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9 Things Madame Web Actually Gets Right


9 Things Madame Web Actually Gets Right


Madame Web, starring Dakota Johnson as Cassie Webb, is going to go down as one of the ultimate punchline films, not unlike Battleship. With weak writing, spotty acting, and an unnecessary table dancing scene just because Sydney Sweeney is on the cast list, it’s not Marvel’s Golden Hour. It’s more shrouded in darkness, blandness, spider-webs… and references to Spider-Man himself. After all, he’s a character in the film the whole time, even if he’s never on screen.

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Madame Web

Madame Web

1
/5

Release Date
February 14, 2024

Runtime
1hr 57min

Time will tell if Sony’s Spider-Man Universe continues after 2024. There’s little doubt its other two films of the calendar year, Kraven the Hunter and Venom: The Last Dance, will perform better critically and commercially. But, when the bar is set so low, that’s not exactly difficult. That said, it feels safe to assume the SSU won’t be rushing to bring back any of Madame Web‘s characters, including none other than Peter Parker’s mother (played by Emma Roberts).

References like that feel a little too shoehorned into Madame Web to work, but that’s not to say it’s the worst comic adaptation of all time… even if it’s right down there. What follows are the things that Madame Web, arguably, does well.

9 They Cast Likable People

Read Our Review

The casting department of Madame Web did a solid job accumulating talent for their project. But, the sad thing is that the script doesn’t give stars such as Johnson, Sweeney, Roberts, Celeste O’Connor, and Isabela Merced anything of interest to do. For instance, the three young Spider-Women hear a directive from Madame Web, ignore it, get in trouble with Fake-Spidey, and that’s it. Wash, rinse, repeat.

What About Madame Web?

It plays like a movie without much of a narrative, either killing or filling time. The aforementioned pattern of behavior is repetitive, as are Madame Web’s consistent admonishments. When characters take too long to learn simple lessons, that reads as a film treading water. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Madame Web makes its cast members do.

8 It Didn’t Cost $200 Million

When the lead star of a film doesn’t seem to be in any rush to actually watch the thing, it doesn’t bode well for potential widespread audience reception. That said, from the very beginning, there was less potential for financial devastation over comparable films of the superhero subgenre. For instance, Madame‘s $80 million production cost was exactly half of Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Madame Web Still Wasn’t Cheap

Of course, that was also a bigger film, and there are also contract renegotiations to consider. Yet, even still, Madame Web‘s $80 million budget (and Morbius‘ $75 million, for that matter) reduced their financial exposure. Compare the budget-to-gross disparity between Madame Web and the $270 million The Marvels or the $220 million The Flash, and the former’s performance doesn’t look so poor.

7 It Was the Bridge Sydney Sweeney Needed to Enter the Studio System

Euphoria certainly put Sydney Sweeney on the pop-cultural map. But, starting with late 2023’s Anyone But You, she’s successfully gone from a supporting television star to a theatrical film leading lady. Not too long after Madame Web had mostly disappeared from theaters, Sweeney was open about how it was more of a business move than any sort of surplus of confidence in the script (via BuzzFeed News).

How Is That Going?

While this particular Sony film hasn’t done well, it still established a relationship between the two. Madame Web began shooting in June 2022, whereas Anyone But You (another Sony film which was, of course, released first) began filming in February 2023. So, in other words, Madame Web was the bridge not only to get Sweeney into a mutually beneficial relationship with Sony, but it was the first step into crafting one of the more financially successful romantic comedies in recent years.

RELATED: Dakota Johnson’s Madame Web Press Tour Behavior Reportedly Upset Sony

6 A Female Director Was Hired

It’s a good thing director S. J. Clarkson has had a long and respectable career in television, because otherwise, Madame Web might be a career killer. It isn’t her first career setback, so here’s hoping she bounces back from this the way she did from Bloodmoon, an HBO prequel series to Game of Thrones she co-created and was to executive produce. Or, rather, a Game of Thrones prequel series starring Naomi Watts that was shelved indefinitely nearly five years ago.

What Shows Had She Directed Before Madame Web

After getting her start with the British soap opera Doctors, Clarkson worked on other British series such as Footballers’ Wives, Bad Girls, and Life on Mars. Then, in 2009, she broke into American television via the one-two punch of Heroes and Dexter. She followed those up with an episode of Ugly Betty, an episode of House, two episodes of Banshee, and an episode of Orange Is the New Black. Then, in 2015, she showed she could turn out solid superhero entertainment via two episodes of Jessica Jones.

