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Madame Web (2024) - Movie Review

Movies & TV

By Mia Taylor

- Feb 21, 2024

"Madame Web" is more than what its red-herring trailer or an ill-placed February release would insinuate. With Dakota Johnson at the helm and the barely consequential superhero origin storyline, it's easier on the senses than most of its genre contemporaries. While veteran TV director S.J. Clarkson adorns the screen with visually vibrant scenes, the film tends to become visually disordered by its explosive finale. Not to mention the sagging dialogue and excessive exposition, filled with unintentional humor, courtesy of Clarkson & Claire Parker and "Morbius" screenwriters Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless.

Notwithstanding the occasional dull dumps of information, an inevitable part of propelling a new character into the limelight, "Madame Web" sports a refreshingly breezy pace. This makes it a shockingly delightful watch compared to the intense universe-shattering sagas that have taken over the screens.

Its storyline takes us on a trip back to the Peruvian Amazon in 1973 with a hugely pregnant Constance (played by Kerry Bishé) on the hunt for a special spider known for its healing powers. Fast forward to 2003 and her kid, Cassie, has become a NYC paramedic. But a rescue over a bridge with her EMT partner, Ben (Adam Scott), sends her into the river, unlocking her Spider-like senses. She's now dealing with mystifying predictions of the future, but people around her are skeptical, in a clear nod to her namesake, Cassandra, who foretold prophecies no one would believe.

While the plot is not novel, having been used previously in films like "Groundhog Day," "Final Destination," and "Happy Death Day," "Madame Web" cleverly explores the concept from a unique perspective.

Cassie's acceptance and understanding of her new abilities climax when she prevents a horrifying incident involving three teenage girls at Grand Central Terminal. The film's antagonist, well-endowed but pressed Ezekiel Sims (played by Tahar Rahim), also holds the power of foresight and has foreseen his eventual death at the hands of these girls.

Madame Web (2024) - Movie Review

Reluctantly, Cassandra becomes the guardian angel for these teens: introverted Julia (Sydney Sweeney), nerdish Anya (Isabela Merced), and defiant Mattie (Celeste O’Connor). Johnson's knack for deadpan one-liners and interactions with her young charges adds sheen to her down-to-earth superhero avatar. Her on-screen synergy with Sweeney, Merced, and O’Connor is palpable, despite their characters being typecast and seemingly older than expected high-schoolers.

S.J. Clarkson continues to impress with attention-grabbing camera movements and energetic scene transitions, reminiscent of her successful Marvel series, "Jessica Jones." Watching Cassie's powers come to life onscreen is a visually appealing, psychedelic experience.

However, the film's forced action sequences are its weakest point, diluting its overall appeal. And as most moviegoers would expect, this isn’t the last we’ll hear of the "Madame Web" series.

Christy Lemire, a film critic for over a decade, has written for since 2013. Previously, she carried the mantle of film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series "Ebert Presents At the Movies" opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor.


6 / 10

Despite a poor trailer and misplaced February release, "Madame Web" still manages to hold its audience with a whimsical Dakota Johnson performance.