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Review: Madame Web (2024)

Madame Web (2024)

Directed by: S.J. Clarkson

Premise: A Spider-Man spinoff. Casandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) has déjà vu-like visions of the near future. She takes three young women under her wing, protecting them from a supervillain determined to kill them.

What Works: Madame Web has a wry sense of humor that is probably intentional. A lot of the movie is ridiculous, as many superhero films are, and actor Dakota Johnson has an offbeat delivery that’s consistent with the askew nature of the film. The actors are generally well matched with their roles especially the core cast of young women including Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, and Celeste O’Connor. The actors do what they can to distinguish these women within the limited opportunities afforded by the film.

What Doesn’t: Madame Web is part of a series of Spider-Man spinoff films produced by Sony which include Venom and Morbius. Madame Web sits somewhere between those properties. It isn’t nearly as fun as the Venom films nor is it the disaster that was Morbius. Instead, Madame Web is just bland and clumsy. It is intended to be an origin story for the title character and her team of female superheroes and this is one of the worst examples of that superhero trope. An origin story sets up relationships and themes that will play out later while putting the character through an adventure that dramatizes and defines their heroism. Madame Web doesn’t do any of that, at least not in a way that is compelling. Cassandra Webb is not an interesting character. The story doesn’t give her a purpose or a goal. She’s positioned as a mother figure to the younger women but that quality is underplayed. The three superheroes-to-be never really become heroes themselves. They just tag along and drift through the story and they never cohere as a team. The actors are burdened with inane dialogue, a lot of it awkward exposition dumps that don’t clarify anything. The villain (Tahar Rahim) remains a generic bad guy. He’s supposedly a man of wealth and power but there’s no more to him than that. He has visions of these young women defeating him but those visions are refuted by the climax. It’s one of many details in Madame Web that don’t make sense. The film is littered with all sorts of discontinuities. The story is set in 2003 but the music and fashion choices don’t look of that era. The women are stranded in the woods and make a campfire but when they depart to get food they leave the fire burning. These sloppy details add up. Madame Web also underwhelms as an action film. The set pieces are not exciting and the editing is choppy. The action is often incoherent; one shot doesn’t lead to the next.

Bottom Line: Madame Web is intended to set up a superhero series but there is nothing here worth revisiting. It’s reminiscent of pre-Iron Man Marvel films such as 2003’s Daredevil and 2007’s Ghost Rider but Madame Web’s lack of thrills or coherence make it worse than that.

Episode: #985 (February 18, 2024)