5 It Makes Morbius Look a Little Better

As it stands, both Madame Web and Morbius are two of the most widely-bashed comic adaptations of all time. In other words, were it not for Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Sony’s attempt at a shared Spidey universe would be dead and coated in cobwebs already. So, regardless of which film the viewer begrudgingly prefers, at least Dr. Morbius doesn’t need to feel so alone now.

Both Are Fairly Soulless. Which One More So?

Given all the references to well-established lore in Madame Web (for instance, a quasi-mention of the whole Power & Responsibility motto), it definitely seems like the one trying harder to be relevant. But, what is Morbius. An attempt to entertain? It’s too visually dark and tonally grim for that…but at least that grim nature gives it more personality than Madame Web. Stream Morbius on Disney+.

Morbius-2

Morbius

Biochemist Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead. Starring Jared Leto and Michael Keaton.

Release Date
April 1, 2022

Runtime
1hr 48min

RELATED: Sydney Sweeney Reveals Who Could Entice Her Return to the Spider-Verse After Madame Web

4 Adam Scott Is in it

Adam Scott is one of the most likable performers in the industry. There’s a reason he hasn’t played a villain in years. Technically, two reasons, Party Down and Parks and Recreation. Both of those projects were very funny, and had Scott playing very different characters. But there’s a throughline, and it’s that Scott is a calming and welcome presence, which holds true in Madame Web even if he’s given precious little of interest to do.

What Is Scott’s Role?

As mentioned, Madame Web makes a ton of references to Spider-Man lore. This includes Scott’s character. He plays Ben Parker, who will one day be called ‘Uncle Ben’ by his nephew, Peter. For now, though, he’s Cassie’s paramedic partner…and Marisa Tomei is nowhere in sight. That said, he’s also a little too focused on work and his pregnant sister right now to delve into romance.

3 Kerry Bishé’s Performance

Yes, even with Adam Scott and Isabela Merced on the cast list, the most proficient experience comes from another performer. That would be Happily‘s (a very underrated film) Kerry Bishé, who plays the ill-fated mother to the title character. Even with just a handful of scenes, Bishé manages to elevate the film from being entirely stilted. In fact, she’s outright great in her role.

What Makes Bishé the Best Part of the Movie?

Bishé is essentially relegated to the opening scene and a flashback midway through. The first scene is rather perfunctory, existing more to establish the villain’s presence (Though his motive is a bit more of a question. It’s basically just: Accrue power). The flashback scene, which features Bishé’s character, Constance Webb, in a doctor’s office, is a revolution to both the audience and Cassie.

Because, now, she’s learned that her mother didn’t travel overseas just to study spiders (Cassie’s presumption is that her mother was more interested in spiders than her forthcoming progeny)… she traveled overseas to find a cure for Cassie’s muscular disorder. And, because her mother made that choice prior to Cassie’s birth, the latter has never felt the disorder’s effects.

2 Cassie’s Maternal Nature Intermittently Carries Weight

Johnson (quite understandably) doesn’t seem like she’s fully confident in the material. But she does nail some of the film’s smaller moments. In other words, Johnson can play frustrated quite well. And Madame Web often has Cassie frustrated as can be.

There Is a Slight Amount of Heart

For instance, her telling the three spider-girls not to bicker or anything similar. Fortunately, those scenes convey some heart. Unfortunately, there are so many of them, the viewer is forced to judge the characters’ intelligence.

1 At Least the Villain’s Suit Looks Okay

Not even a rip-off Spidey could save Madame Web from being the lowest-grossing entry in the Sony Spider-Man franchise. In fact, Tahar Rahim’s Ezekiel Sims is probably the film’s main problem, both in terms of how he’s written and how he’s portrayed. And, while not technically relevant to Rahim’s performance, his ADR is quite possibly the worst in blockbuster cinema history. He sounds like he’s on another planet.

What’s the Upside, Again?

The one and only neat thing about Sims is his black and red suit. That said, it’s amazing he could get so close to Spidey’s eventual suit design, considering Peter Parker had yet to draw breath. Not to mention, it’s pretty darn coincidental he also got his wall-crawling powers from a spider bite. Still, in a few shots of the film, the suit looks suitably intimidating and memorable.

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