Skip to content
Inside Beat

'Madame Web' gets itself caught in tangled mess

Dakota Johnson and her performance in "Madame Web" marks a low point in Sony's "Spider-Man Universe." – Photo by @HollywoodHandle /

In the past 10 years, superhero movies have become one of Hollywood’s strangest genres.  Not long ago, it only took the red Marvel logo to get viewers into theaters, as seen by the success of “Avengers: Endgame” or “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” But in recent years, this trend has undeniably slowed down.

Recent additions to the Marvel universe have been seen as second-rate, lazy attempts to pander to pre-existing comic book audiences, with no franchise more egregious than Sony's "Spider-Man Universe.” Movies like “Venom” and “Morbius” have disappointed audiences, mainly due to the fact that they can’t contend with the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Tom Holland’s “Spider-Man” films. 

But, shockingly, the most recent in the series, “Madame Web," may be the worst yet.

“Madame Web” tells the story of Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson), a New York City paramedic who, thanks to spider-powers gained at birth, has an ability to see the future. While a mildly interesting concept, the movie’s lack of substance, direction and energy make for a failed attempt at a superhero blockbuster.

The movie begins in 1973 in the Amazon rainforest, where Cassie's origin story and the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death are revealed. But this opening, filled with abrasive, borderline comic action and camera zooms, feels like a scene from “The Office” rather than something from a big-budget action film.

The movie then jumps to 2003, made evident through the insertion of Blockbuster Videos, old Pepsi logos, and the characters’ lack of knowledge about cell phones. After an accident sends Cassie into cardiac arrest, she accesses her future-seeing powers for the first time. 

The rest of the film sees Cassie try to stop Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), another person with similar spider-powers, as he attempts to kill three secondary characters before they kill him as predicted in his visions.

On paper, it sounds like a plotline that could make for an engaging origin story, but the flaws that lie within every technical aspect of “Madame Web’s” filmmaking process prevent it from being anything more than a joke.

Dakota Johnson delivers an especially stiff performance in a role that calls for much more nuance and emotion. 

In the span of a day, her character goes through the loss of a friend, multiple attempts on her life, the acquisition of superpowers and a revelation about her mother’s death — yet Johnson delivers most of her lines with her trademark dryness.

The supporting performances are no better, with Sydney Sweeney delivering a similarly bland performance as Julia Cornwall, one of three girls Cassie must save. Sweeney and Johnson treat moments of tension with such disregard that it’s hard to care as an audience member.

Rahim tops the other actors with the worst performance though. His combination of monotonous delivery and the movie’s bizarre overdubbing of lines results in a character that is almost impossible to understand.

With performances this stale across the board, some blame should be placed on the director, S.J. Clarkson, whose vision translates to no chemistry and surprisingly low stakes. The script, penned by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless of “Morbius” infamy, is riddled with attempted, quirky one liners and distractingly unrealistic dialogue. Maybe this movie could’ve worked as a supernatural fantasy, but the effort to transform it into a corporate superhero movie removes any sense of intrigue.

On top of everything else, the movie suffers from a lack of genuine action. The only superpower Cassie or any of the girls possess for the majority of the movie is the ability to see the future. As a result, the action scenes are incredibly dull and tedious. It isn’t until the last five minutes of the movie that Cassie and the girls assume their comic identities and costumes.

The greatest disadvantage of “Madame Web” is that it does not work as a traditional, studio superhero movie. That being said, if you look at the movie under the lens of being “so bad, it’s good,” in the vein of infamous cult classics like “The Room” or “Birdemic: Shock and Terror,” it’s much more enjoyable. 

Especially when compared to something like “Morbius,” “Madame Web” has so many unintentionally hilarious head-scratching moments. The combination of poor dialogue and delivery make for multiple laugh-out-loud moments, especially in the scenes that are meant to be dramatic.

There is an audience for “Madame Web” out there, but it won’t be Marvel’s loyal fanbase — it'll be hate-watchers. Although there is genuine enjoyment to be had at the film’s expense, it doesn’t excuse the poorly made, awkward blunder that is “Madame Web.”

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe