You can speculate on if it has to do with their stock market woes, but Netflix seems to have put a lot of hype behind their 2022 film slate, which consists of action thrillers like Interceptor and The Gray Man, a return to form from Adam Sandler by way of the sports drama Hustle, and the much-anticipated Knives Out 2, the sequel to 2019’s universally acclaimed whodunit.
Also among this lineup is the sci-fi thriller Spiderhead, an adaptation of the similarly-named George Saunders short story which reunites Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski with Miles Teller. Teller’s character seeks to break out of a prison facility overseen by Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth), who offers prisoners reduced sentences if they submit themselves as test subjects for an emotion-altering drug.
Being one of the big names on the Netflix slate, with star power to spare both in front of and behind the camera, Spiderhead hoped to score big with critics, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case; for every review that marks the film as fantastic, there’s another that speaks rather harshly about it.
IndieWire was one of the latter examples, noting how the film seemed to be afraid to take the adaptation to new heights, opting instead for something safer and more passable.
“The fact of the matter is that adapting a George Saunders story to fit the mold of a modern studio movie is sort of like adapting an orgy into a condom. Here, where playing things safe doesn’t offer any of the same protections, that process leads to a film in which every scene chafes to one extent or another.”David Ehrlich via IndieWire
Variety echoed IndieWire, calling it a new low for the streaming giant.
Kosinski doesn’t get it. He thinks it’s directing two Luvactin™-pumped subjects to go at each other like a pair of oversexed Tex Avery cartoons, while the Swingle Sisters caterwaul alongside.
The actors don’t get it. They’ve been trained to find the reality in their roles, but Saunders’ sense of humor is pitched at such an unbelievable extreme, it would have been wiser to go full Peter Sellers with their performances.Peter Debruge via Variety
Collider was much happier with the film, stating that the route they took for the adaptation actually resulted in something delightfully odd.
“…the beauty of the film adaptation, Spiderhead, is that Kosinski and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, 6 Underground) embrace the weirdness of Saunders’ story, largely sticking to the source material to create one of the strangest, bizarre and most enjoyable films of the summer.”Ross Bonaime via Collider
The Playlist was a little more reserved in its otherwise positive review, owing much of it to their approval of Chris Hemsworth in a role we’re not used to seeing him in.
“Best known for his brawny role as Thor in the MCU, Hemsworth has quietly built himself a multifaceted, character-driven niche playing morally ambiguous manipulators initially mistaken as harmless buffoons. From playing Formula One racer and playboy James Hunt in Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’ to portraying a cult leader in Drew Goddard’s ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ he works wonders, both comedically and dramatically, with this unsuspecting persona.”Robert Daniels via The Playlist
Spiderhead releases to Netflix on June 17.