You’ve heard of ‘throwing good money after bad,’ and no project seems to better embody that old saying than Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The $60m musical has been pushed, re-cast, re-designed and is finally nearing an opening preview date in advance of a 2011 Broadway run. But if these images are anything to go by, there might have been a point in the production’s turbulent history at which someone should have just said, “you know what? Let’s not go any further.”

So, we’ve seen a few costume designs from Julie Taymor‘s production. And there was at least a small amount of scoffing. Possibly, very possibly, a great deal of scoffing. And, while I’m not actually interested in turning the show into a Broadway-sized punching bag — it has already had enough difficulties — five new images shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz make the production look even more insane and disastrous than we’d thought it might be.

Vogue has the pics, and they show off costumes that have two great shortfalls. One is that they do absolutely no favors to many of the characters. The other is that they don’t make any case for these being compelling new versions of those characters. Sure, those concept images of the Green Goblin looked horrible, but check this out:

And then there’s this full image of Carnage and Mary Jane.

(How did Annie Leibovitz take these photos? Her work is usually quite beautiful. These images look like she traveled back in time, saw her first Dave McKean Sandman cover and raced out for a copy of Photoshop 2.0.)

On the other hand, if these truly represent what the musical will look like, I’m afraid I’ll be almost inexorably drawn to see it. Is that the subversive marketing angle at work here? Make something that looks so wrong-headed that audiences can’t resist checking it out, and let the money roll in.

Or could this just work? I thought a lot of the designs for Julie Taymor’s The Lion King looked pretty funny, too, and that turned out to be quite popular and genuinely well-regarded. Plus, for Spider-Man, there are reports of eccentric set designs, eight-legged chorus girls (with eight stiletto shoes each), actors being catapulted across the stage and a Spider-Man that flies into his opening entrance from the back of the theater. Maybe this will end up being a genuine spectacle, but I’d be hard pressed to predict that based on these photos.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark features music by Bono and The Edge and stars Reeve Carney, Jennifer Damiano, Patrick Page, Sean Samuels and Collin Baja. It opens on Broadway in January 2011.

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