Movies

‘Madame Web’ Review

Straight up, this is just a terrible movie

Superhero fatigue or no, Marvel Studios has at least crafted a formula that brings in box office bucks. Even when we don’t love the movies, they’ve become reliable rainy day schlock full of fun explosions and silly jokes. They’re fast food for the most part.

With the newly released Madame Web, however, Sony-owned Columbia Pictures has so bungled its access to the Spider-Man license and its stable of characters—oh, did you not know that Marvel doesn’t actually own Spidey, and that those Tom Holland-led movies are the result of a 2015 deal all but signaling Sony doesn’t much know how to make it work?—that one wonders if the company might just throw in the towel and leave the franchise to literally anyone else. It couldn’t possibly get worse.

In Madame Web, Dakota Johnson plays Cassandra Web, a New York City-based EMT whose mother died during childbirth in the Peruvian Amazon while looking for magic spiders (seriously). Cut to 30 years later and Cassie doesn’t much like people, save her partner Ben Parker (as in, Uncle Ben, but, like, Peter Parker’s uncle, not the rice guy; Adam Scott) and she certainly won’t be roped into anything resembling a relationship, platonic or otherwise.

But when she technically dies for a sec during an emergency call, Cassie gains the ability to see a couple minutes into the future. Her new powers thrust Cassie into a caretaker position with a trio of teen ladies (Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced and Celeste O’Connor) who might just get their own spider-adjacent powers someday if her visions are to be believed. Chaos ensues for two terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad hours while we wonder if Cassie’s powers will help her thwart tragedies or only lead to their inevitable outcomes—y’know, like in all mythology? Just kidding, no one wondered that so much as they wondered when the movie would end.

The only thing more absurd than Johnson’s mind-numbingly emotionless performance as Madame Web (how lucky that her last name denotes spider stuff!) is the script from writers Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless and Claire Parker. The villain in the film (a hysterically cartoony only not fun Tahar Rahim, Napoleon) has visions, too, and thinks those would-be Spider-Gals might kill him one day if he doesn’t kill them first. He repeatedly says he won’t let them destroy what he’s built, only we never learn what that is. Is it a company? A lego castle? Rich friendships? No one knows, and Madame Web isn’t telling.

And the dimensionless villain makes up the least of our problems. In fact, it wouldn’t be shocking if director SJ Clarkson (who mostly has TV credits under her belt) came out to say the suits at Sony got their grubby mitts onto this movie. There is otherwise no excuse. Madame Web is for the ironic likers and the people who can’t look away from a car crash—everyone else should just forget it exists like Dakota Johnson is likely doing right now, even as we speak.

1

+Good for a laugh

-Terrible, hole-riddled plot; terrible performances; terrible everything

Madame Web

Directed by Clarkson

With Johnson, Sweeney, Merced, O’Connor and Scott

Regal, Violet Crown, PG-13, 116 min.

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