Entertainment

Chris Hemsworth delivers career-best performance as a villain in Netflix sci-fi thriller Spiderhead

Netflix has done surprisingly little to advertise spider headan expensive vehicle directed by Chris Hemsworth Top Gun: Maverickby Joseph Kosinski. Is it an unsung masterpiece? Not exactly. But it’s certainly entertaining, and surpasses the kind of generic action movies we’ve come to expect from this kind of actor/director pairing on Netflix.

spider head

Three stars

Release date:
June 17, 2022
Director:
Joseph Kosinsky
Stream:
Netflix
Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth star in this clumsy but entertaining sci-fi/psychological thriller about an evil scientist (Hemsworth) who conducts mind control experiments on the inmates of a private prison.

Based on a 2010 short story by George Saunders, spider head is a darkly amusing sci-fi thriller about free will and exploitation. Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett play prisoners in a high-tech prison run by pharmaceutical researcher Steve Abnesti (Hemsworth), who tests inmates with emotion-altering drugs. It’s an exercise in fabricated consent, as Abnesti jovially pressures his victims into accepting artificial doses of fear, love, joy, etc. In return, they live in a fancy bunker on a tropical island and enjoy more freedom and privacy than in a normal prison.

The overall vibe is akin to a ’90s thriller based on a much older concept — the sort of film you’d imagine starring Bruce Willis in his prime. Unfortunately, Miles Teller is not Bruce Willis. He doesn’t add much additional depth to his character Jeff, whose main role is to be a normal, relatable guy in a terrible situation.

Abnesti’s research falls somewhere between mind control and the Stanford prison experiment, cloaked in a facade of Silicon Valley ambitions. Authors Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (known for films like zombie land and Dead Pool) don’t offer much intellectual insight into the prison system or structural inequality, aside from the obvious fact that experimenting on prisoners is bad. The most fantastic element is the mere existence of this classy establishment. Abnesti could no doubt get away with torturing convicts in a real dungeon. But that wouldn’t be such a fun movie.

Honestly we don’t expect spider head be severance pay or Ex Machina. Firmly positioned in the realm of blockbuster entertainment, the 80’s bops soundtrack makes it clear that dystopian worldbuilding will never be reached to disturbing. In this context, I tend to overlook some incoherent details. There’s just one serious problem: this movie doesn’t understand what rape is. (Partial spoilers ahead!)

Towards the end of Act I, Abnesti’s experiments escalate into drugging inmates into having sex with one another. While it’s possible for a straight man like Jeff not to consciously understand why This is such a violation of his physical autonomy that we’d still expect him to be traumatized. The same applies to the other prisoners involved. But the film doesn’t treat this issue as seriously as it should, to the point where there’s even a gay panic joke when two men are brought together over the love drug. A completely unmusical detail.

Chris Hemsworth is to the rescue and offers the best performance of his career. Confident and unduly optimistic, Abnesti builds on Hemsworth’s strengths: comedy and towering attractiveness. Abnesti is a wealthy alpha psychopath – a cheerful, guilt-free villain of direct descent american psycho. He invites Jeff (a man over whom he has total control) into a “we’re all friends here” friendship and is an obvious but effective avatar for manipulative authority figures – and the general concept of rich white brothers who are the use the world as their playground. Not exactly a new idea, but nonetheless well-executed, based on Hemsworth’s chillingly joking performance.

Dubious sex politics aside, spider head is easy to watch, balancing dark themes with devious humor and a retro brand of multiplexed sci-fi storytelling. Netflix has an unfortunate habit of casting A-listers in fake blockbusters with minimal staying power, but this one has real appeal — especially if you like the idea of ​​watching Chris Hemsworth use his powers for evil.

*Initial publication: June 17, 2022 at 6:00 am CDT

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in science fiction films and superheroes, she also appears as a film and television critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she is the co-host of the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/spiderhead-movie-review-netflix-hemsworth/ Chris Hemsworth delivers career-best performance as a villain in Netflix sci-fi thriller Spiderhead

Jaclyn Diaz

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