Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: In the near future, convicts are offered the chance to volunteer as medical subjects to shorten their sentence and for a more comfortable environment. One such subject for a new drug capable of generating feelings of love begins questioning the reality of his emotions.
Review: Spiderhead is a sci-fi movie along the lines of Ex Machina. A small cast of actors in a somewhat futuristic setting which in this case is a prison that probably closest resembles the present day counterparts in the Netherlands with its almost hotel-like amenities. Character-driven, this story enters around Miles Teller (Whiplash, The Hunger Games) and Jurnee Smollett (Birds of Prey, Lovecraft County) as two prisoners, Jeff and Lizzie, who volunteer for a study on drugs that control emotional responses. The drugs have been created by probably the sexiest mad-scientist ever Dr Steve Abnesti played by Thor himself Chris Hemsworth.
Hemsworth’s usual brand of charm and charisma shines through here but he also gets to add a sense of malice to it all that for the most part works well. Both Smollett and Teller also turn in solid performances and the premise of a prison with an open door system where the prisoners can work out, hang out and even cook top quality meal for themselves is kind of interesting. But the focus here is on the concept of using chemicals and medications to control emotions. With names like Laffodil (which makes everything funny to the user, even if it isn’t) or Darkenfloxx (that causes deep self-loathing) it’s all a bit cartoonish.
The whole thing is very Black Mirror as I’m sure others who’ve seen that series will draw comparisons to. From the cinematography to the main premise Spiderhead plays out more like a lesser impactful episode of the sci-fi show than a thought provoking tale the likes of Ex Machina.
I like the fact everything people enjoy in the future is from the past. The music, clothing styles and even the vehicles are from the 80s and earlier and Jeff’s haircut was giving me some serious mullet vibes. It’s these little touches that jump out at you the most, which is a bit counterintuitive for a futuristic tale. Where the movie is at its best is when the focus is on Jeff and Lizzie’s personal journeys of redemption. Spiderhead prison is actually a volunteer-based one (I wonder if something like this would ever work in the real world) and both characters are there because they both feel guilt for causing the deaths of others. The problem lies with the main narrative itself; this movie feels like it’s trying to reinvent these types of character drive- sci-fi films yet it’s message is so subdued it doesn’t feel like it’s saying anything important at all.
Aesthetically it looks good but Spiderhead doesn’t have anything memorable to it. I truly enjoy Chris Hemsworth as an actor, his role in another Netflix movie, Extraction, hell even his “dumb blonde” one in Ghostbusters or his anti-hero turn in Blackhat (a movie I personally enjoyed but I know most people don’t) shows that with the right material he’s capable of being much more than just eye candy. But I can’t help but think he was grossly miscast here. I’m left to wonder if having Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick pen this book adaptation was where it all went wrong.
Whatever it was, Spiderhead will bring in viewers due to the cast but I don’t see anyone, especially fans of character-driven science fiction, finding anything in this movie worth their time.
Sommer’s Score: 5.5 out of 10
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
Double Tap Baby!
And you can check out more Sci Fi thriller content below: