“Spiderhead” felt like another day at the office sort of movie for a regular Netflix viewer. Director Joseph Kosinski may have a reputation for building obnoxious stories out of the thinnest surfaces, but here he somehow fails to show his abilities. It has now become a fact for a Netflix audience that they should not be provoked at all with the casting of a certain film. That goes without saying; great casting doesn’t always produce great films. Today, we are going to talk about the bits and pieces of the latest Chris Hemsworth starrer, “Spiderhead.”
Before jumping into the explanations, let’s pick out the genre of the film. Is it sci-fi or a thriller? Well, this film is not genre-specific. Although it starts with a hint of sci-fi, later it shifts gears and becomes a regular action/thriller. But, in all fairness, we can put this movie into the sci-fi genre as it explores the absurdities of going outside the norms of justification. “Spiderhead” could have been a promising movie. Maybe it is, but with the sci-fi movies coming along today, this doesn’t stand a chance.
What Exactly Happens In ‘Spiderhead’?
Nothing! Just as I said in the beginning, for a regular Netflix viewer, it was just another day at the office. Netflix’s tendency to put thrillers into science fiction has now become so predictable that the films mostly lose their grip long before the climax. Anyway, the movie is derived from the New Yorker short story “Escape from Spiderhead,” written by George Saunders. Director Joseph Kosinski tried hard to put together a star-studded cast with the almighty Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller.
So, “Spiderhead” is the name of a drug testing facility where an overtly obsessed scientist named Steve Abnesti (played by Chris Hemsworth) leads the operations. In this facility, some criminals are handpicked by Abnesti himself, offering them a prison with certain absurd rules. Like, the prisoners can come and talk to the jailor, i.e., Abnesti himself, any time, anywhere. They would have access to their freedom within a certain limit. Instead, they would have to ‘acknowledge’ the drug test on them. Although “Spiderhead” mainly focuses on the relationship between Jeff (played by Miles Teller) and Steve, Jeff is convicted of manslaughter while driving. He is in love with an inmate named Lizzy, who is convicted of killing her child.
Things get a bit complex as the drug testing progresses and the relationship between Jeff and Steve is wrecked. Steve used to manipulate Jeff by threatening him with being sent back to the state prison. He also told Jeff that it was not Steve’s intention but that the higher authorities were forcing him to do it soon. Jeff finds out that the truth is that there were no higher authorities. Steve himself is the owner of everything in “Spiderhead.” Jeff lost his temper when Steve asked him to acknowledge on behalf of Lizzy for the test of I-16 drug. What happens after that? Well, you can guess, but it’s better if you watch.
‘Spiderhead’ Ending Explained: What Is B6? Why Did It Fail?
B6 is a drug that was intended to be named O-B-D-X (Obediex), a special derivation of the term “Obedience.” Steve Abnesti wanted to create a drug that would solve all the problems in society. Obedience is the key to removing all criminal activities from society, so he thought. The other drugs were mere hallucinations with no permanent effect. The main intention was to make them obedient at the end of the day. But, when Jeff pushed B6 into Steve’s body, why did it fail?
There was a scene when Jeff and another criminal named Heather acknowledged the N-40 drug, and they had sex. A few scenes later, it is seen that Steve asked Jeff to acknowledge on behalf of Heather to go through the drug named “Darkenfloxx” or I-16 test. This drug creates a certain level of anxiety that damages the conscious and subconscious mind altogether. Now, we have to remember one particular thing in this scenario. All the criminals were on B6 drugs. The B6 drug somehow failed to work for Jeff. This is one of the reasons why Steven used to push Jeff so hard. Steven had to convince Jeff to acknowledge the I-16 drug test on Heather. If B6 worked, he wouldn’t have to convince him at all. This is the time when Steven himself gets confused and frustrated as well. He wanted to know the reason why B6 was constantly failing on Jeff! When Lizzy was forced to take the Darkenfloxx, Jeff denied acknowledging it on her behalf. This denial came out of love. Love denied the effects of the B6 drug that was going through Jeff at that moment. If B6 worked, he would’ve acknowledged it right after Steven asked him to.
In the case of Steven, his love was solely devoted to the “Spiderhead” lab. When Jeff tried to inject the drug into Steven, B6 failed to work. The reason is the fear of losing what you love the most. B6 failed on Jeff for the same reason. Jeff tried to lure the world and expose Steven by showing what a torturous monster he is in actuality. This created a storm of insecurities for Steven, as he thought of losing all the things he had achieved so far. To him, this was the utmost dedication, his one true love. Now, while Jeff tried to take all that from him, B6 stopped working, and Steven stopped responding to whatever Jeff asked him to do. This is the straightforward reasoning I could come up with to answer the question of why B6 failed to act in these scenarios. If you go through a layer deeper than this, when someone tries to take away the most loved things of yours, Obedience doesn’t matter at all.
The World Spiderhead Wanted To Create
A society generally contains different people. Some of them can be obnoxious, some can be difficult to understand. The ‘Spiderhead’ facility structured one of such societies where there are all sorts of people, except for the fact that they were all proven criminals by law. Anyway, the society established here had some sort of freedom for the criminals. They could go anywhere within a certain boundary, they could talk to the jailor. Now, there is a twist that matches reality. Obedience is what the authorities always look for. A normal day at a corporate center is very similar to a day at Spiderhead. The freedom that is offered has a boundary. If you are being monitored every hour of the day, what’s left of the “sponsored” freedom? The similarities are profound, and the society it created, at some point, reaches the levels of movies like “The Platform” as well. Jeff is more like us on a regular day, minus the crime he has committed. The society he is living in, Spiderhead, has familiarity with us living in ours. Every time we are forced to do stuff. Yes, maybe we acknowledged ourselves, but did we have any other option?
Where Did The Film Fail Technically?
Well, the one thing where Spiderhead completely lost its grip is the screenplay. As a short story, “Escape from Spiderhead” was one of the most scintillating pieces of writing by Saunders. It talked a lot about free will and its impact on the human mind. But, while making a full-fledged feature, the grip of the story was lost long before the climax. In the movie, director Kosinski failed to put together the soul of the original story, which was free will. English psychologist Anne Triesman described the short story “Escape from Spiderhead” as funny in writing, antic in the making, and, of course, a bit heartbreaking at times.
Well, that is a close-to-perfect description of the short story. But, in the movie, the spark it had for at least the first 30 minutes or so began to fade. All the talk regarding free will is lost in the shadows of insecurities and dilemmas. Yes, Jeff found his free will, but he was carrying a part of it from the beginning. So, the struggle leaves no impact on the audience. Also, Heather could’ve been a more central character. Lizzy, on the other hand, had a dark past, but the way she was portrayed lost its impact after a while. Even with Chris Hemsworth being an obsessed scientist, his obsession is somehow neglected in writing. Although his performance was at one point astounding, for the lack of grip in the script, everyone lost their depth.
The facility had a grave-like structure and was situated on a remote island. The prisoners, too, have different kinds of psychology, which, of course, was vastly neglected during the writing. It was a well-equipped hotel for the prisoners. Songs like “She Blinded Me with Science” always play in the background. So, all in all, the setup was quite exquisite, but the basic requirements of a good film failed with every step Kosinski took. The cinematography is not something that would stand apart either. Kosinski also failed to provoke the climax, as the movie, in the end, felt like the facility was blown up as it had to from the very beginning. Maybe the short story never had the quality of an outstanding ending, or maybe Kosinski could have manipulated a different ending that could have helped the wholesomeness of the movie. Whatever the reason may be, “Spiderhead” can hardly have a 2-star rating out of 5. The concept was not new, and neither was the execution.