Washington Post Reviews Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark Behind The Scenes Book


SongOfSpidey“Visionary force of nature and an anger-prone vengeance-seeker…”

A few weeks back, Brad posted video of a very interesting interview with Glen Berger, one of the “book” (i.e. story & dialogue of a musical) writers of the ill-fated Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. Berger gave the interview to discuss his recent book, Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History.

The Washington Post’s website has posted a review of Berger’s book by Mark Berman. Here is an excerpt:

Even so, he doesn’t always present himself as the most sympathetic character. Berger calls himself “a total sneak” for going behind Taymor’s back to come up with a plan to revamp the show. At other times, he takes a backseat and simply walks us through the processes of casting the show and interacting with Marvel, the keepers of Spider-Man’s brand and legacy. But the most fascinating character in his story is Taymor, who is alternately presented as a visionary force of nature and an anger-prone vengeance-seeker.

By the time Berger is finished, it’s clearer than ever why staging a show that pulled together one of the most famous characters in pop culture, tens of millions of dollars, and personalities as varied as Taymor and Bono would produce so much turmoil.

The drama behind Turn Off The Dark adds another chapter in the global pop culture phenomena that is Spider-Man. I’m going to try to get a copy and review it here at the Crawlspace as soon as I can. I also highly recommend watching the Berger interview videos that Brad put up earlier this month. It really is very interesting.

–George Berryman!

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(5) Comments

  1. George Berryman - Post author

    @3 - "Never once does he say “I realize now that the script we wrote had very little to do with the comic and that was a mistake.” He may wind up saying this at some point in the book. I'm just up to Chapter 7. He does mention that they wanted to make something that could live up to fan expectations but that's buzz phrasing that you hear from many filmmakers or other creative types who are adapting comic material. Basically that means "We want you to recognize it on some level and be okay with it but basically we're going to do whatever the Hell we want." It's not done maliciously; it's just how they work. He also does talk about how they needed to respect that the fans were "self-appointed" protectors of the character. That's true in a sense though it can be said for many, many things that people can be fans of. It's not just a trait of comic fans. He also goes into how it felt when Arachne's role was revealed (something they'd wanted to avoid) and how the comic fan mockery of it stung them.

  2. George Berryman - Post author

    After writing this post for the site last night I downloaded Berger's book on my iPad. I am up to Chapter Seven right now. Here's what he has said thus far about both Arachne and the Geek Chorus. 1.) Before Taymor agreed to come aboard she said she have to be inspired by something. To find "a spark" in Spider-Man. According to Berger, while looking at an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, Taymor read a part where Norman Osborn is talking in depth about the Greek myth of Arachne. Arachne was then Taymor's "spark;" Taymor signed on and the story was built up around Arachne as the villain. Avi Arad, who was with Marvel, demanded that Arachne be removed; Taymor said if Arachne was removed, she'd walk. And it went back and forth like that for months before Arad's departure from Marvel. His successor, David Maisel, voiced Marvel's concerns that Arachne was going to overshadow actual Marvel characters like Spidey, Peter & MJ. 2.) Berger states the "Geek Chorus" was Taymor's idea from before he had been hired on. Prior to Berger's involvement 'Crying Game' director Neil Jordan had been brought in to work up the book. He and Taymor were good friends but that apparently ended when Taymor fired him after his first draft. When told what Taymor wanted for the Geek Chorus Berger states that he was told they had to sound like teenagers of 'today' but he couldn't use slang that could become dated, so they'd have to make up their own. And that it had to be funny. Thus far I haven't seen a lot of "This wasn't my fault" from him in the book. He actually does write about what he things his own slip-ups were. And he doesn't lay the blame entirely on Taymor's shoulders. He goes on - at great length - about how talented and brilliant he thinks she is. He definitely has what amounts to a fan crush on her; that much is evident in his writing. In here she does come across as a stubborn visionary that doesn't always like to be questioned but hell, throw a dart in San Diego and you'll hit any number of writers & artists who are exactly the same way.

  3. Mr. Knees

    What it comes down to is this: Berger seems to be focused on all the various reasons why the vision he and Taymour had for the play failed to be realized for the stage. What Berger seems oblivious to after all this time is that their vision was flawed to begin with in that it was disrespectful to the history of the character he was hired by Marvel to write about. Never once does he say "I realize now that the script we wrote had very little to do with the comic and that was a mistake."

  4. Mr. Knees

    I thought he came off rather poorly on the video interview that was posted earlier. He seems oblivious to the fact that the production did not just need more time to iron out the kinks. He seems to think that the main problem was Taymours obsessive micromanagement. No, the main problem was the script that he wrote, the first version that was focused heavily on the goddess Arachne, one of the biggest problems in its complete disregard for the history of spiderman as a character. It showed that he and Taymour together were both people that looked down on comics and had no reverence for the source material. They in a sense felt that they were elevating comics to higher art by bringing in Greek myths etc. spider man as a story did not need "classing up." They just needed to be true to the story and yet they felt they could improve on it. This book coming out now feels like a desperate attempt to distance himself as a writer from this disaster so that he can continue to find work. Like, see it wasn't my fault! Elements that he wrote such as the "geek chorus" strike me as having been created by someone with open disdain for comics and the people who read them. His very audience! It's similar to when Ang Lee did the Hulk in 2003. He said that he was attempting to improve on the comic and elevate it to high art. There was a quote at the time where he said the Hulk was like Amerucan fast food and his film was attempting to give audiences a fine steak. It's this attitude of looking down on the source material that will always spell doom for productions such as these.

  5. Jeff Flannigain

    Oh my God...is that supposed to be the Lizard?? Looks like the Lizard did it with a Godzilla Thanksgiving Day float and that's their offspring. Looking forward to your review, might have to check it out if comes on Kindle.

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