with the aim of getting them all killed and making the town a better place.

The scene above is from one of the last scenes in the film. Our hero is attacking the gang who have tortured him and hung up his only friend. Most of the bad guys are idiots -- particularly one guy, who yells "Mommy!" "Children shouldn't play with swords!" says our guy. "Go home to your mother and live a long life eating gruel."

This is pretty closely repeated in Kill Bill, as Thurman discovers one of the Crazy 88s is just this idiot kid and sends him back to his mother unharmed.

Tarantino may be sort of stealing the joke from Yojimbo, but in his hands the scene, while still a good bit of comic relief, is better -- because of course Thurman has missed out on raising children (she thinks) because the people she is revenging herself against took that away from her. The moment, while still broadly comic, fits into the story thematically, as it does not in Yojimbo.

Remember also that the Kill Bill clip above also alludes to Samurai Fiction -- a movie about a stolen sword, a movie that got the actual sword used in the filming from the legendary samurai actor Toshirô Mifune who is the star of Yojimbo. So there is a logic to going from Samurai Fiction to Yojimbo.

Yojimbo is also one of the great precursors for Kill Bill, just in terms of being this ground in which various genres and countries come into play. Yojimbo is a Japanese samurai movie with a plot very much in debt to Dashiell Hammett's Glass Key and Red Harvest, novels which were a big part of film noir (and also unofficially remade as Miller's Crossing, a film that as we will see is also alluded to in Kill Bill -- you see the same plot in Miller's Crossing, Yojimbo and Red Harvest -- the one guy who plays the gangs against each other). And I gave a long clip from Yojimbo above so you can see how much it is visually in debt to the cowboy films of John Ford. Then Yojimbo becomes the source itself for Clint Eastwood's Fist Full of Dollars. The hero in Yojimbo has no name, neither does Clint Eastwood's character in Fistful, neither does Thurman for most of Kill Bill. So Noir and Classic Westerns become Samurai stuff before becoming Spaghetti Western stuff. So anyone who wants to single out Kill Bill as being some kind of insane unjustified genre mash-up is pointed by Tarantino to Yojimbo -- and they are pointed to Yojimbo at a moment that also recalls Samurai Fiction and Highlander (a film which itself has a Scottish protagonist killing a Russian in New York City with a Japanese sword he got from an Egyptian working for Spain) -- JUST TO DRIVE THE POINT HOME. And of course Lucy Liu is SCALPED by a SAMURAI SWORD, the ultimate expression of east meets west. Film history has ALWAYS been one crazy mash up, Tarantino wants to say. He just celebrates the absurdity more than most.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Kill Bill and Miltonic Allusion: Death Rides a Horse

Tarantino sure has seen a bunch of movies. And those movies often show up in his movies. They do so not because he does not have good ideas of his own. He does! It is just that, like John Milton in Paradise Lost, many of his good ideas area ABOUT the bunch of movies he saw. And so his film doubles as a commentary on the history of movies.

A note on the Death Rides a Horse clips -- the DVD was crazy low grade, like VHS taped off of formatted to fit your screen TV then transferred to DVD by monkeys. Sorry about that.

A group of masked guys kills a family while the youngest boy watches. One has a small skull necklace. They burn the place down and leave the kid alive. You can actually watch it all legally on Youtube: Here is the movie:

The family murder is in the opening minutes.

Lucy Liu's animated origin. A group of guys kills her family while she watches. One has a skull ring. They burn the place down and leave her alive.

John Law goes after Lee Van Cleef. Awesome music plays. They talk about the revenge Law wants and Cleef tells him Revenge is a dish best served cold. This scene is at 27 minutes in.

The same music plays as Thurman hacks off Sophie Fatale's arm.

John Law confronts a gambler. The screen gets shaded red and through the red filter you see the guy murdering his family. This is at 47:00

Thurman confronts Liu at the House of the Blue Leaves. The screen goes red and in the red filter we see her attacking Thurman in the chapel and looking down on her.

