Summary

  • Madame Web received generally negative reviews due to over-explained scenes and clunky dialogue, hindering the potential for a thrilling superhero movie.
  • The film suffered from structural issues and missed opportunities for character development, leaving some plot threads unresolved and relationships undeveloped.
  • Despite some glimpses of creative potential, Madame Web ultimately falls short of delivering a cohesive and engaging superhero experience, leaving viewers wanting more.

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Madame Web debuted to poor critical reviews and has been largely torn apart on social media, but the truth is a little more complicated than the movie being a straight failure. Sony’s latest Marvel movie isn’t the kind of potentially fun train wreck that Morbius was, but instead, Madame Web is the frustrating type of bad movie. Though it may sound counter-intuitive, Madame Web is harder to watch because it was slightly too good to be enjoyed as a terrible movie. Instead, it teases the audience with glimmers of hope that things might come together.

There are some very minor changes that would have made huge improvements to Madame Web, such as cutting a few lines of dialogue here and there. Other issues were a little more structural and would have required big script changes, though Dakota Johnson said that this had already happened with Madame Web‘s script. It’s hard to know if the glaring issues were a result of these rewrites or if the original version was even worse. Either way, while Madame Web squandered its potential, that potential can still be seen in certain parts of the film.

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Madame Web Movie Cast & Marvel Character Guide

Madame Web, which is part of Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, features a star-studded ensemble cast filled with famous actors in surprising Marvel roles.

10 The Opening Scene Is Ruined By Weird Camera Work

Madame Web Uses Too Many Zooms

Cassie's mother taking a picture of a spider web in Madame Web

Madame Web‘s opening scene sets up some important plot details rather efficiently. It gives the audience a look at the main villain and what type of person he is, and it shows Cassie’s backstory and the origin of her powers. It also establishes Madame Web‘s theme of motherhood, which is carried through the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, this acceptable opening scene is hard to focus on due to some strange camera choices.

When it is revealed that Ezekiel Sims is a villain, the camera begins to do too many snap zooms (when a shot quickly zooms in on a certain part of the frame). The overuse of snap zooms combined with a lot of quick cuts creates an almost disorienting rhythm to the scene that might leave some viewers feeling seasick. It’s hard to concentrate on what’s going on in the film’s narrative when stylistic choices are hurting the viewing experience.

9 Cassie Talks To Her Cat While Investigating Her Past

This Is One Of Many Examples Of Clunky Dialogue

Cassie's mother and Ezekiel Sims in a photo in Madame Web

After saving Anya Corazon, Mattie Franklin, and Julia Cornwall from Ezekiel Sims with her visions, Cassie decides to look into her mother’s past and try to find out what’s going on. The scene starts out alright, with her pouring through documents, and the camera gives some visual clues as to what information Cassie is finding. Since the audience already knows what her mother was researching, they can infer that Cassie is piecing together the same thing they already know.

However, instead of leaving any sense of mystery or letting the audience figure things out on their own, Cassie immediately starts delivering expository dialogue to the stray cat she takes care of. The dialogue feels unnatural, and it’s very clear that the only reason it’s happening is to tell something directly to the audience. It’s emblematic of a larger problem Madame Web has with its handling of exposition.

8 Madame Web Doesn’t Trust The Audience To Understand Subtlety

Madame Web Over Explains Most Scenes

Throughout Madame Web, there are a lot of extra lines of dialogue that are completely unnecessary. The movie will do a good job setting something up visually or conveying it through a character’s non-verbal acting, but then the movie decides it needs to explain it anyway. This gives a sense that the filmmakers didn’t trust their audience to pick up on anything not explicitly said, even when it’s not that subtle.

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Madame Web’s 16 Marvel Easter Eggs & References Explained

Madame Web has been released in theaters, and the film holds plenty of Easter eggs to the Sony Spider-Man Universe among many other Marvel properties.

One instance is when Mattie is introduced while almost getting hit by an ambulance that she was skateboarding in front of. Mattie flips off Cassie, who is driving, then skates away. This is a great job showing that Mattie is rough around the edges. Still, the film feels like it needs to emphasize this perfectly conveyed point by having Cassie say, “who flips off an ambulance?

A similar issue happens when Cassie’s cat is introduced. Cassie takes it in and feeds it, showing that she is a more caring person than is otherwise conveyed. Even though this is such a tested method of making a character likable that there’s a trope named after it – save the cat – the movie still has Cassie explicitly say that she likes taking care of strays, as if that point wasn’t already shown.

7 Mattie’s Rebellion Is A Good Character Moment, Until It Isn’t

Mattie Is Established As A Rebel In An Early Scene

Mattie sits on a tree stump in the forest in Madame Web

After saving Mattie, Julia, and Anya from Ezekiel Sims, Cassie makes the poor decision to leave the three girls alone in the woods. After deciding to get food at a nearby diner, Mattie causes a bit of a scene by dancing on a table. The moment is initially a good continuation of how her character has been established as being rebellious. However, the movie steps on this moment.

Instead of maintaining each of the three girls’ unique identities, the movie has Julia, and then Anya both join in, despite the other two initially wanting to follow Cassie’s orders not to draw attention to themselves. By having all three girls make the same decision, it takes away the moment from Mattie and flattens all of their characters. Having the three of them fight more over whether to disobey Cassie would have been a better opportunity for the characters to all show their distinct personalities.

