Madame Web (2024)

Madame Web Review

Madame Web

Release date: February 14, 2024 (USA)
Director: S.J. Clarkson
Box office: 100.3 million USD
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Based on: Marvel Comics
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore

As someone who keeps up with new movie news, I’ve been very well-aware of the amount of hate that S.J. Clarkson’s “Madame Web” has been getting. The Marvel Studios and Sony partnership made headlines in the summer of 2023 when Sydney Sweeney, Dakota Johnson, Isabela Merced and Celeste O’Connor were cast as the four leads. But despite having such a stacked cast, critics and audiences thought the film was bad really bad. Overall, three things made Madame Web so ridiculously awful: dialogue, story and technical issues.

Dialogue is the heart of any good movie; but for Madame Web it proved to be its biggest failure. From scene one to climax, most of the dialogue felt forced and cringe-y (for lack of a better word). Their attempts at “teenage humor” made me want to walk out of the movie theater. But it wasn’t just delivery that was the problem; the writing set them up for failure too. Most lines were unnatural and took me out of what should have been an immersive experience. For example: Johnson’s character Cassandra Webb dies for about three minutes before being brought back to life; and yet her dialogue afterwards feels just as dead as she did before.

I couldn’t believe that these four characters were supposed to be in a “found family” situation because their interactions didn’t reflect that at all not only because again their dialogue was terrible; but because this is how their story was written.

It’s impossible to care about any of these characters. Julia, Anya and Mattie are all one-dimensional from beginning to end and even though this whole movie is about them I don’t care if they live or die (and neither will you). There’s no time given for us to connect with any one person so when all three girls almost die at once, it’s impossible to truly feel scared…or relieved when they eventually do survive.

There’s nothing likable about Cassandra except for her job as an EMT and unless you’ve read her comics then seen this film she comes off as a hero who didn’t want to be one in the first place. She flips between caring so deeply for these girls…but then leaving them alone in the middle of nowhere. Her last scene with them is supposed to show how much they are like family but she had never shown that before. There’s no lesson learned, no arch between the four main characters…so why should I care?

Adam Scott’s character Ben Parker is the only person worth liking; and even then he doesn’t get enough screen time. But each scene he is in is a highlight of the movie because somehow he manages to make the writing good (and natural) and even though I knew he wouldn’t die until his future nephew became Spider-Man…I genuinely cared what happened to him.

The movie also felt too long in the tooth, spending so much time building relationships that didn’t pan out; so when the final fight happened, it was over in a blink. It was like the writers forgot they had to end the movie. Cassandra revealing her powers came out of left field and was laughable, and the villain didn’t get bested by any wit on the heroes’ part he accidentally tripped and impaled himself on a metal beam. It’s the first time I thought a movie was both too long and too short simultaneously.

Madame Web was an absolutely painful near-two-hour experience, which could have been saved with more scenes developing each character and characters together as a group. While everyone who watched could tell that this film had something visibly wrong with its story and dialogue, there were some subtle technical things that took me out of watching it even more. Strange zoom-ins that seemed to be trying to convey unease with certain scenes, and actors mostly the villain mouthing their lines for them to later be voiced over in post-production made me lose my mind in the theater. It happened enough times where I almost kept count, and it kind of felt on purpose. If not, it’s still incredibly unbelievable did they have no sound crew?

Other things that bothered me were constant reminders that we were in 2003 throughout the film; like a billboard for Beyonce’s “Dangerously In Love” or a radio station playing Britney Spears’ new hit single “Baby One More Time” faintly heard in the background of a scene shot outside of an apartment building window while two characters talked inside. I’m not sure why they kept reminding us considering a title card saying “New York – 2003” shows up five minutes into the movie, but it got distracting at times and I found myself looking off-screen into the background for more weird nods or winks. The fight scenes were slow and lacked any real action, and besides Dakota Johnson’s ambulance wheelies, there wasn’t much fighting happening in this superhero action film. Marvel is known for their crazy fight scenes, and when you compare something like “Shang Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings,” it feels like a step back when it comes to original and interesting superhero movies. Unfortunately, Madame Web is exactly what everyone said: stupid bad.

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