Death Rides a Horse is about a guy whose family was murdered in front of his eyes by a masked gang of bandits when he was a kid. So he grows up to get revenge. His name, no kidding, is John Law, not to put too fine a point on it. Meanwhile Lee Van Cleef gets out of jail and he also wants some payback -- from those same guys. Our hero and Van Cleef become mismatched buddies hunting down these dudes but it turns out that Van Cleef was actually part of the gang. Our hero decides not to kill him because he was so helpful and they part after everyone else is dead.

Death Rides a Horse is a major Kill Bill connection -- maybe, next to Lady Snowblood, the major connection. People talk about how Kill Bill is all about the Spaghetti Western, but Death Rides a Horse is the emblem of that genre for Tarantino. He will draw on Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good the Bad and the Ugly -- but it is Death Rides a Horse, a second string Spaghetti Western, that is the major representative of the genre, and a major structuring source for Kill Bill. As in his allusion to The Lodger rather than Psycho, he goes after smaller movies when he wants to suggest something big, a film that is more easily taken down.

The Death Rides a Horse allusions distinguish themselves in they way they combine with other allusions. Each allusion is an allusion to some other genre VIA Death Rides a Horse.

The first Death Rides a Horse scene above is the murder of the family at the opening. It is a dead ringer in a number of ways for Lucy Liu's origin. The family murdered while the child watches and survives to get revenge, one of the murderers wears skull jewelry and burns the house down. The scenes have the same running time. And a link is suggested between the Japanese school girl sword violence and the violence of the Western.

I grabbed, maybe stupidly, a moment where Thurman looks at a sword and thinks she can grab it in time, which happens in the same sequence of Death Rides a Horse above.

Thurman in Bill's house at the end goes for a sword on the TV. She eyes it before she goes for it, as in Death Rides a Horse.

That is probably too common to call an allusion, but again -- Samurai sword in place of the shotgun.

In the second scene from Death Rides a Horse our hero is chasing after Van Cleef to get info on the guys he is after -- guys they are both after. Van Cleef ditches him but not before giving him the same sage advice that appears in the epigraph to Kill Bill, the old Klingon proverb in Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan. Since Death Rides a Horse is a vital Kill Bill link, I can say with confidence that the epigraph filters Spaghetti Westerns through Science Fiction. This is one of Tarantino's big projects -- to link genres you would never link, to find connections between genres, to suggest a larger kind of history Kill Bill is a part of. Kill Bill thinks bigger than other movies. This is what makes it a "smart" movie. Very few movies think beyond their own genres.

But this is not even the only Kill Bill allusion in the scene -- nor the only allusion in the scene that asks us to link genres we would never normally link. The music that plays as our hero goes after Cleef in Death Rides a Horse is the same music that plays as Thurman calls out Lucy Liu and hacks off Sophie Fatale's arm. You will recall in an earlier post that I linked this moment to the Italian horror movie Tenebre. The Spaghetti Western is, of course, a cowboy movie filmed in Italy with Italian actors pretending to be Spanish, and Native America and whatnot. This moment in Kill Bill links up Italian Horror with the Italian Western. Kill Bill thinks about genres broadly, here connecting the violence in both genres to each other to justify his inclusion of both genres in Kill Bill.

And there is one more big Death Rides a Horse connection here. In the next clip I have above from Death Rides a Horse you see that when John Law confronting the first of the men who killed is family. The screen goes red and he has a flashback, in red, to the moment of the murder. He does this every time he first sees each those men again. The screen goes red and shows a flashback in red every time Thurman confronts someone on her Death List Five. Yet again another genre is suggested by the siren that goes off when the screen goes red -- the theme from Ironside that also appears in a Kung Fu movie.

So we get Star Trek, Tenebre, and Ironside (and the Ironside theme is coming via Five Fingers of Death) via Death Rides a Horse.

Tarantino is an especial fan of trailers -- in fact there is a Kill Bill allusion to Black Sunday that comes not from the movie but from a scene used only in the trailer. the trailer for Death Rides a Horse (which was not on the really low end disk I had), had a line like "The bandits who killed five defenseless people that night made one big mistake. They should have killed six."

The trailer is here:

Here the matching line from Kill Bill.

