“Madame Web” is a nightmarish reflection of Sony’s franchising and it’s time we start asking why

By Ben Konuch

From the opening scenes of “Madame Web,” it becomes abundantly clear that this won’t be a good movie. Awkwardly-delivered exposition dumps from bad actors, good actors who inexplicably have wooden performances, a villain whose lines are almost all completely re-recorded and added back into the film via janky ADR, horrible camerawork and ridiculous editing turn “Madame Web” from a film to a laughing stock. 

In fact, calling it a film seems like a disservice to competent filmmakers wherever they may be found – clearly not at Sony’s superhero franchise – and I feel as though “Madame Web” has finally become the turning point for something Marvel fans everywhere have known for a long time. Sony’s attempt at a Spiderman-inspired cinematic universe isn’t driven by actual passion but by name recognition and corporate greed.

Even from Sony’s first attempts, Marvel fans were skeptical about their intentions with the superhero genre. How were they going to make a “Venom” film without Spiderman? Ironically, the “Venom” film in question probably reflected the most passion and actual love for the project by its filmmakers, as the final product was flawed but still fun. The same can’t be said for its sequel, as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” both crammed too much into too little time while fundamentally misunderstanding its iconic main antagonist. If fans expected an improvement with the Sony cinematic universe, “Morbius” showed us why we really don’t deserve nice things.

This was the sorry state of Sony’s superhero films when “Madame Web” came onto the scene. It’s almost universally well-known that this movie wasn’t good, but it’s nearly impossible to convey how downright baffling it truly is. The concept presented in the main trailer, on paper, could have worked. A time-traveling villain trying to kill three different future Spider-Women being protected by a panicked EMT who can somehow see the future? It sounded at least intriguing until you look into the history of the characters being portrayed. 

Madame Web in this film resembles absolutely nothing of her comic book inspiration, as Dakota Johnson portrays her here about 30 years too young and without any identifiable physical or personality from the source material. Oh, and those three Spider-Women never get their powers in this movie, with their heroic alter-egos only appearing in dream sequences. Plus, Uncle Ben Parker is here, you know, from those other “Spiderman” films that you actually wanted to watch. Are you starting to understand the enigma of “Madame Web?”

There was no reason for this movie to be made. While angry fans of different franchises throw that phrase around loosely, there truly is nothing in “Madame Web” of fundamental worth. It has no implications on the MCU, as Sony is contractually distanced from it, and it has no connecting point with its prior standalone films. For all of the failings of “Morbius,” it can at least be clear how the film was being used to set up a future Sinister Six villain team-up film with “Venom” in the future. But there is no greater plan with “Madame Web,” and with no observable connection points to any other films, the movie has to be judged on its own merits, which leaves it as a baffling, confusing mess.

‘Hey, I think I’ve seen this one before.’ ‘What do you mean you’ve seen it before, it’s brand new!’ – “Back to the Future”

Make no mistake, I had an absolute blast watching this movie in a theater with friends, yet in none of the ways it wanted me to. “Madame Web’s” first half falls into the “so bad it’s fun” territory of movies, as we found ourselves laughing at moments and filmmaking decisions that were very clearly not meant to be laughable. Then its second half hit, and the absurdity died down slightly in a way that caused us to sober up to the sad reality of the movie we were watching. 

“Madame Web” is barely a superhero movie. The main protagonist has barely any useful powers, there are hardly any fight scenes (and even fewer fight scenes where the protagonist doesn’t incapacitate the villain with a car) and no clear story arcs or even proper motivations for characters are even present.

There are a few bright spots in the darkness, as the middle portion of the movie actually used some clever filming sequences in portraying how Madame Web’s visions of the future worked. Before and after that middle period they felt more like videogame visuals, but there is a solid thirty minutes of the film that shows occasional clever filmmaking. 

Adam Scott as Ben Parker was great, even though his character had nothing to do with the plot other than to shoehorn in a Spiderman connection in a very obvious wink to the audience. Plus, I have to credit that the villain has a solidly imposing screen presence whenever he’s in his costume and doesn’t talk, as these vision sequences are shot almost like a horror movie.

All in all, baffling writing choices are the biggest failing in this film. All of its jankiness aside, it’s incredible how “Madame Web” so poorly writes its characters that even the best efforts of capable actors like Sydney Sweeney and Isabela Merced can’t salvage their characters. It’s mind-boggling how many people are involved in making a movie like this, and how much money is thrown into this project, only for its writers to not care so noticeably. Because that’s what “Madame Web” boils down to: its writers and producers simply don’t care about the Marvel source material or even crafting something of worth, but instead care about how much money name recognition could get them.

Perhaps in the hands of a competent crew and leadership that actually cared, “Madame Web” and the Sony superhero films could stand tall alongside the MCU. But as long as producers and executives keep greenlighting lazy projects that care more about riding the coattails of the MCU instead of challenging it, Sony’s superhero franchise is doomed to fail – and so will the hopes of fans of these characters.

I give “Madame Web” a 1.5/10

“Madame Web” is unfortunately still showing in theaters

Ben Konuch is a junior Strategic Communication student and one of the A&E editors for Cedars as well as the social media lead. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and swing dancing in the rain.

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures

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