13 April 2024
Read our review for Madame Web

Film Review- Madame Web (2024)

Will the overlords of Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (SSU to the cool kids) ever learn? A decade or so ago, plans were afoot for an inter-connected franchise of films that would revolve, one way or another, around the newly rebooted Amazing Spider-Man films: Sinister Six, Venom, and others were mooted as part of the bigger plans once The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had devoured box office pennies in 2014. Sadly, that didn’t happen: the much-hyped sequel crashed out under the weight of expectation/expansion, and the lessons learned from Spider-Man 3 seven years earlier were seemingly not learned.

Flash forward to 2018 and, after Tom Holland’s sensational debut in the MCU, plans again ignited about a new universe focusing on villains and Spider-Man-adjacent characters for a new universe. So far, it has gone down like a fart in a lift and its latest effort only adds to the proverbial waft.

While she first appeared in Spider-Man comics in 1980, the cinematic tale of Madame Web takes place in 2003 – you’ll know this from all the handy time-capsule pieces subtlety dotted around – with Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) working as a paramedic alongside her partner Adam Scott who may or may not be who you think. (Hint: he is). After falling to her supposed death in helping to save victims of a car crash, she survives but now plagued with visions of the future she cannot explain except that they involve three teenage girls – Julia (Sydney Sweeney), Anya (Isabela Merced), and Mattie (Celeste O’Connor) – who are being chased by Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), a man who may also be intrinsically linked to Cassandra’s past. 

On paper, the prospects with this one looked much more favourable: with talents like Johnson, Sweeney, Merced, Rahim, Scott, Zosia Mamet, et al in front of the camera and S.J. Clarkson, who helped bring Marvel alumni Jessica Jones and The Defenders to life, behind it, there was some cause for optimism. Perhaps this one would deliver at least something passably entertaining and intriguing. It takes all of ten minutes to firmly put that idea to bed and continue the trend of frankly horrendously made films. Yes, both Venom films found big audiences and helped put millions in the tills, but in terms of quality – basic, cohesive film quality – they and the worse-than-atrocious Morbius have flattered to deceive and Madame Web, sadly, joins them as another monstrosity.

Poorly conceived, hideously paced and edited, and with a screenplay that’s as lazy as it is bewildering, it screams of studio interference and meddling that, at times, makes Fant4stic look like The Dark Knight. “I just want to go home and watch Idol”, “Seriously, don’t do dumb things” and “When you take the responsibility, great power will come” are just some of the gargantuanly hopeless dialogue that almost all of the film’s talent cast look truly embarrassed to be splurting out. Rahim suffers the worst as most of his lines are delivered either off-screen or in classic “dialogue edited to fit the trailer even though they aren’t saying that line” fashion. Who makes these decisions, and why do they think they are good? Forget superhero fatigue. This is just incomprehensible, lethargic, unimaginative filmmaking at its very, very worst. 

In recent days, Johnson herself has said the film had “drastic changes” made after she signed on and it shows. Quite simply, Madame Web is a disaster. An exasperating, horrific shambles, with the catastrophe compounded by its obvious teases that promise much, deliver nothing, and make absolutely no sense. Talk about “making it for the fans”.

In cinemas February 14th / Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O’Connor, Tahar Rahim, Adam Scott, Emma Roberts, Zosia Mamet, Kerry Bishe / Dir: S.J. Clarkson / Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures UK / 12A


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