Review: Madame Web

Score:  C

Director:  SJ Clarkson

Cast:  Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O'Connor

Running Time:  117 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

"I got a weird sense of déjà vu."

Over the last several years, Sony has worked to expand their claim on the Spider-Man universe. While both Morbius and Venom had their moments, neither film should be considered a success, especially compared to other MCU properties. But still, the studio presses on, this time with Madame Web, a female-centric superhero adventure that, for the sake of tone, is a tangled mess.

Dakota Johnson stars as Cassandra "Cassie" Webb, a distant young woman who, in 2003, severs as a New York City EMT. A survivor of the city's foster system, she now works the streets, navigating the congested roads, sirens blaring, working to save the lives of those around her. She's good at her job but appears lost in the world, disconnected from those outside her immediate circle, including Ben, played by Adam Scott.

During the film's oddly long prologue, we meet her mom, a doctor who, eight months pregnant with Cassandra, ventures deep into the Amazon rainforest searching for a mythical spider whose venom could heal many unspecified diseases. As one would expect, she is killed, double-crossed by Ezekiel, who feels he must secure the spider for himself. Why? We never really know.

Back in 2003, a now superpowered Ezekiel is awakened every day by a single dream. In this dream, three young women in different reincarnations of a Spidey suit attack him, pushing him out a high-rise window to his death. So, naturally, he wants to find them and prevent his untimely demise.

Enter, once again, Cassie. After falling into a river, her powers appear awakened, seeing certain moments of life before they happen, possibly allowing her to change the course of the future. And though she can't quite comprehend them, she finds herself on a train with Julia (Sydney Sweeney), Anya (Isabela Merced), and Mattie (Celeste O'Connor). And, much like a good New Yorker, she now must convince them of her good intentions and save them from a strong, powerful Ezekiel.

Still with me? It's okay. I'm not entirely sure it even matters.

Underdeveloped and painfully chaotic, Madame Web is an absolute clusterfuck. Unsure of its primary goal, the film jumps around at leisure, hoping to check all the boxes as it steers through a jumble of scenes that are equally disconnected and, I imagine, unintentionally hilarious.

Clouded and unnatural dialogue is constantly delivered with uneven cadence, giving a forced, stilted vibe as the characters maneuver the New York City area. Credit Johnson for providing brief, palpable moments amid the chaos and disorder. While her performance is humorous, she does so with a cheeky wink at the audience, letting them know that, to an extent, she is in on the long-form joke.

And that is what Madame Web often feels like—a joke. Taking Marvel audiences for a ride, the film clashes with itself as it attempts to merge several different things into a single, concise story. A narrative centered around forced motherhood, the film also attempts to be a period piece, a multi-generational buddy comedy, and a superhero film. But amidst all this, director SJ Clarkson refuses to address the most eminent question: Why did Ezekiel want the spider?

Written by a team, the final product is reminiscent of the number of hands caught in the pot. A scattershooting of sorts, it never finds its nucleus, somewhat held together by its performances. As a result, the sauce, to conclude the adage, is unquestionably spoiled.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.