Madame Web – Film Review

In the early 2000s, I belonged to the generation that grew up with Spider-Man cartoons. Madame Web, whom we encountered for the first time in the second episode of the third season, was one of the most intriguing characters for me. The concept of the multiverse that she represented and was a part of appeared incredibly captivating to me at a young age. Consequently, I can never forget Spider-Man’s Secret War episodes; they hold a special place in my heart. Similarly, Madame Web does too. Though I felt a surge of excitement on the day I heard about the movie’s release, I refrained from building high expectations. Knowing about Marvel’s recent struggles with storytelling, I went to the cinema without expectations. And when you don’t have expectations, an average film doesn’t bother you too much.

Let’s briefly touch upon the plot… Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson), a paramedic, begins to experience visions she cannot comprehend after an accident during duty. Over time, Cassandra realizes that the visions she sees are a glimpse of the future, finding herself inadvertently becoming an obstacle in front of a man who has spent his life trying to kill three girls – a twist of fate. Trying to protect the girls with the visions she sees but doesn’t understand, Cassandra gradually learns who she is, the importance of the girls, and the place of her lost mother in her life.

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Let’s start with the good aspects of the film. Dakota Johnson truly is a magnificent actress. She manages to captivate the audience with excitement. Her screen presence is powerful. Similarly, so is Sydney Sweeney’s. I will continue to emphasize what a splendid actor Sweeney is on every platform available to me. The four leads of the film, Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson), Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor), deliver a very successful performance. Likewise, the brief yet impactful presence of Adam Scott and Emma Roberts adds color to the film.

However, unfortunately, I cannot say the same positive things about the film’s antagonist, Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim). Despite the issues I will mention shortly, it is essential to underline one thing: a good villain elevates the film to another level. Marvel has been facing a problem with villains lately. They are mediocre and fail to generate excitement. Similarly, Ezekiel Sims fails to excite in any way. His dubbed voice, in particular, can be irritating at times. A poor technical choice.

The film effectively explores its foundation of the motif “before they kill me, I must kill them,” rather than the classic narrative of an ordinary citizen gradually becoming a hero, there’s a theme of the reluctant hero present. However, this intriguing premise isn’t adequately capitalized upon. Marvel has been facing serious storytelling issues lately, but this time, perhaps influenced by Sony, the problem isn’t with the story itself but instead with the inability to properly utilize time, a common issue in many recent projects. Stories with mysteries to unravel, connections between past and future, characters uniting against a common enemy, and gradually bonding require time for the story and characters to fully develop in the viewer’s mind. Unfortunately, the 1 hour 57 minutes, including credits, is a short duration, and as a result, the film falters in many aspects.

However, the fundamental problem with the film lies in the director’s storytelling approach. S.J. Clarkson, whose background as a television director is evident in every frame of the film, has ventured into directing a feature-length film for the first time. While there are occasional moments of brilliance, overall, the film’s direction is relatively weak. Notably, the director’s handling of action sequences is quite poor. While I found the action shots and editing during Cassandra’s initial encounter with the girls on the train quite impressive, the rest of the film falls short. The final scenes, in particular, exude a cringe-worthy aura reminiscent of the early 2000s, as if the director is proclaiming, “I am a TV director!”

The reviews of the film are, unfortunately, disheartening. However, as I mentioned, due to having no expectations, I was able to enjoy the film. What usually bothers me in Marvel films is the poor quality of the storytelling in recent times. However, Madame Web doesn’t suffer from this issue. A slightly longer runtime could have allowed for a stronger emotional connection to the characters. Conversely, what bothered me this time was the director’s approach to the film itself. Zooms akin to those in Battlestar Galactica or The Office, shots from ankle level upward, and timid actions during action sequences. If we consider that a film can never be perfect due to its nature, some choices could have been made to at least elevate the film from a 5 to a 6.

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In essence, Madame Web is a mediocre film with an enjoyable story that is squandered due to its short duration and poor direction. While the main characters are sufficient to carry the film, unfortunately, their adversaries pale in comparison. The weakness of the antagonist automatically weakens the film. However, beyond everything else, the biggest problem with the project is entrusting it to a TV director, S.J. Clarkson. Despite having a highly skilled cinematographer like Mauro Fiore behind it, the decision-making process fell short in the hands of the director. Rather than being potentially much better, it ended up resembling a simple and cheap action series from the early 2000s.

Cast & Crew

director: S.J. Clarkson

writers: S.J. Clarkson, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Kerem Sanga, Claire Parker

starring: Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O’Connor, Tahar Rahim, Emma Roberts, Adam Scott, Zosia Mamet

USA | 2024 | 116 MINUTES |


Ukrainian Creative Director | Motion Picture Writer | Horror Freak

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