Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller to star in Netflix’s ‘Spider Head’

Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Mark Pagio and their friends in Spider Head.

Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Mark Pagio & Friends Spider.
Photo: courtesy of Netflix

Spider starts and ends with laugh scenes – the first is creepy and surreal, the last is abandoned and ambiguous. In the middle is the tonal act of the film, conceived by design. In Joseph Kosinski’s film based on the George Saunders story “Escape from the Spider’s Head” (adapted by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, best known, probably from the screenplay for Dead Pool), a group of prisoners in a futuristic prison willingly undergoes experiments on their emotions. Small bags attached to their spikes contain compounds that can make them giggle at the thought of genocide, find beauty in a toxic waste dump, or cringe in fear at the sight of a stapler.

All of this is overseen by buddy Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) eager to please a blazer-and-t-shirt tech brother who prides himself on creating a humane prison set on a remote, paradise-like island surrounded by green hills and allotments. absurdly blue sea. It all seems rather supportive and collegial. The Abnesti doors are always open, refreshments are served to the prisoners, and everyone seems happy and relaxed. There’s even a communal kitchen where warden Steve himself keeps his ice cream. (“Always stick to the golden rules: no abuse – physical, verbal or otherwise – and always label your food in the fridge.”)

Played by Hemsworth, Abnesti is both a listless, random prophet and a deeply broken man, an abandoned child determined to make the world a better place. He’s pretty funny too. Among our current stream of Marvel stars, Hemsworth has some of the best comic moments as he has landed cameos and supporting roles in films such as Vacation as well as Ghostbusters (so much so that his Thor went from being one of the most emotionless superheroes to one of the most irreverent). His performance in Spider may well be the best thing he’s done, lending a challenging lead role the unpredictable energy he’s brought in the past to his comedic twists. Each of Abnesti’s humorous digressions – and there are many – contributes to our vision of his sociopathy. Part of the viewing pleasure Spider just waiting to see what Hemsworth does next.

The film focuses on one particular prisoner, Jeff (Miles Teller, looking even more buffered than usual), one of Abnesti’s star students, who has apparently been involved in these experiments for so long that the whole thing has become a chore for him. A look into Jeff’s past reveals a horrific drunk driving accident that gives us a clue to the nature of the people experimented on in Spider. They weren’t just convicted for their crimes; they condemned themselves. They are consumed with guilt, having caused death and destruction with their exercise of free will. We suspect that something similar may be happening to Jeff’s cellmate Lizzie (the wonderful and flamboyant Jurnee Smollett). We don’t have any memories of her, but we’re curious about what lies behind her cheerful, playful façade.

As Abnesti put it at one crucial moment, justifying his experiments, “Only you can interfere with the other you.” This feeling hangs over Spiderand it gives the whole film, despite all its comical digressions, a brooding, mournful quality, enhanced by a yacht-rock soundtrack filled with songs that sound like party classics on the one hand and existential meditations on the other. (The film opens with Supertramp’s “Logic Song” and the entire film could be suffixed with the lyric: “Could you please tell me what we’ve learned… Please tell me who I am.”) Of course, it’s a melancholic mood. is an element Spider shared with other Kosinski films, including his recent mega-blockbuster Top Shooter: Maverick. (director filmed Spider in Australia during the pandemic during Maverick, filmed in 2018 and 2019, was on the shelf waiting for the safe reopening of theaters. As a result, he releases two very different films in a very short period of time.)

Kosinski has always been a master of tone, but Spider poses an unusual problem, as his characters’ emotions are often the opposite of what one would expect; there is a gap between what they actually see and what they feel. This world has lost its moorings, and yet it remains highly ordered. There is something extraordinarily pertinent about this idea. This is a cautionary tale about the reality in which we all a wish we could live in it. Thus, here is a place where everyone does what they are told, and beneath its placid surfaces, its lush furnishings and pure spaces lies a deep moral corruption. It’s a common theme in science fiction, but it’s rarely presented in films as entertainingly and thoughtfully as it is in Spider. Reminds me of Stanley Kubrick’s animated quote. Clockwork orange, the film’s spiritual relative: “Good is something to choose from. When a person cannot choose, he ceases to be a person.”

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