With a history of sending spandex-clad stunt doubles hurtling towards earth and terrible buzz, there was little suspense about how the nation's top theater critics would review Julie Taymor's latest musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. On Monday night, they posted their reviews, breaking an embargo that was supposed to last until the show opens on March 15, and it became clear that the true contest was to see which critic could craft the most withering put-down.

The Washington Post: Unsalvageable! Full of ooze!

  • "If you're going to spend $65 million and not end up with the best musical of all time, I suppose there's a perverse distinction in being one of the worst. Mind you, I haven't seen every stinker ever produced, so I can't categorically confirm that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark belongs in the dankest subbasement of the American musical theater. But its application certainly seems to be in order.... The tale doesn't so much unfold as ooze out, on the operating theory that if you throw everything against a theater wall, something might stick.... If watching actors in latex land in the mezzanine is your idea of an evening well spent, Spider-Man won't seem a gargantuan waste. Musical lovers, however, might wish the whole unsalvageable thing would just take a flying leap." - Peter Marks, The Washington Post

The Los Angeles Times: The least promising rock opera since WWII!
  • “What sinks the show, however, has nothing to do with glitches in the special effects. To revise a handy little political catch phrase, 'It’s the storytelling, stupid.'...Perhaps this is why the show’s long-term prospects seem to me nearly as grim as the fate of Bette Davis' character in another work with 'dark' in the title — Dark Victory. Not since that 1939 weeper have the words 'prognosis negative' seemed so apt." - Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times

The New York Post: High fashion! High leg counts!
  • The first act holds it together because it follows the Marvel mythos, but when Taymor’s id takes over after intermission, the story goes out the window. You won’t soon forget — hard as you may try — a preposterous number featuring Arachne’s spidery minions and their stolen shoes, or the supervillain runway show that introduces another new character — Swiss Miss, the lovechild of Alexander McQueen and a Home Depot. And so it goes." - Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post

The Hollywood Reporter: Not since Pretty Woman......
  • "The show really jumps the shark, however, in a number titled Deeply Furious, in which Arachne and her Furies go shoe-shopping before entering the human world. Seriously." - David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

New York magazine: Spider gams! Spider gams! Spider gams!
  • "Spider-Man is faaaar out, man. It's by turns hyperstimulated, vivid, lurid, overeducated, underbaked, terrifying, confusing, distracted, ridiculously slick, shockingly clumsy, unmistakably monomaniacal and clinically bipolar... Did I mention there's a number where leggy lady-spiders try on shoes?" - Scott Brown, New York magazine

Bloomberg: You will believe a stagehand can fly!
  • "After all this expenditure of talent and money, Spider-Man is probably unfixable because too much has gone into making humans fly, which is not what they are good at." - Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg

The New York Times: The Broadway napping experience of 2011
  • This production should play up regularly and resonantly the promise that things could go wrong. Because only when things go wrong in this production does it feel remotely right — if, by right, one means entertaining. So keep the fear factor an active part of the show, guys, and stock the Foxwoods gift shops with souvenir crash helmets and T-shirts that say 'I saw Spider-man and lived.' Otherwise, a more appropriate slogan would be “I saw Spider-man and slept.'" - Ben Brantley, The New York Times