Reel Reviews | Madame Web

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

When a New York ambulance driver is resurrected after a fatal incident, she realizes that she can see into the future and will become, Madame Web.

One day, after falling off a bridge and into a river while being trapped in a car, Cassie Web is revived but now is seeing strange things.  Soon she realizes that she is looking into the future but can’t control it.  When she sees a trio of young girls on the train, she recognizes that trouble is coming for them.  As she attempts to rescue them, she discovers that there is much that she doesn’t know, about herself, about her mother who died while giving birth, and about the whole universe.

Madame Web is written by Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless S.J. Clarkson, and Claire Parker.  The film stars Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabel Merced, Celeste O’Connor, Tahar Rahim, Adam Scott, Emma Robers and Mike Epps.  The film is directed by S.J. Clarkson.  As a part of the Marvel Universe, Clarkson directed episodes of Jessica Jones and The Defenders and now joins the team of Sazama and Sharpless who wrote the film MorbiusMadame Web is the latest installment in the Sony/Marvel Spider-Verse which runs parallel to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

From the beginning of the movie, there are problems.  The story given to the audience has no basis in the comic book universe and it is not grounded in reality either.  The characters in the film resemble those in the Marvel Universe only very slightly.  In the Marvel Universe (the comics), the Cassandra Webb version of Madame Web is an old woman.  In this feature, Dakota Johnson plays the titular character.  Johnson has the powers of Madame Web because her mother was bitten by a rare Peruvian spider while pregnant with her.  On the surface, this may seem plausible but if this spider, an extraordinary Peruvian spider no less, has the healing properties mentioned in the film, every medical, pharmaceutical, and scientific organization in the world would have decimated that Peruvian forest in search of these creatures. 

The film never explains how Ezekiel gets his powers, where he gets his incredible fortune from, or why he is a bad guy in this film.  If you are a comic book fan, Ezekiel has a purpose in the universe.  In this film, he is just a terrible bad guy.

On a practical level, there are several inconsistencies.  For instance, if you are driving a stolen taxicab then crash the front of it and then take the license plates off of it, how far do you think that you would be able to drive around the city of New York?  Well, in this movie, you can drive it all day for several days and nobody even flinches. Also, in New York, it must be ok to drive around and go through intersections when an ambulance is coming with its lights flashing and siren blaring.  That happens in this movie more than once.  An ambulance, with lights and sirens on, gets t-boned by a dump truck!

Mike Epps is a comedy legend.  Every time he is on the screen, in almost every movie or television show, he is going to bring a level of levity that is fun and engaging.  How in the world can you waste the talents of Epps the way that this film does? Sad.

Sad also can describe the work of Dakota Johnson.  She stumbles and bumbles through scenes, trying to look confused but comes across as nonchalant.  It is a wonder why she bothers at all.  Johnson could be blamed but the responsibility falls at the feet of the director in this case.

Most often when there are a large number of writers on a project, there is an impending doom.  In this case, when you take the writers of arguably one of the worst modern-day superhero movies and pair them up with a couple more writers of mediocre properties, you should get a masterpiece, right?  Not.

Madame Web is rated PG-13 for violence/action and language.  To be honest, the movie is nowhere near what it could or should be.  The problem is that when you bring a character to the screen that has a large amount of mythology and a profound impact on the universe, it is hard to bring the story to life in a two-hour movie.

Grade:  D