MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Madame Web’ brings a familiar superhero spin

Published 12:48 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

It’s been fascinating to see the general disdain for the latest Marvel Comics film “Madame Web.”

Even before it was released last week, the buzz was as negative as any movie in recent memory, with most of it aimed squarely at the film’s star, Dakota Johnson.

The negativity continued after the film’s dismal performance at the box office on opening weekend, with some declaring it one of the worst films of all time.

That’s why in one sense “Madame Web” proved to be a slightly pleasant surprise. It’s nowhere near as bad as the buzz might suggest (Hello, have you seen “Lisa Frankenstein?”). That’s not to say it’s good either. “Madame Web” is basically just a film that is there – it’s a passable way to kill two hours while watching something that is pretty average.

If ever a movie deserves the “mid” label, “Madame Web” is that movie.

“Madame Web” serves as an origin story with Johnson playing Cassie, a New York paramedic whose mother Constance (Kerry Bishé) died shortly after Cassie’s birth while searching for a mysterious spider in the jungles of Peru.

Following a near-death experience, Cassie starts to have visions and the capability to see into the future. This leads her to cross paths with three young women (Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced and Celeste O’Conner) who are unknowingly the target of Constance’s former assistant Ezekiel (Tahir Rahim). His wrath is driven by visions that the three girls will eventually become superheroes and will be responsible for his death.

“Madame Web” is an origin story with a lot of origin – way more exposition and set up for the future of these characters than perhaps any film in this genre. And there lies one of the biggest problems with the film – it’s hard to get invested in a superhero movie that is practically void of superheroes.

Ezekiel is a pretty bland protagonist, only adding to the problems of the screenplay (credited to four writers, including two – Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless – who wrote the dreadful “Morbius.”)

First-time feature film director S.J. Clarkson does try to spice things up by playing with the time loop element and staging a couple of action sequences, but it all feels like it’s been taken from a film cliche assembly line and pieced together to create something resembling a comic book movie.

The cast is going through the motions too, although Johnson continues to develop a low-key screen presence that makes her interesting to watch, even when it appears she’s bored with the material as well.

The result is “Madame Web” isn’t really the disaster some have labeled it. It’s basically just a forgettable misfire that will be a cinematic afterthought within a few weeks.

— Grade: C-. Reviewed by Micheal Compton, Bowling Green Daily News.