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“Madame Web:” A messy web of disaster

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“Madame Web” is now in theaters. The movie is rated PG-13 and stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb/Madame Web. Movie poster from Sony Pictures

“Madame Web,” directed by S.J. Clarkson, stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra “Cassie” Webb, Sydney Sweeney as Julia Carpenter, Isabela Merced as Anya Corazon, and Celeste O’Connor as Mattie Franklin.

“Madame Web” follows Johnson’s character Cassie Webb, a paramedic working the typical 9-to-5, as she comes to get superpowers, gaining the ability to see the future and becoming Madame Web. Webb, with her new skillset, has to protect three teenage girls from supervillain Ezekiel Sims, played by Tahar Rahim.

Madame Web is a Spider-Man-related character in Marvel Comics. With her big-screen debut, Madame Web has no ties to Spider-Man at all. Spider-Man is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time, so I will always go into any Spider-Man-related project like “Venom,”  “Morbius,” and others with open eyes trying to see the best in the project, even if it is not all that good. However, “Madame Web” falls so short of this mark to the point where I do not want to acknowledge it as a part of Sony’s “Venom” universe. “Madame Web” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

From the start “Madame Web” gives the cliché trope, similar to “Harry Potter,” where the main character is an orphan and has to use their special ability, left behind by their parents, to defeat the main villain, who is also tied to their parents that they never met. The plot of “Madame Web” only decreases in quality from the beginning. The movie tries to give you elements of a time travel and multiverse movie but never wants to fully commit. There is no real final fight in “Madame Web,” which is unexpected as most superhero films have a final fight to pay off the build-up.

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A huge problem with “Madame Web” is that out of the one hour and 54-minute runtime, one hour and 50 minutes are buildup. The only payoff to the lack of buildup is one scene long, filled with horrendous dialogue. It made me feel as though I had wasted the two hours of my life I spent watching this movie. The worst thing about the build-up in this movie is that it teases, through Madame Web’s visions of the future, the whole movie for the three teenage girls to gain superpowers just for that to never happen. It was super disappointing and took away from what could have been an okay movie because I was waiting again and again for the girls to get their powers and contribute more to the plot and conflict.

I believe that most, if not all, of the actors and actresses in this movie gave it their all and are talented people. With that said, “Madame Web” only had one character who I remotely liked. Ben “Uncle Ben” Parker, played by Adam Scott, had about five minutes of screen time throughout the whole movie and was the only character that I found semi-enjoyable while watching.

Although I love Sweeney’s performance in projects like “Anyone But You,” her character was lacking in “Madame Web.” Her line delivery for most of her dialogue was bad. She was the typical nerdy teenaged girl who was too scared to stand up for herself, and the bad script shed its light on the characters. Sweeney, along with Merced and O’Connor, all had terribly written characters. The three teenage girls were the most stereotypical and cliché characters ever– the nerd, the brat, and the one with some sense. By the end, they have not changed at all besides befriending and trusting each other and Madame Web. Madame Web also has minimal growth as well. The biggest change in character is that she stops hating kids as much as in the beginning and realizes foster care is not as bad as she remembers. Disappointing as with such a star-studded cast, some good characters and portrayals could have happened.

Another negative is that the movie did not look well visually. The special effects and CGI were terrible. There were parts of the movie where I could tell they were filming with a greenscreen because the background was almost bleeding into the characters themselves. That is a huge problem, which made this high-budget movie feel almost like a fan film. I could tell that the special effects were not going to be good about three minutes in when a CGI spider is shown and it looks just completely unrealistic. The character CGI was also not good, as when Ezekiel jumps from car to car in one segment of the movie, he jumps completely straight up and down with no drag or any sort of air affecting him, making it way too smooth, but the camera shaking does not complement the smoothness of his jumps.

The editing of this movie was also not good. From frame to frame, it felt very harsh on the eyes because there were just so many unnecessary cuts. The effect that was edited onto Madame Web’s powers was also horrendously hard to look at. They gave the feeling similar to when an eye doctor uses different lenses on your eyes and asks which looks better. This effect is not used to test your eyesight, it is used every single time that Madame Web wants to use her powers, and when she does not use her powers it is used sometimes too, giving it a very repetitive presence. The consistency of the effect was super annoying because it flickers from a clear shot to a blurry shot, even if she is not using her powers in the moment.

“Madame Web” attempts comedy and action horrifically. In a movie with an already bad plot, having no comedy or action to bring up any potential score just digs a deeper hole. The comedy genre contains some of my favorite movies of all time. “Madame Web” did not even make me smile once. There were no redeeming comedic factors in this movie and attempts were few and far between. The placement of the comedy attempts would ruin moments that were essential plot points. The very limited action scenes were not good. The final fight was not a fight but rather an escape scene almost. None of our four main characters ever lay a hand on the villain to fight him. This made me super upset because the biggest selling point of superhero movies is the final fight where the hero, who has overcome hardships and learned lessons, faces the ultimate villain. This just did not happen whatsoever in “Madame Web.”

One of the biggest selling points of “Madame Web” that it tries to win fans over with is references and nostalgia. The film takes place in 2003, and it includes music and posters from artists Beyoncé and Britney Spears. The movie also takes place during a similar time to the classic “Spider-Man” by Sam Raimi. They try to nostalgia bait older audiences by including references to “The Daily Bugle,” the newspaper company that Peter Parker works for in Raimi’s “Spider-Man.” The color grading of “Madame Web” felt like a basic and boring version of the color grading of Raimi’s “Spider-Man.” It was set in New York, mainly using grey and yellow colors in the background. It just left nothing visually appealing in the movie. The superhero costumes shown in the promotion for this movie are also never used up until the final scene of the movie, and at that, they are really basic and lazy costumes with bad color schemes.

Sony also tries to sell this movie to Spider-Man fans by using Ben Parker and his pregnant sister Mary Parker as background characters. While he is never name-dropped in the film, it is obvious to assume that Mary Parker gives birth to Peter Parker, Spider-Man, in “Madame Web.” Sony does this to try and get more Spider-Man fans to come and watch this movie because fans may get hope that Spider-Man will eventually tie into one of these movies, but this just did not work on me.

My biggest problem with “Madame Web” is that there was one fight scene. It was less than a minute long and was also shown in the trailer of the movie. The only reason I liked it was because it was a cool scene compared to most of the movie, and it played “Toxic” by Britney Spears in the background which gave a little flavor to an otherwise boring action sequence.

While I have given multiple negatives, Adam Scott’s Ben Parker was my favorite part of the film. Even though he was not in the film for very long, he brought a funny sense of charisma to the screen whenever he appeared.

Even such a star-studded cast cannot save “Madame Web” from a bad plot, poor visual effects, static characters, and embarrassing action sequences.

“Madame Web” scores 0.5/5 stars from me.

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Nolan McNulty
Nolan McNulty, Staff Reporter
Nolan McNulty is a junior at Ankeny High School. In his free time, Nolan likes to hang out with his friends and family, watch movies, and lift weights. He plans on going to the University of Iowa after high school. A fun fact about Nolan is that he enjoys listening to rap music.
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