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J.C. Reviews: Madame Spider Was Wasted Potential

by James Coulter

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 years, you probably know the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is currently one of the hottest movie franchises of all time—so much so that many other movie studios have attempted (and mostly failed) to emulate its success by creating their own cinematic universes.

Even Sony wanted to make a superhero universe with Spider-Man. Initially, they intended to launch their planned “Spiderverse” using the Amazing Spider-Man films; but when those movies underperformed, they made the better decision to partner with the MCU and instead incorporate Spider-Man into their franchise.

However, none of that seemed to have stopped Sony from creating other Spider-Man movies and spin-offs outside of the MCU. Unfortunately, none of those other films (live action, at least—the animated Spiderverse films have been cinema gold!) have proven successful with the notable exception of the Venom movies—and only because those films were so bad they’re good.

Everything else (outside of the animated Spiderverse films) has proven dead on arrival: Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, and the newest body to be tossed onto the pile: Madame Web. Even before its official release, the movie became a laughing stock with one line from the trailer being mocked and memed across the interwebs. (No pun intended!) And since its release, the film has only gained negative reviews.

And count this review as one of them because—man!—was this movie the textbook example of wasted potential! Ever heard the saying, “No such thing as a bad idea, only good execution”? Because that saying applies perfectly to Madame Web!

When a pregnant woman in the 1970s explores the Amazon in search of a rare spider, she is betrayed by her assistant who steals the spider for himself and leaves her for dead. Fortunately, before she passes, she is saved by a mysterious tribe of spider people who help deliver her baby girl.

Twenty years later, that girl grows up to be Cassie Webb. She soon learns she has clairvoyance, and her powers reveal that three teenage girls have been targeted for assassination by an evil billionaire, who just so happens to be the same man who killed her mother. Can Cassie save those three girls in time and avenge her mother’s death?

Like I said: there’s no such thing as a bad idea, only bad execution–and this movie does have a good idea! A character who can see the future and use their powers to prevent bad events from happening is an intriguing concept, even if it’s been done many times before. And the villain having the same power of clairvoyance certainly sets up the potential for a clever game of cat and mouse, with both parties trying to outmaneuver and outsmart the other. And putting both characters in an action-packed superhero movie sounds like pure blockbuster gold.

So, what went wrong?

Well, it certainly doesn’t help that the actors—every actor!—are playing characters who are blander than mayo on crustless white bread delivering lines that are duller than burnt-out lightbulbs. For characters playing out an interesting premise, all their performances come across as nearly monotone, bland, and forgettable. In fact, I could hardly remember most of their names after watching this film. I had to look those up on Wikipedia just to know who they are.

I mean it when I say these characters are unmemorable. I only remember the name of Dakota Johnson’s character because a name like “Webs” in a Spider-Man movie is about as subtle as walking into an actual spiderweb. The three girls she’s supposed to be protecting are no better. They’re not even characters, just stereotypes: Shy schoolgirl, preppy Latina, and gangsta punk.

Speaking of which, these three girls are supposed to gain Spider-Man powers and become superheroes who kill the main antagonist. Cassie Webs also becomes a hero herself: the titular Madame Webb. Throughout the movie, we see glimpses of who these women are supposed to become, promising us some epic superheroine showdown. Instead, this payoff never pays off, and the movie comes across as a prequel to a cooler superhero movie that was never made (and, judging by the box office, will never be made).

That’s the problem with these Sony Spider-Man spin-offs. They desperately want to sell themselves as Spider-Man movies sans Spider-Man, but they don’t seem to get that people only care about Spider-Man for the titular character. Nobody cares about Morbius or Kraven or Madame Webb, and no amount of “clever” Easter eggs is going to make up for the severe lack of Spidey.

Overall, if you want a superhero movie where a group of female characters have to escape the clutches of an evil rich guy who wants them all dead because they pose a threat to his livelihood, go watch Birds of Prey. I promise you it’s a more interesting watch than this, which is essentially Birds of Prey sans the comedy.

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Staff Reporter

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