Netflix’s latest science fiction bet wastes its potential but maintains interest

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Though Netflix’s science fiction-related productions are abundant, very few come close to the harder side of the genre. That is to say, there are movies and series about time travel (‘The Adam Project’), artificially created superheroes (‘Power Project’) and futuristic action (‘Uncovered’), but it almost always stays at a starting point that then drift into action, adventure or drama with more conventional approaches.

‘Spiderhead’ attempts to break away from that trend. Both plot-wise and aesthetically, the film enters the waters of scientific speculation, which also, as in the best examples of the genre, builds bridges towards the current era. However, in its final stretch it does not dare to fully exploit its premise and the feeling is one of wasted opportunity. Still, the film has plenty of interesting elements.

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These are based above all on a series of plot ideas that are put on the table and are not fully exploited, but they are very interesting. For example, the most explicit talks about how chemical substances modulate our daily personality in a consensual pact, much more dangerous than it seems at first glance, between pharmaceutical companies and individuals. A problem that is especially evident in the extremely sedated North American society.

‘Spiderhead’, based on a story published in 2010 by George Saunders, tells how a group of criminals in a prison (a facility on an island where they move freely with routines more typical of a vacation period, which gives them a strange dystopian tone to the setting) agree to be supplied with doses of chemical products that modify their behavior. Panic, sexual desire, verbiage… a whole range of forced feelings that will trigger, beyond the rooms where the study is done, tensions between the prisoners and the doctor who conducts the experiments.

Stuck in Ikea

This very frontal message of ‘Spiderhead’ is not at all subtle (the film is literally about that), but Joseph Kosinski, who recently demonstrated his tremendous visual skills in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, squeezes it so that it is branch out, with a wicked sense of humor, into multiple darts that work great. For example, with the rock soundtrack for adults that seems to come out of a Rock FM potpourri and that plays continuously in prison, almost to keep prisoners sedated to the same or greater extent than chemicals.

Or the staging that presents us with a prison-island halfway between an inhumane brutalist design and an Ikea advertisement, almost a daily prison in which you can live with some normality. Or, finally, the design of the kind personality but with a perverse point of the scientist in charge of the experiments, magnificently played by Chris Hemsworth, and who introduces us to a new type of villain, that kind of nice billionaire style that they are devoted to. aspirational form the most naive cryptobros.

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Between Kosinski and his team they pose a dystopia that is not a dystopia and that takes place between flashbacks that tell us the past of the hero who will face this abusive situation (a very intoned and sober, in contrast to Hensworth, Miles Teller) and some that another sequence of suspense and tension very well resolved. Unfortunately, sometimes the film gets lost in its own plot twists and turns. forgets to give us more poison-drenched details about the morality of drug companiesthe chains that society places voluntarily or the new typologies of the code of the mad doctor.

There is something of a missed opportunity in ‘Spiderhead’, which wants to be an alternative to the mass of youth entertainment and science fiction tropes that Netflix usually proposes, but which does not give in to the possibility of ceasing to be attractive and commercial. Along the way, he leaves us with an interesting string of good ideas, great performances and an impeccable technical section (editing, production design, costumes). Given the precedents, not bad at all.

Though Netflix’s science fiction-related productions are abundant, very few come close to the harder side of the genre. That is…

Though Netflix’s science fiction-related productions are abundant, very few come close to the harder side of the genre. That is…

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