In the cartoon version of the chapel attack you see at the end of Lucy Liu's origin Thurman says they Kill 9 people that day, but they made one mistake: they should have killed ten.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Myth, Commerce, and Art in Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

[An excellent guest-blog from Mitch!]

A couple of Sundays ago at the Foxwoods Theater, the Greek spider deity named Arachne kissed Peter Parker and asked, “Can you ever forgive me, Spider-Man?” Then, her immortal curse finally broken, she ascended into a pulsing cosmic projection of stars and simply blinked out of view.

So ended the run of Julie Taymor’s infamous, inscrutable, universally derided, dangerous, eccentric, and enthralling train wreck of a musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The 75 billion dollar money pit will return to Broadway for a June 14 opening, with many of Taymor’s more eccentric flourishes cautiously excised. Arachne’s mythological credentials are an apt example of the weighty theatrical pretension Taymor has smeared all over what could have been – and perhaps SHOULD have been – a by-the-numbers adaptation, so it is fitting that she, as Taymor’s in-story stand in, should ask for poor Spider-Man’s forgiveness; only it turns out she doesn’t need it. Healthy box office receipts suggest that the Spider-Man brand has survived Taymor’s bewildering machinations, and by the time the new movie comes out next year no one will give a second thought to the stylistic apocalypse he has endured (and inflicted upon others) in her version of the musical.

Which is actually kind of a shame to me, because even though it’s certainly a failure on practically every level, Taymor’s variation is the first purely artistic revision of the character in a long time.

Many mean things have been said about Turn Off the Dark, but few of its detractors have noted that it is at least genuinely fearless. And like with Ang Lee’s Hulk movie or Frank Miller’s Spirit movie, the utter lack of caution and external meddling is refreshing, even if the whole thing feels a little misguided. And it does. Much of the show seems to takes place in the space of a fever dream, where leaps in logic are common and events occasionally occur beneath Inception-like layers of illusion – Arachne uses her illusion-weaving talents to make Spider-Man believe a team of super villains have destroyed the world, but in actuality everything is totally fine. This seems to occur for no other reason than to prompt Spider-Man to first loose faith in himself and then regain it later. It doesn’t help that the super villains are introduced in the mode of a fashion show runway. All of this is justifiable, considering that Arachne is an illusionist (or “the only artist working today,” as she says on Taymor’s behalf), but makes a mess out of the stakes of the show. At other times, Taymor and co seem to have their story priorities confused. For instance, an entire song is allocated for Flash Thompson and the bullies to pick on Peter, but the only scene we get establishing Peter’s relationship to Uncle Ben and Aunt May is inter-cut with a scene about Mary Jane and her abusive dad.

Before I go any further I should point out two things. The first is that for a number of reasons, Spider-Man is an omnipresent figure in my own personal mythology. Despite this I have absolutely no emotional connection to him. Only a clinical, perhaps sadistic curiosity in how much he can endure as a piece of intellectual property. Something like Turn Off the Dark is exactly what I’m talking about. In the same way that Batman can be in the Frank Miller comic, the Brave and the Bold cartoon, the Christopher Nolan movies, and a porno parody of the Adam West show, Spider-Man, as a character, can appear on my infant son’s bib AND in a live stage show where he is seduced by an ancient spider deity with a shoe fetish without being wholly compromised. Spider-Man endures. This is mystifying to me. This durability just isn’t there in other licensed characters, I’m thinking of like Shrek, for instance. Hell, Green Lantern probably won’t even come out of his own straightforward movie adaptation unscathed.

The second thing is that I am also a theater critic, but not the sort of critic who usually has any business reviewing a multi-million dollar Broadway musical. I typically review non-linear, experimental performance arty things in small black box theaters downtown. In this case, I needed to speak up though, because Turn Off the Dark is just a few quirks away from a typical off-off-broadway performance piece, only with an inflated budget and a widely recognizable central property.

Being a theater person, I can see what Taymor is up to. As someone who probably never read a comic before, I suspect the only way she could wrap her head around the idea of Spider-Man was to think about it in terms of Greek mythology. Because if there is one thing we pretentious theater people love, it’s Greek shit. So what we get here is Spider-Man (and to another extent the “super hero” in general) as modern mythology – not necessarily a new idea, but one that Taymor runs with and never looks back. Contemporary manifestations and discussions of fate, obsession, the drive for immortality, and determinism litter the script, with mixed results. For instance, a discussion about free will is confused because one character thinks they are talking about the movie, Free Willy – a joke so adorably bad that you can’t help smiling about it.

