Is Spiderhead bad? Things that don’t make sense in the film 


Spiderhead currently stands as the latest blockbuster-style addition to the Netflix movie base. The film starred by Hollywood A-lister Chris Hemsworth and Top Gun Maverick star Miles Teller showcases the journey of two inmates who starts opposing the mind-altering drugs given to them at a penitentiary institute.

Although the film which was based on a short story written by George Saunders has the potential to be a success, it falls way short of its expectations. 

Caution: Major spoilers ahead!

Spiderhead massively divulges from the original short story 

The ending of the film compared to the short story is entirely different. The short story doesn’t have a veiled pharmaceutical company called ‘Absenti Pharmaceuticals’ where Steve does what he heeds in designing the ultimate obedience drug. Nor there is a love interest going on between Jeff and Lizzy, who is non-existent in the short story. 

The origins of Jeff’s crimes are also different. According to the short story, Jeff had fatally attacked a friend with a brick while fighting. The phone calls Jeff makes on Fridays don’t go to his dead girlfriend Emma like in the film, but to his mother who is very much alive. 

At the end of the short story, Jeff starts to get depressed after seeing Heather committing suicide due to the effects of Darkenfloxx and refuses Steve’s and Verlaine’s requests to administer the drug to Rachel. The commanding duo goes off to get permission from the authorities to carry on without Jeff’s permission and Jeff manages to steal his remote and administers Darkenfloxx to himself and commits suicide. 

The short story ending sounds more plausible than the ending on film which has many plot holes. 

The film showcases many inherent plot holes

Although the ending alluded to the wholesome side of things being lukewarmish at best, there were still many unanswered questions about the plot. 

The main plot confusion is the way Jeff convinces Verlaine on going behind Steve’s back and informing the authorities about the crimes being committed. Jeff and Verlaine don’t share enough screentime to be this close and the whole scene looks loosely built and fragile, making one big plot blunder.

The other blunder comes in the way Jeff gets the remote control of Steve, which the writers haven’t put any thought into. The film tries to say either Steve made a mistake in giving his own remote to Jeff, or that Jeff magically possesses his all-encompassing remote control of Steve, the former being the only possible explanation although insusceptible. 

Both these blunders make the ending less plausible. The film only shows three police boats coming to the facility as Steve escapes through a seaplane while Jeff and Lizzy get out through the speedboat with their futures still in the balance. Do the authorities know about the nature of crimes committed inside the penitentiary and if so, who takes the brunt of the force now that Steve is dead?

The flip is considered a flop by both viewers and critics 

This is something you don’t get to see every day where both the audience and the critics start hating a movie. The film had only bagged a 41% Tomatometer score and a disappointing 33% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Critic Austin Collins of the Rolling Stone Magazine correctly comments, “The movie’s made up its mind not to cut too deep on the intellectual, as Saunders’s writing often does, so instead it leans into the human element without fully allowing its characters to become human.”

Perhaps the only saving grace of this film is the strong cast performance driven by Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller, two actors who rose to global fame playing the wholesome good guys. The duo manages to deliver a strong enough performance with Metro reporting some fans calling it the best performance of Chris Hemsworth to date. 

The director Joseph Kosinski speaking to revealed why Chris Hemsworth was a perfect choice;

“He (Chris) just saw it exactly the way we did, the challenge of it, the fun in it, the complexity of it. But at the same time making sure there’s a real human being there and that you do feel for him because you understand where this all comes from. And you understand that he does truly believe he’s doing the right thing, as twisted as it is. We were thrilled to have Chris come in and he just really crushed it.”

The strong cast might just be the equivalent of the string quartet while the Titanic sank.

Although the film had all the resources to make this a very successful one given the highly admired short story and the strong cast, it fails to come even closer to what the audience expected in terms of the cinematic experience that should be in a sci-fi fantasy.