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  • Writer's picture The Vindicator

“Madame Web” is not a bad movie.

A review of a film that pays homage to a bygone Marvel era.

Written by Domonic Perkins

Nobody wanted this movie. Nobody asked for it. Fans weren’t clamoring for a “Madame Web” movie — in fact, besides the astute comic book reader, the general public was most likely not even aware of Madame Web’s existence. And yet, here we are. There is no turning back. “Madame Web” exists and there’s nothing we can do about it, besides watch and give a fair, honest once-over, for good or ill.

"It’s a wounded, broken movie, but for heaven’s sake, it is not entirely bad."

In “Madame Web,” Dakota Johnson plays Cassandra Webb, a last name dropped frequently to remind you that you’re watching a Spider-Man adjacent product. The film opens with Webb and her paramedic partner, Ben Parker (played by a solid Adam Scott) going about their day-to-day hecticness of being paramedics in New York City. One standout aspect of the film is the chemistry these two have. They work well enough together and make a believable on-screen duo. After a near death experience on the job, Parker saves Webb’s life, which awakens her clairvoyant powers. 

Once more astute in the usage of her clairvoyant powers, Webb saves three young women from certain death at the hands of Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), the movie’s “villain of the week.” Sims is the bad guy because he keeps having visions that these three women, Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) are going to kill him in the future. Sims, like any self-righteous dude who thinks he’s gonna die, tries to stop it— so Webb steps in to save the day, creating tension between her (the hero) and him (the villain). 

In the grand scheme of things, Webb must learn about her powers, her past and that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Yup, they squeezed that line into this one, too. It’s a simple origin story similar to the likes of 2016’s “Doctor Strange,” minus the hand accident, portal stuff and Sweeney. Sweeney, arguably the most popular name in this film for us college kids, is okay in this movie. She’s clearly in it, but doesn’t really do much except say a few lines and advance the plot forward with her newfound friends. Rounding out the cast is Emma Roberts, who plays Mary Parker, and Mike Epps, who shines as the charming and humorous paramedic, O’Neil. 

“Madame Web” has been cast aside by the greater part of society and for that reason, I wanna stick up for it. Similarly to why people go to their local animal shelter to adopt the unwanted puppies and kittens of the world, I feel this deep yearning to love and foster this film. It’s a wounded, broken movie, but for heaven’s sake, it is not entirely bad. For starters, the action and the visual effects in this movie are well-done. All the explosions boom nicely in a well-calibrated theater. These kinds of movies all end in a grandiose battle and the one in “Madame Web” is a standout atop a large building that houses explosives. A bit cheesy, but hey, it’s fun. The clairvoyant touch also adds a neat aspect to fight scenes that would’ve otherwise been generic. 

I think the problem people have with this movie is its dialogue, which tends to come off a bit awkward in places — potentially due to hiccups in the editing flow of the film. My guess for that could also be an acting choice Johnson made while filming, choosing to purposefully play her character with an awkward edge, such as in a scene where she begrudgingly accepts a drawing from a young boy in a hospital. Johnson could’ve seen the awkwardness in the script and ran with it. Do we blame the director for not reining in said choice? The editor for not cutting around it? Or do we blame ourselves for the damage we did by liking superhero movies in the first place? I’m not entirely sure, but I just don’t see “Madame Web” as being the crime to cinema that those around me seem to believe, because it’s pure entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less, and it never said it was going to be anything more than that in the first place. 

So, should you go out and see “Madame Web”? Yeah, why not? Because look, in the grand scheme of things, it is a fascinating landmark in the history of cinema as a whole. It’s a messy love letter to the bygone era that was the Marvel golden age of the 2010s. Disney was (and still is) cranking out origin story movies like these, all following a similar template to “Madame Web.”  The film exists outside the realm of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as it was released by Sony, but attempts to recapture what those movies had achieved: success with a formula. It’s got big names, it’s got action, it’s got people in Spider-Man-esque suits, but something’s still missing. In its attempt to recapture the magic that made those movies, it became something special to me. The grasp at greatness is what I find so endearing about “Madame Web.” It’s not a bad movie, it’s just another superhero movie. “Madame Web” is scrappy, and it’s corny in places sure, but hey, it’s endearing and fascinating in its attempt. It at least tried.

3 out of 5 stars.


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