Is Spiderhead Based on a Book or a Novel?

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, ‘Spiderhead’ is a sci-fi thriller film. The plot centers around the futuristic prison and research center where the scientist and overseer Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth), conducts a human trial for the drugs he’s developed on inmates. Jeff (Miles Teller), as well as Lizzy (Jurnee Mollett) are just two examples of such inmates. They are volunteers for the program just like all the others. Spiderhead is different than any other prison. The inmates are allowed much more freedom at Spiderhead and don’t need to wear orange jumpsuits. As Jeff and Lizzy discovered, once you enter Spiderhead as a volunteer, your freedom of choice is gone. If you are wondering whether ‘Spiderhead’ is an original story or based on a book, we got you covered. SPOILERS BEFORE.

Spiderhead is an original story or a rewrite of a book?

‘Spiderhead’ is not an original story, nor is it necessarily based on a book. However, it’s still an adaptation. It is based on American author George Saunders’ short story, ‘Escape from Spiderhead,’ which was originally published in The New Yorker in December 2010. It was released in 2013 as part of Saunders’ short story collection, ‘Tenth of December: Stories.’

The story of the film is very different from its source material. This is not uncommon, since screenwriters sometimes tend to dissect and rebuild the plot to fit the requirements of cinema and television. Saunders’ original story doesn’t have a character named Lizzy. She seems to be the invention of two screenwriters of the film — Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The short story does include a Rachel character, but it is not as similar as Lizzy. She is actually closer to Sarah in the movie. Jeff must choose between Heather or Rachel to administer Darkenfloxx. Like in the movie, Jeff refuses to choose as he doesn’t favor one girl over the other and vividly remembers the sensation he felt while he was on Darkenfloxx. However, Rachel doesn’t admittedly have Sarah’s, let’s say, artistic tendencies.

The film’s short story includes free will as an important part. However, it is never clarified that Abnesti’s primary focus is to develop an obedience drug. In the story, there is no Obediex or OBDX. Docilryde is the alternative. Abnesti and Verlaine, Jeff’s associates, refuse to administer Darkenfloxx to Rachel. They then apply for a waiver to administer Docilryde.

The ending of the short story and the film is one key difference. Abnesti dies in a plane accident at the end of film. Jeff and Lizzy both survive. It is implied that they will continue to live a happy, free life. To protect Rachel from being hurt by Docilryde’s control, Jeff administers Darkenfloxx to himself in the story, while Anesti, Verlaine and Verlaine leave to obtain the waiver. Under its influence, he commits suicide.

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According to the story, Jeff is in prison for the murder of a 19-year-old man in drunken rage. Asked by The New Yorker whether Jeff found redemption with his final act, Saunders stated, “I think he gets some kind of redemption, just in that split-second of once again getting to [briefly] To be someone who never has killed anyone. His life is still very difficult. It was tragic, what he did, and that’s not going to change or be equalized by anything he does now. In those few lines, he realizes that his identity as an alleged killer is like any other identity. He was also strong, refused to kill Rachel, and took the hit, etc. etc. So I guess that’s good. I also felt that he did it out of sheer-strength.[expletive] weariness—he’s tired of the fight.”

Saunders added that he was a not great believer in redemption in fiction, but “…there’s a certain need-for-redemption built into the form, I guess, because the writer has so much destructive power. It’s easy to put the bad/dark things in, and, in order to make what feels like a fair representation of the world, it behooves the writer to set things back up on their feet somewhat, I suppose.”

Read more: Does Spiderhead own a scene for end-credits and mid-credits?

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