Madame Web | Review by: Amanda Guarragi


The Sony Marvel universe has had its ups and downs. But the one commendable thing is that they’ve always stood independently and tried to do something different. Sony is going against the grain by exploring under-appreciated characters in the Spider-Man universe and having fun with their powers. From Venom to Morbius and now Madame Web, Marvel has had an extensive catalogue, and it’s nice to see these lesser-known characters come to life on the big screen. Many people have dreaded the Sony Marvel films, but I have always appreciated how different they’ve felt from other MCU or DC films. The studio has never been afraid to try something different or even stick to their guns and make some dumb fun out of it. A movie can still be entertaining if it’s not good. That’s why the Venom films have always worked for me. 

However, Madame Web is one of the worst films in the SPUMC. The introduction of Cassie Web (Dakota Johnson) was weak because there isn’t much development for her character. The comics had Madame Web as an older woman who was already blind and had incredible powers with her visions. To develop an entire backstory that translates from the comics is difficult because there’s nothing there. Johnson wasn’t her strongest because the screenplay was poorly written and repetitive. It stems from her mother in the Amazon researching spiders, and her partner Ezekiel was on the hunt for the same one. After finding it, he shoots her and takes the spider for himself. The spider-people of Peru take Cassie’s mom and try to heal her with the venom of the same spiders she was researching. In turn, Cassie is saved, and her mother dies shortly after birthing her. 

From 1973, it cuts to 2001, and Cassie is an awkward firefighter who doesn’t know how to speak to children. She grew up in foster care and has always resented her mother. She is best friends with Ben Parker (Adam Scott) in this universe, and he tries to help her. Johnson delivers the awkward humour quite well, and her chemistry with Scott is playful. After one call that someone was stuck in their car, Cassie ends up drowning after saving him. The spider-people who saved her in Peru somehow get to the water surrounding her, and she gets her powers. The action scenes for Cassie consist of a lot of driving and no actual combat. Not only is it frustrating to see that your lead can’t fight the villain, but what director S.J. Clarkson decided to do with the camera made simple scenes confusing. The way the frame would rotate, the constant zooms in and out, the poor editing from one cut to the next, everything felt like an experiment that didn’t work. 

To have audiences care for Madame Web’s powers, they gave the villain, Ezekiel, roughly the same and to have him see who would eventually kill him. In his vision, he sees three young women with similar spider powers attack him. He tries to prevent his death by stalking these teenagers and killing them. This was the weakest villain in any comic book movie, who had terrible ADR and a bad performance. The three girls, Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) and Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), had great chemistry between them. However, the early 2000s dialogue and poor script left some awkward moments and dead air. Clarkson tried to have them bond over their abandonment issues, but it didn’t work once Cassie decided to lead them. For some reason, Johnson was as unlikable and irritating as Cassie because she didn’t want to care for these girls. There was no unity, and everything felt disjointed. Writer-director S.J. Clarkson focused on the wrong angle for this story, and that’s why it was uninteresting. 

Madame Web had the potential to be a unique entry in the Sony Marvel universe because of Cassie's power set. Cassie’s ability to be in different places at the same time could have been beneficial during action sequences. Clarkson did not utilize any powers or explore Julia, Mattie or Anya’s. If there was going to be no extension or connection to other films, this one-off could have been effective by showing the powers from the beginning and having them on a mission together. Sadly, there are no redeeming qualities to this Sony Marvel film; not even it’s so bad it’s good could come from it. Everything about this was a miss for the character. The final reveal of her costume and Cassie in the chair at a young age did not work for Johnson. They tried to give audiences something sentimental at the end, and because there was no chemistry among the four of them, the chosen family angle fell flat. The film could have gone a different way in protecting an unborn Peter Parker, but sadly, we will never see that version of this. 


Review by: Amanda Guarragi 

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