MADAME WEB review by Mark Walters – excessive Spider-characters can’t save a messy narrative

MADAME WEB review by Mark Walters – excessive Spider-characters can’t save a messy narrative

I’m not sure anyone is out there scouring movie reviews expecting to find a really good one for the MADAME WEB movie, and I don’t know that I’m going to be able to offer anything that is drastically different from what others out there have already written, but I will go so far as to say that I didn’t hate this movie, Though it definitely has some issues that need to be addressed. MADAME WEB is essentially a spinoff film from the SPIDER-MAN movie universe, not unlike MORBIUS or VENOM, although those movies will probably end up being much more successful in the long run. It’s also not the only spinoff Spider-movie that was supposed to hit in the last few months, as the upcoming KRAVEN film was initially supposed to come out before this, now pushed back to come out months later.

MADAME WEB revolves around a character named Cassandra Webb, played by Dakota Johnson, an EMT who gains a certain kind of power that allows her to see into the future just before events take place, therefore, giving her the ability to alter those events so that she can potentially save lives, including her own. She also meets three girls (Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor and Isabela Merced), who one day will get their own super powers, but for now have now become the target of a villain named Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), who wants to kill them because he knows that in the future they will ultimately kill him. There’s also a sub-plot involving Spider-people who live in the jungle, which is kind of ridiculous and very much goes against everything we’ve always known about the Spider-Man lore, but for some strange reason it’s a BIG part of this story.

If this plot sounds convoluted, it’s because it very much is. That said, I didn’t hate MADAME WEB, I just thought it was a messy comic book movie that never quite meets its potential. These days comic book films are all the rage, but it seems like a lot of them end up being very formulaic, or a little too derivative of what’s come before. MADAME WEB at least feels like it’s trying to do something new, although the end result kind of feels like something we’ve seen countless times before, only better and more cohesively. Oddly enough it is set in the year 2003, although I’m not really sure what the point of that was other than to show it as more of a period piece, or perhaps lend to the fact that it feels like a throwback movie that would’ve come out 20 years ago.

There are connections with MADAME WEB to the SPIDER-MAN universe, for example Cassie’s friend is Ben Parker (played by Adam Scott), who we know from Spider-Man lore becomes “Uncle Ben” in the future, and there is actually a sub-plot involving young Peter Parker as a baby, although he’s never actually named… which is weird. It’s almost like this movie wants to make sure you know it’s set in the Spider-Man universe, without actually addressing it takes place in the Spider-Man universe. And the three girls mentioned before ultimately become Spider-Verse characters, although the marketing for this film is a bit misleading as the only bits we see them playing these characters is in brief glimpses of the future, and totaling less than a few minutes of screen time. The script instead focuses most of its attention on the lead actress, Dakota Johnson, who is just okay here, although I feel like her character could have been better developed, or at least more interesting in the long run. The three girls are actually more likable as central characters for the story, and I feel like if this movie had been based solely on them, it would have been more effective, though only if they became their future superhero selves at some point instead of it just being a flash forward glimpse.

The Sony SPIDER-MAN spin-offs are definitely hit and miss, with the first VENOM movie being the most successful so far, and based on ticket sales and reviews, MADAME WEB is probably going to be easily forgotten, which is a shame because it does try to at least set up some possible future movies, though these days it’s hard to tell if stuff like that will ever actually pan out. Again, I didn’t hate the movie, which probably puts me in the minority at this point, but I also didn’t find it terribly memorable, and it definitely has issues with pacing and story, with several scenes seeming like they’re missing pieces of the story. I wonder if this was a bigger movie/story that was cut down in editing and therefore suffers with its end result. It also has an underdeveloped villain, a problem several superhero movies seem to suffer from. I personally though the second VENOM movie was worse than this, though I’m not sure that’s saying much. Spider-Man comic book fans might appreciate the brief glimpses of the two Spider-Woman characters, and Arana from the Marvel Comics, but will likely not care too much about anything else in the film. There’s not even a post-credit stinger, almost giving the impression that the filmmakers knew this would likely be a one and done.

MADAME WEB opens February 16, 2024

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