Madame Web – movie review

Imagine if you had the ability to see into the future and change the outcome. That idea is at the centre of Marvel’s latest superhero movie, which the studio would like to turn into a franchise.

Brought up in foster homes, Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) is a paramedic. All she knows is that her mother Constance (Kerry Bishé) died during childbirth, while investigating the special healing properties of a spider in the Amazon. In fact, she was killed by her guide, Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim). He wasn’t interested in using those special properties for the greater good. Rather, he had purely selfish desires, which were met when he stole the one spider Constance managed to find. The spider venom gave him incredible strength and speed.

Now Sims is plagued by a recurrent nightmare that three masked young women will track him down and kill him. To that end, he vows to murder them before they get to him. Their downfall becomes his obsession. But he doesn’t count on Cassie Webb’s awakening to her origins and her linking up with the women in Ezekiel’s nightmare, all of whom are still teens. They are Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor).

In comic book form, Madame Web is depicted as a blind old woman in a wheelchair. In the film, Cassie is young, active and agile.

Madame Web was co-written and has been directed by S.J. Clarkson, who cut her teeth in TV and is making her feature film debut. For all the inevitable comparisons, Madame Web isn’t Spider-Man. I quite liked the intriguing origin story, but vast leaps of faith are necessary to buy the premise and some of the dialogue is clunky. Overlay that with teen angst and you have a pretty bizarre narrative.

I got the impression that Dakota Johnson wasn’t all that sold on the material either, but did what she was directed to do. And the girls squabbling and making up seemed to be a waste of acting talent too. Tahar Rahim’s villainous persona smacks of a one-trick pony. Adam Scott has a largely thankless role as Cassandra’s good-natured paramedic partner and friend, Ben Parker. And I’m not quite sure why Emma Roberts is there at all as Parker’s pregnant sister-in-law, Mary.

So, let me summarise by saying that Madame Web struggles to maintain credibility.

Alex First

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