The Spider has landed. After an epic, tumultuous-to-the-point-of-absurdity preview process that included falling and quitting actors, fired directors, and early critical abuse (among so many problems), the $70 million dollar musical that is Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark has opened on Broadway. Garth Johnston saw both the original Julie Taymor version of the show and the current, Philip Wm. McKinley-helmed version, while Ben Yakas saw only version 2.0. Below they discuss the new Spidey, the old Spidey, and the unbearable boringness of flying on Broadway.

Before we start though—for those of you who don't like words—here's the gist: The all-new, all-different Spider-Man is no longer the hot mess it was under the stewardship of departed director Julie Taymor. Instead the new creative team, who did an admirable salvage job, have produced a run-of-the-mill, circus of a musical that should play well in Peoria. Shame about Bono and The Edge's music though.

Garth Johnston: Ben, you came in without having seen Spider-Man 1.0. What'd you think of Turn Off the Dark version 2.0?

Ben Yakas: It would have been quite difficult to view the show in a vacuum at this point—I followed along with all the coverage of the turmoil behind the scenes, the accidents, the grim early reviews, and best of all, the labored sarong and volcano metaphors. My expectation was that, even after the dramatic rewrites, this would be a shitshow of the highest order. And yet, the thing that stands out to me the most a few days later is how boring it was.

Garth: See, where you saw a shitshow I saw a shitshow that was a vast improvement over the insane fever dream that was Spider-Man 1.0. Where once there was incoherence, stilted effects and bad music now there was a coherent—if lame—plot, tightly integrated effects mixed with still bad music. I don't necessarily disagree with you, but what did you find boring?

Ben: I really wish I could have seen that feverish first version. It might have given a better clue what Arachne was doing there. I think the least compelling aspect was the main actor, Reeve Carney. Part of my problems with his portrayal of Peter Parker was the fault of the writers—they completely missed the mark on his character arc, his motivations. They warped the tragic elements of his origins just enough to lose the thread of the character entirely. Parker didn't develop, and it was exacerbated by Carney playing it dull. I suppose that was all emblematic of the macro problem of the play: the story was an afterthought. The point seemed to be:"Wowee, look at the bouncy castle on stage!"

Garth: You mean the bouncy bedroom? That was one of the better effects though! I think part of the problem with Carney is that, in both versions, he's barely been given anything to do. And I totally agree the way the character's story is changed is very much missing the point, to the detriment of the show. This is Spider-Man's origin story and yet in both versions of the show, one of Spidey's most important moments—when he realizes that the thief he was too self-centered to bother stopping after winning his wrestling match, is the man who killed his uncle—was cut. On Broadway Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man because, well, because he didn't stay home one night?

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Spidey and the Green Goblin face off (Jacob Cohl).

Ben: And he came upon the revelation that "with great power comes great responsibility" seconds later.

Garth: Right! Instead of Uncle Ben saying those immortal words, Parker just comes up with them on his own.

Ben: Actually, scratch that. The worst parts of the play were the obnoxious, herky-jerky seven minute long songs. I never thought a clip of "Vertigo" could sound so good, but surrounded by the likes of "Rise Above"... How much did the music change between 1.0 and 2.0?

Garth: 1.0 was such a mess you barely noticed how bad the music was (besides the infamous, cut, "Shoe Song" in which Arachne descends to Earth and sends her minions out to find her heels for her many feet). What 2.0 makes clear is that Bono and The Edge really, truly, have no right to be writing music for the stage. All the songs are static pieces with bad internal structure. Worse, they don't move the story forward and seem almost completely unrelated to the show at hand. I was aware that they tweaked some of the songs—giving different people different lines—but that is still sort of like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

Which leads me to one thing I do think is worth mentioning. The team that came in to try and makes sense of Julie Taymor's mess—Phillip William McKinley directed, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa made sense of the book and Chase Brock providing additional choreography—did a really admirable job considering what they had to work with. The show is now coherent and family-friendly, Taymor's aesthetic is still there (if muted), and the show should play well in Peoria. Considering what they had to work with (and how much of Bono and The Edge's music was totally locked in) they deserve a pat on the back. The standing ovation the show got last week? Not so much.

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Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson share a moment (Jacob Cohl).

Ben: The audience we saw it with definitely seemed to enjoy it. But commending something for not being completely incoherent is a pretty low bar. The "thrills" largely felt cheap to me: a man sitting in front of us visibly shook with joy when they recreated the upside-down kiss from the first Spider-Man movie at the end of the show.

The main focus seemed to be on the perspective-defying stunts, and the admittedly evocative visuals. However, the only excitement I felt when the characters would "fly" across the room was concern whether or not someone would fall and injure an audience member. How did you feel about the stunts/visuals, and had they changed much from Taymor's original vision?

