What could have been a bold and trivial piece of cinema is instead a mediocre movie made for streaming that looks more like a series on TV.
Netflix’s Spider Head could be called a new Chris Hemsworth movie, and technically it is, as it meets the technical specs of what a feature film should be, namely that it’s 1 hour and 47 minutes long.
It also ticks off the fact that it’s focused on an interesting story concept, has decent acting, and smart production design.
But it would be very generous to call Spider cinematic.
Director Joseph Kosinski’s sci-fi thriller is more like a smaller episode Black mirror, or any other contained chapter in the anthology series. The screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick struggles to pick up work on the source material, a story by George Saunders.
The larger canvas only emphasizes how small and timid the performance is – each scene plays for a beat or two too long, while the entire average act tries to stretch the story out to about seven minutes without adding enough extra texture to justify its length.
Jeff (Miles Teller) is a prisoner serving his sentence in an isolated scientific facility located on an island archipelago. In exchange for the luxury of living in elegant modern rooms and gourmet meals, Jeff and his associates are subjected to chemical experiments.
Conducted by Steve Abnesti (Hemsworth), a man whose style is inspired by Simon Le Bon and whose commitment to training comes from, well, Chris Hemsworth, the experiments involve injecting various drugs through a device implanted in the prisoners’ backs.
Mood-altering chemicals affect Jeff in various ways: some seem harmless, like making him laugh uncontrollably like he just ate the most potent brownie, or ethically questionable, like a love drug that wakes him up. deep desire for another. human.
But other drugs are much more dangerous, such as the one that causes extreme horror.
Jeff suspects there’s a lot of ambition in Steve’s experiments, and the audience knows it too, because Steve’s assistant Verlaine (Marc Pagio) doesn’t like what they’re doing anymore.
It’s all wrapped up in a story about Jeff’s redemption as he struggles to come to terms with the actions that got him there in the first place and his growing bond with cellmate Lizzie (Jernie Smollett).
Spider seems like a half-baked story, unable to capitalize on the intriguing seed at the center of its story. And except for Jeff Teller, all the other characters are subtly written. It never takes a big hit.
It makes you wonder what more playful sci-fi director like Patrick Somerville is (Maniac, Station Eleven, Made for love), or a bolder narrator like Alex Garland could do with the premise.
Garland, who wrote and directed From the car as well as Annihilationprovocateur whose imagination transcends outer limits and he could fill the world Spider with wild dedication. It is enough to watch his criminally little-known series. Developers to see how a more creative director could turn an idea into an experience.
How dim Spider it’s just a movie made for streaming that wastes its potential.
Spider Head is currently streaming on Netflix