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The Shield

University of Southern Indiana's student publication | USI | student newspaper

The Shield

University of Southern Indiana's student publication | USI | student newspaper

The Shield

‘Madame Web’ proves Sony Pictures should sell Spider-Man back to Marvel

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing
“Madame Web,” released Feb. 14, is an American superhero film based on the Marvel comic character of the same name. The film has been regarded as one of the worst comic book films of all time.

This review contains spoilers for “Madame Web.”

The “Spider-Man” movie rights have always been an interesting tale within the film industry. Marvel sold off the film rights to some of their most famous characters to save themselves from bankruptcy in the 1990s. Spider-Man was one of those characters and is still owned by Sony Pictures.

After the financial failure of the “Amazing Spider-Man” duology, Sony elected to team up with Marvel Studios to include Spider-Man in their popular “Marvel Cinematic Universe” metaseries. However, Sony still wanted to have some sort of power and leverage over Marvel Studios, so they decided to create “spin-off” films based on popular “Spider-Man” characters without prominently using Spider-Man in any of these films. 

They started with the “Venom” films, which were moderate successes. After that came “Morbius,” which was considered to be one of the worst comic book movies of all time. Luckily for “Morbius,” this distinction now belongs to another movie, and it’s not even close.

“Madame Web,” released Feb. 14, is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The movie follows Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) confronting her past while trying to save three young women and their futures.

From the first trailer alone, I knew “Madame Web” was going to be pretty bad. I thought it would at least be fun, but this film fails to accomplish even that. “Madame Web” left me baffled as to how it is even possible for a movie to turn out this bad.

The plot makes absolutely no sense. This mess of a movie follows Cassandra Webb — yes, Madame Webb’s name is actually Webb — whose mother researched spiders in the Peru jungle. Constance Webb (Kerry Bishé) was pregnant with Cassandra while she was doing her research. Constance was killed by her partner Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) because he wanted to claim the superpowered spider for himself. 

This was all for nothing, as there are multiple superpowered spiders, and the people who live in the jungle used the spider to save Constance’s life. It is unsuccessful. However, it allows Cassandra to gain the power to see into the future, even though she doesn’t gain these powers until she is in her thirties. 

If that didn’t make any sense, that’s probably because it doesn’t. The film constantly throws out these weird plot lines or ideas that end up making zero sense.

As for the rest of the film, which takes place in 2003, Ezekiel sees a vision of three Spider-Women, Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor), who are destined to kill him. To prevent this from happening, Ezekiel decides he is going to kill them while they are still teenagers so they can never become Spider-Women. 

Casandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) looks after Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney) and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) as they are hunted by Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim). (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing)

Cassandra starts to see visions of Ezekiel killing the girls and decides to use her powers to protect them. Cassandra, a paramedic, gains her powers after an accident on the job that causes her to drown. Her co-worker, Ben Parker (Adam Scott), is able to revive her, which, for some reason, activates her powers. 

These visions into the future make absolutely no sense, considering Ezekial’s future never happens. Cassandra is able to defeat him before that future even comes close to happening, so what exactly was Ezekiel seeing? 

Besides the plot not being well written, there are similar instances that don’t end up making sense. How come it took Cassandra so long to get her powers compared to Ezekiel? Why did Ezekial not age from 1973 to 2003? Why does the movie take place in 2003? Why do the three girls never get their spider powers? 

Another really bizarre part of the film is the shoehorning of Peter Parker’s family. There is an entire subplot where Mary Parker (Emma Roberts) is pregnant with Peter and gives birth to him by the end of the film. I get the writers were just doing this in a desperate attempt to include something related to Peter Parker/Spider-Man, but it serves nothing to the rest of the film.

Moving on from the plot, the dialogue is abysmal. Besides Johnson’s performance and how clear it was that she did not want to be there, the lines they gave her and everyone else are some of the cringiest screenwriting I have ever seen in a film. 

The main writers of the film, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, have written some of the worst-reviewed films in Hollywood. Out of all five films they have written, the highest score they have received on Rotten Tomatoes is a 25% critic approval for “Dracula Untold.” I know Rotten Tomatoes is just a review aggregator, and there is likely a lot of studio meddling with these films. However, it is impossible to deny that there is a pattern here.

Another really bizarre part of this film is the dialogue, specifically from Ezekial. Every word that comes out of his mouth seems like it is said half a second later than when his mouth moves. It felt like the filmmakers got some other person to re-record his dialogue, even though that is not the case. Considering he is the main villain of the film, this happens often, and it is incredibly distracting. 

This film takes place in 2003, and it looks like it was filmed in 2003. Watching this movie on the big screen is like watching a Spider-Man movie made by The CW. I will say the costumes for the Spider-Women are pretty cool. It’s too bad they are in the film for probably less than a minute.

The Spider-Woman costumes used by Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney) and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) were shown throughout all of the film’s trailers, yet are barely used in the film. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing)

There are no redeemable qualities in “Madame Web.” If you are in any way apprehensive about seeing this movie, don’t see it. Even if you are still somewhat curious, I would still suggest you wait for the film to become available on Netflix or Disney+ so you don’t have to pay to see it in the theater.

I do feel bad for director S.J. Clarkson because this is her film directorial debut. She is an extremely experienced television director, directing episodes from shows such as “Dexter” and “Succession.” Clarkson has also directed episodes of other Marvel projects such as “Jessica Jones” and “The Defenders.” She is definitely capable of good direction, so I hope she gets another chance in the future.

Even so, “Madame Web” was without a doubt the worst film I have ever had the misfortune of seeing in the theater. The film’s plot and dialogue were so bad I began to have headaches because my brain could not process the atrocity I had to sit through.

If I had to give “Madame Web” a rating, I couldn’t in good conscience rate it any higher than 1/10. It is a film that exists, but it definitely is not one worth watching.

About the Contributor
Bryce West
Bryce West, Assistant News Editor
Bryce West, senior journalism and radio TV major, was the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 academic year. West joined The Shield in Spring 2022 as a Staff Writer and was promoted to Assistant News Editor in Spring 2023.  West was involved in ESPN+ broadcasts for sporting events on campus. West enjoys watching movies, listening to music, hanging out with friends and collecting action figures and retro video games. West likes watching superhero action movies and shows. He is a huge fan of the reality competition series “Survivor.”  “I enjoy working for The Shield because it has been the most spectacular learning experience I have had throughout my four years of college,” West said. “I have also gotten to know some of the greatest individuals I have ever met in my life. This has by far been my greatest working experience.”