Garth: Well, they definitely felt toned down from the Taymor version. But when I saw the first go-round it was right after all the accidents, so you were especially aware of the stunts. Also, in 1.0 the show blew its "Spider-Man flying!" wad at the start and really, to a seemingly dangerous extent, embraced the air stunts. I suspect the number of actual stunts remained about the same in 2.0, but they definitely reorganized them so you now don't get everyone's favorite neighborhood webslinger swinging around until well into the first act. Now the show slowly builds up to one big air fight at the very end.

Still, the faux-Cirque du Soleil flying didn't really do much for me either time—I prefer the cheap version of flying they did in The Spidey Project—but I was surprised how much the big effects that I was impressed by the first time, like the Arachne weaving scene that opens both shows, didn't seem as breathtaking the second time around. It didn't help that TV Carpio, who plays Arachne and has seen her role massively reduced in the last six months, seemed bored to tears hanging from the rafters in her three songs. Poor girl has nothing to do in the show now but wave her arms around.

Meanwhile, they greatly expanded the Green Goblin's role, which seems about right. Though they took out most of his "Ted Turner-style" tics for the new book. What did you think of the Goblin and his dancing villains gallery? As a comic fan I won't call them the Sinister Six...

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Poor Arachne has nothing to do now but wave her stumps around in the air (Jacob Cohl).

Ben: It seemed as if the play was not intended for anyone who really cared, let alone loved, the Spider-Man mythology, especially from the comics. It feels almost unfair to me to compare the two. The characters they chose for the Sinister Six were entirely arbitrary, only based on their visual presence, and how goofily they could be reproduced. However, Green Goblin was definitely the best part of the play. Patrick Page, who played him, seemed to be one of the only people who struck the right tone for the material. He played up the eccentricities and silliness in the script, and the audience rightfully loved him.

Garth: I can see what you are saying—Swiss Miss? Really? —but the new script at least did offer a few winks and nods to the original. Flash Thompson is still a jerk, Mary Jane calls Peter "Tiger," and there are many small references to characters and writers. Also, I thought J. Jonah Jameson (Michael Mulheren) was entertaining in the couple of scenes he was in. But then again, he also didn't have to sing one of Bono and The Edge's awful ballads.

As a fan of the comics is there a crowd-pleasing and fan-pleasing story you could see them having used? Without going the way Taymor did, the nature of the comic book story sort of requires the origin tale...

Ben: I'm not sure there is, really. But after having seen this version, I feel more convinced that it was entirely unnecessary to try to force Spider-Man into a musical setting. Has there ever been a superhero story that has been successfully adapted into a musical? I'll give Taymor credit for this: despite her pretentiousness, she tried to do something different with the material, maybe because she realized that it wouldn't work in a straightforward manner in this medium. Unfortunately for her, it went so badly she had to be forcibly separated from her own baby.

The fun way I could imagine doing it would have been ala "Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!" That's a play I'd like to see. How would you have changed/improved the play?

Garth: Well, I would have gotten a whole new set of songs and lyrics, to start. But I also think to make it really work the show would have had to be much lighter. Part of the charm of the Spidey Project I mentioned earlier was that it really embraced the fact that these are characters who were originally written and drawn in bright, broad strokes. You can see hints of that in Turn Off The Dark's costumes, by Eiko Ishioka, which have comic book-style accents painted on.

But what The Spidey Project really focused in on, and both versions of The Dark totally lost track of, were the small parts of the story that made Stan Lee's creation so wonderful. Here the fact that Peter and MJ get together is a given from the get-go and has no drama. In the Spidey project the drama of Peter getting the girl of his dreams is the most important part of the story. As it should be when you are talking about a superhero coming out of high school.

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Spider-Man tries to, uh, rise above (Jacob Cohl)

Ben: Much of your praise was geared toward the salvage job that was done between versions 1.0 and 2.0 of the play. So my question is: would you recommend the show to people?

Garth: Maybe, but probably not. If a parent asked for an easy first musical for their kid I'd probably point them to Taymor's The Lion King first, since that still has some nice theatrical spectacle to it a decade later, but if their kid is a big super-hero fan I can see it being an okay introduction. And I guess U2 fans will like it? But I don't think I'll be telling any of my theater friends to rush to 42nd street. Not when there is actually good and interesting stuff on the Great White Way (Anything Goes, The Book of Mormon) that are so much worthier of anybody's time. Would you?

Ben: I'm not so sure U2 fans will like it. I don't think that even hardcore U2 fans are clamoring for Bono-less rough drafts of "No Line On The Horizon" B-sides. As for whether I'd recommend it to people...have you seen that episode of Louie where he's on a terrible first date, and his date eventually escapes by getting into a helicopter? That's how I felt at intermission.