Friday, February 16, 2024

#IReadsYou Movie Review: MADAME WEB

Madame Web (2024)

Running time:  117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for violence/action and language
DIRECTOR:  S.J. Clarkson
WRITERS:  Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless and Claire Parker & S.J. Clarkson; from a story by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless and Kerem Sanga (based on the Marvel Comics)
PRODUCER:  Lorenzo di Bonaventura
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mauro Fiore (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Leigh Folsom Boyd
COMPOSER:  Johan Soderqvist


Starring:  Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O'Connor, Tahar Rahim, Adam Scott, Emma Roberts, Kerry Bishé, Zosia Mamet, José María Yazpik, and Mike Epps

Madame Web is a 2024 superhero fantasy, horror, and action film directed by S.J. Clarkson.  The movie is based on the Marvel Comics character, Madame Webb/Cassandra Webb, that was created by writer Denny O'Neil and artist John Romita Jr. and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #210 (cover dated: November 1980).  This is also the fourth film in “Sony's Spider-Man Universe” (SSU) series.  Madame Web the movie focuses on a NYC paramedic who starts having visions of a shadowy figure hunting three young women.

Madame Web opens in 1973 in the jungles of Peru.  There, scientist Constance Webb (Kerry Bishe) searches for a rare spider deep in the Amazon.  At her side is her assistant, Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), who has plans of his own.  They are also surrounded by legends and rumors of “Las Arañas,” a secret Peruvian tribe in which its members have spider powers.  In the end, discovery leads to betrayal, death, and birth.

Thirty years later, New York City, 2003, Constance's daughter, Cassandra “Cassie” Webb (Dakota Johnson) is a paramedic.  An accident causes Cassie to start having strange visions, which she comes to believe are clairvoyant.  These visions of the future feature three young women:  Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O'Connor) being hunted by a mysterious figure.  This man wears a costume; he has enhanced strength and speed; and he can crawl on walls and ceilings like a spider.  Forced to confront her past and her psychic abilities, Cassie must safeguard these three young women before this deadly adversary murders them.

Madame Web is fourth film in Sony's Spider-Man Universe following Venom (2018), Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021), and Morbius (2022).  In my estimation, dear readers, Madame Webb is the second best of the quartet behind only the original Venom.

In fact, Madame Webb isn't the “worst film ever,” “absolutely horrible,” or any of the over-the-top things haters and trolls are saying on social media.  It isn't a great film, but Madame Web is quite entertaining.  However, I have ideas about why this new film is getting so much hate.  One reason is that there is a corner of social media that is dedicated to dissing films that are largely led by women characters.  We saw this in the vitriol and invective directed at the 2016 Ghostbusters film and Marvel Studios' recent target, The Marvels.  There are also some structural and narrative reasons that might irritate some viewers, and in order to talk about them, I will have to give you, dear readers, a...

SPOILERS WARNING:  Madame Web is a hybrid of superheroes, dark fantasy, horror, action, and mysticism.  On the superhero end, only the adversary trying to kill the three young women wears a costume.  Sometime in the future of Madame Web's timeline, Julia Cornwall, Anya Corazon, and Mattie Franklin will each be a version of the hero, Spider-Woman, but now they are not.  We only see them in their respective costumes in Cassie's visions of the future.  Still, in the main body of the story, each actress plays her respective character as if she takes her role seriously.  The trio is fun and rebellious, and their energy makes this film hop when it starts to drag.

On the action end, Madame Web has car chases and crashes and eye-crossing fights.  The film's mystical angle comes across as a bit hokey, especially when Cassie talks about her powers.  However, when Cassie's visions kick-in, they are trippy, confusing, and disorienting; they come and go in so many alternate versions with horror movie intensity.

Madame Web certainly could have been a better film had the main male characters had more development.  Screen time isn't the issue.  Adam Scott's Ben Parker, to whom you should pay attention, is more errand boy than friend, and the bad guy often comes across as a stock villain.

That said Madame Web is an entertaining film, and Dakota Johnson is good as Cassie Webb, considering neither her character nor this film in general has the benefit of a strong screenplay.  Madame Webb is a slightly above-average comic book movie, and it should entertain most fans of superhero movies... except those with culture war agendas.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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