So with that, I return to my previous statement, which might seem a little dramatic – that Taymor’s revision of the Spider-Man story is the most significant, purely artistic rendering of it in a long time. But if you look at every “new” version of Spider-Man in the past couple of decades and consider only the reason for each version, it becomes clear that each one was motivated only by sales or marketing. The “Ultimate” version of the character, for instance, was a successful attempt to bring in fresh readers. All the animated series and movies were in essence extended advertisements for licensed products. This is not to say that a significant amount of artistry and vision didn’t go into each of these adaptations, just that the motivating force behind them was commercial. I like the comic writer Dan Slott, but when it comes down to it his job is to write the most safely bankable Spider-Man book he can, so that people continue to buy and talk about the book. This is the jaded truth about Spider-Man, his real secret identity: Spider-Man is a mechanism that exists only to make money.

Taymor was certainly out to make money with Turn Off the Dark, having invested some of her own in the production, but clearly aimed much higher than mere blockbuster commercial success. Otherwise, why not just redo the first Spider-Man movie straight down the line? The flying and technical spectacles of the show, which despite the highly publicized difficulties are truly stunning to behold, would surely have been enough to make lots of money. Why not just do the “canonical” Spider-Man story? This must have occurred to Taymor, because she has a lot of fun with it in the narrative. Four characters known as the “Geek Chorus” narrate the story, debating throughout which of Spidey’s escapades warrant inclusion in their definitive Spider-Man story. Her conclusion seems to be that there is no definitive Spider-Man story – only an infinite number of riffs on a core myth. “Did Peter Parker have a special destiny or was he just like everyone else?” one of the Geeks asks, a question I have heard real-life geeks mull over. Taymor’s Geek’s answer is funny, pointing out the futility of such discussions: “He was more like everyone else than anyone else and that’s what made him special.”

Taymor has a stand-in in the Geek Chorus as well, in the form of the Geek’s only female member, Miss Arrow. At one point Miss Arrow casually invents a new villain for the story, a horrendously stupid robot-looking character called Swiss Miss, who is apparently some kind of mutant Swiss Army knife with breasts (played by a male actor, no less). “You can’t just make up a new villain, ” the other Geeks say, appalled. “I just did,” is Arrow/Taymor’s sneering response. She is obviously willing to kill a few fatted calves and break the pre-established rules to get to something new. Even Uncle Ben’s immortal line “With great power comes great responsibility” has been streamlined into the more ballad-friendly “Rise Above.”

Aside from Swiss Miss, the aesthetic is typically pretty immense and spectacular. In one scene at the beginning Arachne’s spider-girls swing back and forth on tapestries to weave this HUGE web out of fabric. It’s simple, but beautiful aerial choreography that goes on just long enough for you to appreciate it. Again – NOTHING to do with Spider-Man, but man did it look good. The cityscapes, which zoom in at hard, dynamic angles or open up out of each other like pages of comic books, and Spider-Man’s interaction with them, are equally impressive. The cast is mostly serviceable, with the exception of Patrick Page, who plays the Green Goblin as a vampy southern drag queen chicken-thing. I know how it sounds, but you really can’t take your eyes off of him. The music by U2 has gotten worse press than it deserves, I think. It’s fairly standard musical music, which always sounds the same to me unless it’s really, really good.

Overall, the experience was worthwhile, and trying to wrap my head around all the problems with the show led me down a lot of fun mental rabbit holes, like does the intent or motivation behind a piece of art really matter? The second Spider-Man movie, for instance, was made purely to make money and sell toys, but it still turned out pretty great. Turn Off the Dark was made to say something new about Spider-Man, to push the limits of theatrical staging, to consider the Super Hero in the context of Greek mythology, and a dozen other admirable goals, but turned out to be, at best, a parody of its own botched designs. Somehow that doesn’t seem fair.