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'Madame Web' Review

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February 14, 2024
Hunter Friesen
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Sony has really outdone themselves this time. Venom was one of the worst movies of 2018, Venom: Let There Be Carnage was one of the worst movies of 2021, and Morbius was by far the worst movie of 2022. If Madame Web isn’t the worst thing I see in 2024, then God help us all. On one hand, I have to commend their consistency. But on the other hand, I have to ask if all these movies have just been some sort of sick joke, almost like an attempt at reverse psychology for us to hate Spider-Man. There’s no other explanation beyond that, because who in their right mind would give the green light to such low-tier characters (in the case of Morbius and Madame Web) and mess it all up on four consecutive occasions?

Let’s just get this over with, shall we? Things begin in the Amazon as Cassie Web’s mother researches spiders just before she dies (sorry everyone, that memeified line isn’t in the final cut of the film). Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) has been hired to protect the very pregnant mother on her journey but backstabs her once she finds the elusive arachnid that grants powers to whoever it bites. It’s now thirty years later and Sims has been continually having visions about three teenage girls (Syndey Sweeney, Isabela Merced, and Celeste O’Connor) killing him with their own superpowers. What would any sane person do in that scenario? Brush off these nightmares and carry on with their life? Move as far away as possible from the location of this predicted occurrence? Wrong! The correct answer is to track down these girls with stolen Patriot Act surveillance equipment and murder them first. It’s so simple!

This is how Cassie (Dakota Johnson) gets tangled into this web, as her path has seemed fated to cross with those of the girls. Like Ezekiel, she too can see into the future (or travel back in time if you’re going off the incredibly incoherent editing), only she uses it to save lives. She’s not like other women; or people for that matter, as evidenced by one of the most awkward baby shower scenes to ever grace the screen. But that estrangement isn’t from her mysteriously uncontrollable power or the fact that she’s an orphan, it’s from the “so bad it’s almost hilarious” script by the four credited writers of Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Claire Parker, and director S.J. Clarkson. Never has expository dialogue been so in demand, and a plot been so needlessly convoluted.

None of this makes any sense once you step back and think about the chronology of events. Ezekiel wants to kill the girls because they will eventually gain superpowers, but the girls only get the powers as a byproduct of Ezekiel trying to kill them. So wouldn’t him trying to kill them first only be speeding up what’s going to happen? That paradox aside, the shoddy camerawork and special effects make it nearly impossible to comprehend what’s going on in the present. That might have been a public service in disguise, as the less you see and think about this film, the better.

Johnson is an actress who can be great in the right roles, but also awful in the wrong ones. Her two films with Luca Guadagnino - A Bigger Splash and Suspiria - are part of the former, with this being as far down the latter as you can go. Never has a comic book casting been this misjudged, with her line deliveries and overall demeanor signaling her apathy about being part of this project. Sweeney’s characterization and wardrobe almost sexualize her more than Euphoria, with Merced and O’Connor doing little else to impress. The biggest injustice of the film might be its extraordinary ability to make Tahar Rahim look like a terrible actor, with the revered French arthouse performer rendered to ADR’d lines and boilerplate villainous speechifying.

Madame Web might do more harm to spiders than birds themselves. Sony has reached the point of insanity by releasing the same bland product over and over again and expecting different results, and I’m right there with them for watching each one. We’ve still got Kraven the Hunter and Venom 3 this year, so this crazy train isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

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