Madame Web Review – An Utter Bore

Madame Web Review FandomWire
Madame Web Review FandomWire
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As soon as the first trailer dropped for Madame Web, the soon-to-be audiences (at least in certain corners of the internet) were all too happy to quickly anoint this as the next epic failure. A movie that will be bad, but with potential to be “fun bad,” potential for memes and jokes, giving it a certain kind of popularity. Not the popularity a movie wants, but popularity nonetheless. You can only put so much stock into these intense reactions off just a single trailer. But as the marketing went on and the release date inched ever closer, those initial reactions just felt like they were going to turn to be pretty accurate. And, well, they were.

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Dakota Johnson in “Madame Web”

Madame Web Plot

Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson) is a paramedic in Manhattan who, after suffering an injury while saving a victim of a car crash, gains clairvoyant powers, seeing glimpses of the future, most of which are terrible and violent. This leads her to three young women, Julia (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie (Celeste O’Connor), and Anya (Isabela Merced) who are all being hunted by a mysterious, sinister villain Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) with connections to Cassie’s past. Cassie must learn from this past if she’s to defeat Sims.

Madame Web Critique

The most recent credit for Madame Web screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless is 2022’s Morbius. Honestly, with that little nugget, I could stop this review right here and you would all get the picture. And yet, we carry on. While Morbius was a disaster in its own right, it at least took some swings and tried to make things interesting. Madame Web did no such thing. One of the worst things a movie can be is boring or uninteresting. As much as a despised Argylle, for example, it wasn’t necessarily a boring movie. Madame Web is arguably the most boring and least interesting movie I have ever seen.

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The biggest reason for that is the stakes. One thing I got particularly tired of with recent superhero movies was how every movie seemed to put the fate of the world, or entire universe, at stake. Not everything needs to be that big. There’s nothing wrong with some more personal, street-level stakes. Unfortunately, Madame Web takes it a few steps too far, essentially giving us no stakes whatsoever.

Ezekiel is haunted by visions of the future where he is murdered by Julia, Mattie, and Anya, all three of whom have gained superpowers between the present 2003 that the movie takes place in and the unnamed future where his visions occur. So he sets off to change that future, by murdering them before they gain their powers and get the chance to take him down.

Isabel Merced, Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, and Celeste O’Connor in “Madame Web”

Also read: Marmalade Review

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The problem here is we don’t see any motivation for any of this. The only context is Ezekiel saying they are threatening to destroy “everything he’s built.” Except we don’t see any of what he’s built. All we know about him is that he betrayed Cassie’s mom in Peru in 1973 as she was looking for a spider rumored to have rare healing abilities. He stole the spider for himself and gained his own set of superpowers from it. So yeah, we can surmise he’s not a good person. But that’s it. He’s not robbing banks, running a criminal ring, there’s no master plan to do…well, anything. It’s baffling.

But even if the villain was better established, there’s nothing else in the story all that compelling. Nobody outside of Cassie gets anything resembling character development – and even with her it’s minimal. There’s some awkward, forced exposition about how all four the women are all by themselves in their own way. We learn Anya is good at math and that Julia knows taekwondo (because she literally says, unprompted, “I know taekwondo.”).

The action is uninspired, receiving no help from middling-at-best CGI and special effects. A good chunk of the action is shot with such dark lighting and with such quick, sporadic camera movements that you can barely tell what’s even happening. Madame Web might have been better off ditching the action altogether and going all in on more of a suspense or thriller theme. Whether it was shortcomings of the actors, director S.J. Clarkson or something else (or a combination of several factors), production simply didn’t have what it needed to put together exciting, coherent action sequences.

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Tahar Rahim in “Madame Web”

The performances aren’t anything to write home about either. Everyone is trying, I suppose, so there’s that? But it’s a whole lot of wooden performances. Though to be fair, the script doesn’t do anyone any favors – especially when it comes to dialogue. As there’s no development for anyone, every single character is surface-level to the max. Add in the fact that there’s no real chemistry between any of the four main characters, and you have nothing to draw you in to any of the characters, no reason to really care about what happens to anyone, aside from the very generic “I’d rather not see innocent young women murdered.”

Johnson does have some chemistry with Adam Scott, playing her paramedic partner Ben Parker (yes, that Ben Parker). When the two are together, you can see the tiniest glimmer of hope for something better, breathing some life into it that the rest of the movie so desperately needed.

In Conclusion

Madame Web is another misfire for Sony’s collection of Spider-Man spinoffs. It takes what could be an interesting premise and does nothing interesting with it. Any time it has the chance to do something fun or creative, it does something boring and unimaginative. With a weak script, feckless direction, an all-time bad villain, Madame Web is a slog.

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2/10

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Written by Matt Hambidge

Articles Published: 63

Matt Hambidge is a film critic based in Minneapolis, and is a member of the Minnesota Film Critics Alliance.
You can also find him covering SURVIVOR on the Talking Llama podcast.