Madame Web review

Sony’s Spider-Man adjacent universe has been interesting to watch. The first two ‘Venom’ films had their merits, but ‘Morbius’ was an utter disaster and poured cold water over the whole endeavour. ‘Madame Web’ is the studio’s latest expansion, and Sony once again teamed up with the writers from ‘Morbius’ along with director S.J. Clarkson. And the results of this is a film that somehow manages to be worse than ‘Morbius,’ a truly irredeemable travesty.

Sony Pictures

‘Madame Web’ is about the clairvoyant Madame Webb, or Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) protecting three schoolgirls – Julia Carpenter (Sydney Sweeny), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) – who are destined to become various versions of Spider-Woman from Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) who thinks they will be the architects of his death.

This doesn’t sound hugely interesting on its own, as Madame Web has always been a supporting character and the movie doesn’t make a compelling argument for her powers needing their own origin and feature film. They’re not cinematic at all, but worst they remove any tension from any scene, especially when the Web foresees the girls’ death in the future, so she simply walks them out of the situation. It makes everything laughably boring.

What makes this worse is the deceptive marketing Sony has yet again engaged in. One of the (many) reasons fans felt let down by ‘Morbius’ is because the marketing hinted at a larger universe with Vulture and Spider-Man that the film never bothered with, and ‘Madame Web’ does the same thing. The marketing hyped up the appearance of three Spider-Women, yet in the film they’re present for about a minute of actual screentime, and even that feels like a generous characterisation. There is the idea that Spider-Women will be important in the future, but the glimpse the film provides isn’t one audiences would want to watch.

Audiences are then just left with Web herding three inept schoolchildren about for two hours, which is extremely dull, completely neutering any so-called action scenes. It’s a wonder this doesn’t put people to sleep immediately. The girls themselves aren’t written to have more than one character trait, which Sweeney and the others attempt to do what they can with but it doesn’t matter. Johnson is completely miscast in this, reading every line as though she’s seeing it for the first time in her usual monotone voice, making this snoozefest worse. None of them go through a journey of accepting their destiny that would otherwise denote growth.

Ezekiel Sims doesn’t do anything to spice this conflict up either, having no motivation to kill the three girls beyond not wanting to die. He’s a boring billionaire with no backstory, a bizarre choice since he for some reason has a Spider-Manish suit, which goes totally unexplained. It does seem like the film wants to use him to criticise the loss of privacy in the aftermath of 9/11, but this is so half-baked and underexplored that feels like a stretch. While Rahim is apparently a talented man, none of this comes through though. His accent is rough, something shoved in during post-production.

Throughout the film the dialogue is stilted and forced, giving the impression that no actual humans beings were involved. The best example of this is Franklin’s lines about people not liking her when she’s hangry. It’s a weird and unusual thing to point out, and between this and ‘Morbius,’ it is the second Hulk reference that has no place in a Spider-Man film. There is also “the moment you take on the responsibility, great power will come,” a strained inversion of Uncle Ben’s famous line, but making no absolutely sense.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sony Spider-Man adjacent film without forced Spider-Man connections. There’s the aforementioned black Spider-Manish suit and responsibiliy foreshadowing, but there’s unfortunately more. Mary Parker (Emma Roberts) giving birth is a side plot, yet it adds nothing to anything to the Spider-Man lore or an essential part of understanding the Parker family, Ben Parker (Adam Scott) while adding very little does at least have some fun interaction with Cassandra.

Finally, there are the effects and costumes. This film was made for a reported budget of $80 million, but even for the comparatively low price tag for a superhero film, the onscreen product feels much cheaper. There’s only one setpiece in the film, and even that is just in a warehouse with some cheap explosions. Madame Web gets her glasses at the end of the film, and they’re extremely blocky, as though someone plucked them out of the 1980s. Her jacket is an in-your-face red and her hair awkwardly greyed out. The entire film is a throwback to old superhero films in the worst ways, constant product placement, uninspired costumes, and lackluster action.

Though it’s not like any of this was surprising. Sony has given everyone the gift of clairvoyance after ‘Morbius,’ the power to foresee disaster before it strikes. And ‘Madame Web’ was one of those visions, the film’s quality was evident from long ago. If anything, ‘Madame Web’ managed to fall below any meager expectations one might have for it, an achievement in itself. It’s an embarrassment for everyone involved.

Kieran Burt

My name is Kieran and I am based in the UK. I love writing about all things science fiction and fantasy, particularly Star Wars and Marvel. When I’m not writing or watching anything sci-fi related, you can probably find me exploring the open worlds of alternate lands through my Xbox.

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