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Commentary Entertainment

“Madame Web” steals time rather than hearts

Not even the famed Dakota Johnson herself could save the boring and derivative Spider-Man wannabe film "Madame Web." Graphic by Meghan Holloran | Photo Editor

“Madame Web” movie poster courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Prepare yourself, dear readers (or the two and a half people interested in this movie). I welcome you back to the depths of the ever-rising ocean of superhero mediocrity with the release of “Madame Web,” the fourth installment in the Sony Spider-Man Universe (I am deeply saddened for you if you know what this is). 

“Madame Web” stars Dakota Johnson as the eponymous character, Sydney Sweeney as Annoying Teenager One (with a sad background story), Isabela Merced as Annoying Teenager Two (gasp! also with a sad background story) and Celeste O’Connor as Annoying Teenager Three (you’re never going to guess this one — a sad background story). Tahar Rahim plays the evil villain dude you don’t care about, while Adam Scott plays Ben Parker — yes, the same Uncle Ben who consistently dies in all the Spidey movies — and Emma Roberts plays Mary Parker, Ben’s pregnant (with a certain future crawler) sister-in-law.

“Her web connects them all” is the tagline on the promotional posters of this movie (I giggled for two minutes straight after reading that one), and the only connection that happened during the nearly two-hour run time of this movie was me and the three other people in the theater bonding over our sudden descent into hell. I’m considering starting a support group to help us cope with the collective trauma of spending $10 on this movie. 

“Madame Web” is not a movie, it is a state of mind — one where your inner voice very loudly asks you, “What are you doing with your life?” as you go through an immediate crisis about your existence. 

Set in 2003, “Madam Web” explores the origin story of its titular character, Casandra Webb, as she gains the ability to see the future through vague-ish visions after a near-death experience, although her real superpower seems to be crashing stolen automobiles. She also sort of pseudo-adopts three random teenagers while fighting off Ezekiel Sims, the evil villain dude who wants to kill them for funsies. 

Johnson delivers what might be the most hilariously distant performance in the history of cinema. She has the same facial expression when her character has a near-death experience as she does when her character is supposedly feeling content and happy. She looks ridiculously confused throughout the entire movie, and in all honesty, that seems like an appropriate response to the screenplay she’s handed. 

The screenplay made me question if the writers ever put any actual thought into what they were writing because the narrative is more scrambled than the eggs I attempted to make in my dorm microwave.

It appears that this movie was conceived by a bunch of executives at Sony whose only mission in life is to milk as much as they can from these Spider-Man adjacent characters that no one knows about. There is no cohesive story here — the movie seems more like someone trying to recollect their thoughts after a fever dream. Essentially, there is some interesting stuff and a lot of complete nonsense. 

Some scenes defy the most basic logic. At one point in the movie, Webb, who is trying to evade surveillance for fear of being tracked by evil villain dude, decides that this is a great time for a Peruvian vacation and takes an international flight because we all know how there are zero security cameras at airports, and it’s not like the whole purpose of immigration checks is keep record of an individual leaving and arriving to a country. To put it in context, this film is set two years after 9/11, when airport surveillance and ID checks were far stricter. 

All this logic-defying international travel leads to an information dump in the form of some horrible exposition as Webb gets caught up on information that the audience was provided in the first few minutes of the movie. 

This sequence also drops a gem of a line, referencing the famous Uncle Ben dialogue, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” but this time in a weird paraphrased form, “When you take on the responsibility, great power will come,” which, ironically enough, changes the phrase’s meaning. This altered dialogue can be applied to pretty much every villain origin story, with the end goal being getting power, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. Uncle Ben’s famous line applied to our original spidey, Peter Parker, because he wasn’t looking for power, he was granted it, and as such, he had a duty to be responsible with it and help people. “Madame Web” seems to forget this and, in doing so, loses out on the essence of what made Spider-Man special — highlighting the need to be responsible with power.

To make things worse, there are oddly written character responses — the annoying teenager trio decide to flirt with random boys immediately after being nearly murdered by evil villain dude and show zero signs of trauma throughout the movie. There are also weird character inconsistencies, with certain characters doing things for no apparent reason apart from manufactured conflict so there can be some action in the movie. You feel nothing for any of these characters because they are so poorly written, which makes sense for a movie that is nothing more than a corporate cash grab.  

“Madame Web” had the potential to be a great movie, the makers simply chose to stick to the old formula without accounting for the fact this superhero has powers that are not physical.

The direction is confused, the narrative is scrambled, the screenplay is all over the place and the story and character arcs are non-existent. The cast is just plain bad, the cinematography is passable, the score is fine (at the very least, it doesn’t overstay its welcome in action scenes), the fight choreography is fairly standard and the editing and CGI are mostly inoffensive. 

If you’re itching to waste two hours and ruin the rest of your day, you can watch “Madame Web” in a theater near you. 

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