- Movie Rating -

Spiderhead (2022)

| July 1, 2022

Nothing thrills me like science fiction about ideas, and very little frustrates me like seeing those ideas presented in a provoking way and then run through routine action movie cliches.  Such is the problem with Netflix’s Spiderhead a movie that boasts a rising young director in Joseph Kosinsky (fresh off of Top Gun: Maverick) and a good cast that includes Miles Teller, Chris Hemsworth and Jurnee Smollet.  It is even based on a critically-acclaimed short story by George Saunders.  I never read it, but I imagine that if it were so lauded then it would have to have a better path than this movie.

The ideas are there.  We are in a laboratory on a tropical island run by hunky-smiley research scientist Steve Abnesti (Hemsworth) who has gathered together a group of very troubled inmates who have all agreed to be sequestered in near-luxury accommodations if they will sign on to be part of a pharmaceutical experiment.  Med-packs are attached to their torso and the drugs are administered by Hemsworth and his assistant only when the subject says “Acknowledge.”  There are, after all, legal matters to consider.

The drugs control basic functions – anger, paranoia, sexual response, etc. – with increased doses to see what the subjects will do.  Our protagonist, Jeff (Teller), steps into a box with a pretty but rather bitchy young woman named Helen (Tess Haubrich).  Emotionally, there’s ice between them until they are given doses of a drug called Luvactin that, when increased, suddenly have these two climbing all over each other.  Another subject is given a different drug called Darkenfloxx that unleashes pain and fear.

These drugs, Steve explains, could change the world, eliminating the negative emotions and motivations that are commonplace in the human character, but he doesn’t address the fact that these drugs are also a means of control.  The debate over such things is worth a discussion.  Unfortunately, Spiderhead doesn’t really get there.  Much too soon Jeff uncovers the machinations of the plot and a cat-and-mouse game ensues that leads to a predictable action climax.  At that point though, where are the ideas?  Where is the discussion.  We are led entirely on the notion that Steve is doing the wrong thing but where is the challenge?  Where is the idea presented that he might be on to something?  This is most frustrated, as I said before, a story with ideas that bottoms out mid-way through.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Sci-Fi/Fantasty