6 Ezekiel’s Villain Scene Is Ruined By Bad Lines

Madame Web Includes A Lot Of Poorly Added ADR Lines

After being introduced in the past, Ezekiel Sims is reintroduced to the film’s present-day by showing him in a pretty heinous act. He seduces an NSA agent and then kills her to get access to surveillance equipment. This scene shows how far Ezekiel will go to get what he wants and also establishes his main motivation for hunting down Anya, Julia, and Mattie.

Unfortunately, this scene is plagued with some pretty bad lines of dialogue that distract from what the scene is trying to communicate. For instance, the NSA agent asks, “how are you poisoning me?” in response to Ezekiel’s superpowers, which seems like a very unnatural thing to say. It was almost like the filmmakers didn’t trust that viewers would get how Sims’ powers worked. There is also bad looping in this scene, meaning sometimes Ezekiel will be saying things while the audience can see his mouth isn’t moving.

5 Cassie And Uncle Ben Have Good Chemistry, Then He Disappears

Uncle Ben Is Played By Adam Scott In Madame Web

Adam Scott as Ben Parker, wet from jumping into a river in Madame Web

One big criticism of Madame Web is that the characters felt a little lifeless. Part of the problem might be that they weren’t given a lot of time to interact outside of action scenes. This is a shame because early scenes in the film were also some of the best for Cassie’s characterization.

Early on, Dakota Johnson and Adam Scott share a few scenes where Cassie and Ben are just hanging out. The two have good chemistry, and it’s easier to like Cassie when you see her getting along with a beloved Marvel Comics character like Uncle Ben. Unfortunately, after the early scenes in the movie, Ben is largely removed from the plot until the end. This means Sony didn’t get to capitalize on the good chemistry between their leads, which would have made for more engaging on-screen relationships.

4 Cassie Is Starting To Bond With The Girls, Then Leaves For Peru

Madame Web Has Major Structural Issues

Similar to Cassie and Ben Parker not getting enough screen time together, the same can be said for Cassie and the three girls she’s looking after. At first, it looks like Cassie is going to start bonding with Julia, Mattie, and Anya, and the scene where she teaches them CPR seems like the first of many more to come between the four of them. Unfortunately, Cassie almost immediately reveals that she’s leaving for Peru.

This cuts the bonding between the characters short, and for a scene that largely just retreads some ground that the audience already knew. Cassie could easily have had another way of learning more about her powers without removing her from all the other characters. Her small amount of screen time with the other three main characters also makes it strange in the end when Cassie essentially adopts the girls. The movie doesn’t feel like it earned that ending or did a good enough job establishing those relationships.

3 Madame Web Starts Using Her Powers Too Late

Madame Web Only Shows Off Her Powers In The Final Action Scene

Cassie saves Julia from a firework in Madame Web

Though Cassie uses her abilities throughout Madame Web, it isn’t until the end of the movie that she does so in a very interesting way. When she finally does, the movie shows off what it could have been if it had let her hone her skills more quickly. The scene in the warehouse has some fun moments with Cassie using her abilities to dodge obstacles and take down Ezekiel Sims. Unfortunately, it comes after much of the audience has tuned out. Madame Web is essentially nothing more than set up for cool things that could happen in Madame Web 2.

2 Cassie Learns The Wrong Lesson From Her First Use Of Superpowers

Cassie Fails To Save Her Boss In An Early Scene

Cassie fails to save a paramedic in Madame Web

One of Cassie’s earliest visions also tragically results in the death of her colleague O’Neil. Cassie sees him getting in a fatal car accident and attempts to stop him from driving. However, Cassie’s delay of O’Neil’s departure makes it perfectly timed so that he is struck by a truck and dies. This scene seems to be setting up Cassie learning that she has to be very careful when using her powers, or else she could cause other incidents like this.

However, in the next scene, it is shown that Cassie’s takeaway from the initial scene is that she can’t influence the future. When she learns that she can, she doesn’t ever confront the fact that she potentially caused O’Neil’s death. In fact, O’Neil is barely mentioned in the rest of the movie. Madame Web could easily have used this as Cassie’s “with great power comes great responsibility” moment, but it opts to simply drop the plot thread instead.

1 The Train Scene Proved Madame Web’s Concept, Then The Movie Abandons It

Madame Web’s Train Scene Was Heavily Teased In Previews

Ezekiel stalks the train in Madame Web

Perhaps the biggest indication that Madame Web could have worked was the scene where Cassie has visions of Julia, Anya, and Mattie being murdered on the train by Ezekiel. The scene actually does a great job of building up the tension with each subsequent vision, so when the audience finally sees Ezekiel coming in real life, they know exactly how bad things might get.

This scene proved that Madame Web could have been an effective thriller if it committed to that tone. However, the finished movie seems to be trying to split the focus between being a thriller and being a more generic superhero movie. A version of Madame Web that stuck closer to this more grounded and frightening tone could have been a lot better than what Sony ended up making.

Madame Web Movie Poster Featuring Sydney Sweeney as Julia Carpenter, Isabela Merced as Anya Corazon, Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb, Celeste O'Connor as Mattie Franklin, and Tahar Rahim as Ezekiel Sims

Madame Web

Release Date
February 14, 2024

Director
S.J. Clarkson

Writers
Burk Sharpless , Matt Sazama , Kerem Sanga

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