Spiderhead Parent Guide
Better living through chemistry? Maybe not.
Parent Movie Review
In the not-so-distant future, convicts are eligible to get out of prison by applying to be guinea pigs in human experiments. Those assigned to the Spiderhead facility live in comparative luxury, with private rooms and extensive privileges – most of the doors don’t even lock. These freedoms come at a cost, specifically, a control box attached near the base of the spine which injects them with experimental pharmaceuticals, under the direction of overseer Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth). For Jeff (Miles Teller), time at Spiderhead has been difficult, but still seems preferable to spending his sentence in general population at a real prison. Jeff has also started developing feelings for Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), a fellow convict. As the experiments progress, however, Jeff begins to question the legitimacy of the tests, the drugs, Steve…even his own emotions.
Good science fiction holds a funhouse mirror up to society, exaggerating existing problems and offering exciting new frames of reference to explore our own issues. In that sense, Spiderhead does okay. It primarily highlights issues around the treatment of prisoners and guilt, both of which are interesting, but its conclusions aren’t exactly revolutionary. I’d like to think that we have a pretty solid public consensus that performing dodgy experiments on human subjects is a bad thing, but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were wrong about that.
Parents who are less concerned about the fictional merits of the story and more with the on-screen activity are going to have a few bones to pick here. Characters are dosed with powerful aphrodisiacs with predictable results, although the film tastefully avoids any actual nudity or graphic discussion of what’s going on in the test chamber. The depictions of violence are somewhat more graphic and include a character committing suicide by stabbing herself in the neck with a piece of broken furniture. That’s accompanied with a fair amount of profanity. On the other hand, the film has some pretty strong messages about drinking responsibly, so that’s a bonus.
Spiderhead has a lot going for it, with interesting set design, an intriguing premise, and a solid cast, but it doesn’t go far enough and ends up trundling happily along in the rut worn down by other science fiction stories. It’s a fun watch for mature viewers, but I found myself losing focus as the story covered familiar ground. That said, I still had a reasonably good time, and this is an easy option for someone looking to get into science fiction. Just don’t expect too much from this little diversion. After all, the secret to having fun is to keep your expectations low. Or, you know, experimental drugs from the future. Whichever.Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett. Running time: 106 minutes. Theatrical release June 17, 2022. Updated June 16, 2022
Watch the trailer for Spiderhead
Rating & Content Info
Why is Spiderhead rated R? Spiderhead is rated R by the MPAA for violent content, language, and sexual content
Violence: People are seen in physical altercations. Individuals are killed in a vehicle collision caused by driving drunk. A character commits suicide with a sharp piece of wood. A person is killed in a plane crash. There are references to a child dying in a hot car.
Sexual Content: Several characters are shown being dosed with a potent aphrodisiac and having sex. No nudity is seen.
Profanity: There are 28 uses of sexual expletives, 34 uses of scatological curses, and occasional uses of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are seen drinking, and on one occasion, driving under the influence. One character is seen abusing experimental drugs.
Page last updated June 16, 2022
Spiderhead Parents' Guide
How are prisoners treated in the United States? What kind of experiments have they been subjected to? What does our treatment of convicted criminals say about us as a society? What is the false conviction rate in your country?
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Joseph Kosinski has also directed Miles Teller in Top Gun: Maverick and Only the Brave. Chris Hemsworth plays an even stranger master manipulator in Bad Times at the El Royale. Other sci-fi prisons can be found in The Platform, Minority Report, Infinity Chamber, Escape from New York, Gamer, A Clockwork Orange, and 12 Monkeys. Other films about unethical human experiments include The Stanford Prison Experiment, The Fly, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Truman Show, Ex Machina, The Island, Flatliners, and Replicas. If you’re interested in the consequences of the United States approach to prisoners, the documentary 13th is an excellent choice.