REVIEW: Madame Web (2024)

Madame Web may be the first movie I’ve seen where the red carpet premiere was more interesting than the film itself. Granted, the red carpet premiere featured this showdown, but the larger point is that this is one terrible movie. Every aspect of Madame Web is a catastrophe; it’s laden down with a dull plot filled with conveniences and unexplained contrivances, abysmal acting from a cast that seems disinterested in appearing human, terrible camera work that’s trying to show off but can’t capture a single movement in an action scene, and dialogue that would make Mr. Freeze embarrassed.

After momentarily drowning while saving a car accident victim, paramedic Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson) begins having visions of future events. Taking a leave of absence from her job, she’s suddenly thrown together with three teenage girls being hunted by a billionaire with spider-like powers – a man who has a connection to Cassie’s mother, who died when she was born.

Does it sound like those storylines barely connect? It should, because they do. Cassie runs into the three girls purely by coincidence. Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) lives in Cassie’s apartment building; Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney) is the stepdaughter of someone Cassie helps save; and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) is a random passerby who gives Cassie the finger while she’s driving her ambulance. The villain wants to kill them because, similarly to Cassie, he’s been having visions of the future, and in his, these girls grow up to be superheroes who kill him. Why they kill him is never explained, outside of it being his punishment for the way he got his powers. There’s no real concept of destiny as it links the characters together; everything just happens to make the plot easier to manage. For example, how does Cassie get them all together? She doesn’t; four people who live in Queens and don’t know each other (despite one of them constantly bumping into the others) just happen to be taking the same train at Grand Central Station, which is in Manhattan. Cassie’s visions also don’t make sense; sometimes, she sees events happening in seconds, but other times, it’s something farther off. There’s no explanation for this other than plot convenience; whether she can influence what happens varies as well, and this inconsistency isn’t explored either. It’s generous to call this a story.

It doesn’t get better as it goes along. Madame Web explains how Cassie can see the future but not how she can control it or why it’s so inconsistent; that happens off-screen, and when she shows up for the big finale, she’s suddenly mastered her powers, doing things that make no sense and are never mentioned as being in her skillset. The bad guy, on the other hand, is basically an evil Spider-Man right down to the costume, which is a darker version of Spidey’s. As for Julia, Anya, and Mattie, they’ll get powers one day, but it doesn’t happen in the movie, and we’re never told how it will in the future. Madame Web feels like someone flipped through Spider-Man comics and threw a bunch of random characters into a script with no regard for how they would mesh. And all of these characters precede Spider-Man in the movie’s universe, meaning not only is he less special with all these spider-people running around, but he’s not even the original, right down to his costume. Ironically, Madame Web relies heavily on Spider-Man lore and symbolism; no points for guessing if there’s a mangled version of “With great power comes great responsibility” thrown Cassie’s way.

Madame Web

There are no good characters to save the disaster of a script, either. Everyone in Madame Web feels like a sketch of what a writer devoid of talent thinks is a personality. Cassie is supposed to be awkward and unable to deal with people, but it’s taken to such ridiculous lengths that she just comes off as mean. In one early scene, she can’t bring herself to accept a drawing as a thank-you from a small child whose mother she just saved. That’s not an awkward person; that’s a sociopath. The three girls are nothing beyond their “type.” Julia is the goody-two-shoes, Mattie is the tough girl with attitude, and Anya is the pragmatic loner who can take care of herself, thank you very much, world. And despite saving them, Cassie is nasty to them, seeming not to care that they’re probably scared for their lives (although they don’t act like it because that would be human.) There’s an awful heart-to-heart scene where the four of them bare their souls and talk about the troubles that shaped them, and it’s so forced it feels like the director entered the film and told them, “Now, it’s time for your monologues.”

Not that the actors could have helped because Madame Web has some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen, and Charlie Hunnam isn’t even in this movie. Adam Scott is easily the best actor in the film, the only one who can speak like a normal person; that, of course, means he’s barely in it. On the other hand, Dakota Johnson can’t deliver a line to save her life, and everything she says sounds like… I don’t think I can even make an analogy here. She’s just bad, with zero emotion or urgency. Celeste O’Connor has the opposite problem, projecting the phony tough girl persona so much that she feels like she’s in one of those awful school plays with an anti-smoking message. Sydney Sweeney seems to be trying her hardest, but she’s mostly dull, straddled with flat lines that don’t register the humor they’re intended to have. Isabela Merced fades into the background, not having much to do as Anya, so she feels extraneous. But the worst is Tahar Rahim as Ezekial Sims, the villain; this is the kind of performance that kills a career. He’s awful, with line delivery straight out of a direct-to-video flick and a fake gruff voice to make him sound sinister. Sims never feels like much of a threat, but the heroes are so unlikable that you don’t much care if he kills them all.

Madame Web

In fairness to Rahim, the action scenes don’t help him establish Sims’ menace. Each fight scene is a complete mess, with SJ Clarkson trying to mask her inability to film action with what she must think are fancy camera moves. One “trick” she uses over and over is to flip the camera upside down, then right-side up again; I’m not sure what we’re supposed to take from this, but it looks silly, and it happens so often that it gets annoying. There are plenty of quick cuts as well, with the impact of punches or collisions dulled because we don’t get a second to see the effects of the violence.  One scene has Sims taking out a bunch of cops one by one, but it all happens so fast and in so many edits that there’s no suspense or sense of danger. Nothing matters, no one matters, and that’s fine because you’re barely able to tell what’s going on anyway.

You’re not prepared for how bad Madame Web is. This feels more like a hit job than a movie, like someone had a vendetta against these characters and set out to ensure they’d never see the silver screen again. Dakota Johnson is smart to distance herself from this train wreck as much as possible.

Madame Web (2024)

Plot - 2
Acting - 3
Directing/Editing - 3
Music/Sound - 6
Action - 3



Madame Web may be the nadir of the superhero genre, an awful film with bad acting, a dull and flimsy plot, incomprehensibly directing, and some of the worst dialogue anyone was ever forced to say in front of a camera.

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