Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“Madame Web”: A failure of the Marvel comic book adaptation

SJ Clarkson’s film is another production in the series focusing on opponents and supporting characters from the Spider-Man universe. Madame Web is a particularly strange choice for protagonist. Unlike Venom or Morbius, this character was only an assistant to the spider hero – a blind old woman with the ability to predict the future, who from time to time warned Spider-Man about upcoming events. The creators of the animated series gave her a slightly larger role, making her a guardian of the multiverse, but still – it was difficult to find material for a stand-alone film here.

Yet someone made the attempt. We meet Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) in 2003, when she is 30 years old and works as a paramedic in one of New York’s ambulances. The woman suddenly begins to be haunted by visions of the near future. When in one of them he sees the death of three teenagers (Sydney SweeneyIsabela Merced, Celeste O’Connor) from the hands of a mysterious man, decides to save them.

The attacker’s name is Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim). 50 years ago, he acquired spider powers, and now he is plagued by prophetic dreams in which girls dressed in terrible costumes end his life after a short fight. For him the matter is simple, kill or be killed. And if there is a possibility of getting rid of the danger when the teenagers haven’t received their powers yet… Finishing the summary and moving on to the review, the script of “Madame Web” is one big mess, and Ezekiel’s plot is written so on the knee that it is impossible not to be impressed.

Let’s stick to the antagonist, because it’s a film curiosity and a role thanks to which Rahim (by the way, a great actor who had nothing to play here) can already prepare a place on the shelf for the Golden Raspberry. The guy is a walking exhibition and I can’t count how many times he says that he “must defend everything he has achieved”, “he didn’t have an easy life” or explains to every person he meets why teenagers must die. The concentration of absurdities and illogicalities is already off the scale. His prophetic dreams – one of his spider powers? Had one of these before? Did he use them somehow? It is unknown. And this talk about “everything he’s achieved.” What did he actually achieve? He’s not a big bad guy with an agenda or ideology like the Joker or Thanos. He’s wicked, he’s got spider powers, and all he’s achieved is an admittedly cool loft in a New York skyscraper. So much.

Why would girls want to kill him in the future anyway? Because the script wanted it that way, simple as that. How did they get spider powers? No one knows. I’m already leaving out how Ezekiel finds the teenagers, because it’s also an amazing step forward. There is no point in talking about the similarities to the comic book original, because they end with the name, surname and the tendency to run barefoot on walls. In case anyone forgot that we are dealing with a movie related to the Spider-Man universe, Ezekiel gets a suit that looks, at best, like a TV parody of Spider.

Just to be clear, unlike “Venom” Whether “Morbius” There are many references to Peter Parker in “Madame Web”. Suffice it to mention that Cassandra’s workmate is Ben (Adam Scott), the hero’s future uncle, whose sister-in-law Mary (Emma Roberts) is expecting a child. Will the presence of the protagonist somehow influence the unborn boy and seal his fate as a spider hero? Will the creators play with its genesis and mark it with a mystical element, as screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski once did in comics? Absolutely not, Ben’s story takes place next door and has no influence on Webb’s fate. It’s an empty reference that means nothing. Let alone the fact that Scott doesn’t want to do it so much, and his uncle – a pillar of morality and warmth in the comics – is a sluggish version of Ryś from “The Clan”. Sometimes he will tell someone to wash their hands and fasten their seat belts, but if no one listens to him, he won’t argue.

All the actors act as if they were on set by mistake or had no idea what to do. Rahim says his lines mechanically. It is clear that he recorded subsequent dialogues in post-production, because the words he drawls often do not match the movements of his lips. In turn, the scenes between the three teenagers are the height of awkwardness. They behave not like young girls in mortal danger, but like three strangers who met in the waiting room before an embarrassing examination and for some reason try to make small talk. It even made me cringe’u during their interactions – and at one time zbinge’I said “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, so I should be immune to it.

There is still Cassandra in Johnson’s interpretation. I must admit that I don’t know if something went terribly wrong here, or if the actress is consciously sabotaging the film because she said she knows what she’s doing, so at least she’ll have fun. The main character behaves as if the script told her one thing, and she did it against her will and thought it was pointless. Johnson herself is miscast here – she usually played shy introverts, or sometimes point-blank ice queens. She has no predispositions to be an action star or even an accidental heroine. The actress therefore saturates all of Webb’s dialogues with a kind of irony, the effect of which is unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally) comic.

So the acting is bad and the plot is not good either. Maybe the film at least stands up in terms of its production? Unfortunately not. There is no tension or energy here, the editing often works against the audience and introduces additional confusion, and the staging (the opening scenes in Peru) brings to mind television productions – and not the top-shelf ones. Let’s add to this the not-so-subtle product placement of one of the carbonated drinks. All that was missing was a sluggish and toxic love story, and we would have bingo like something out of a Polish romantic comedy.

“Madame Web” is an anti-superhero film. This is not a return to unsuccessful adaptations from the early 21st century “Daredevil” Mark Steven Johnson or “Fantastic Four” Tim Story’ego. It’s something so wacky and unintentionally funny that it sets a new standard. To tell you the truth, I encourage you to watch it because I don’t remember the last time I saw something this bad in the cinema. These are not “Cats” that you couldn’t bear to look at. It’s a fire that’s hard to look away from. A disaster so complete in every respect that it arouses a strange kind of awe. Perhaps the worst film of this year (it’s February, but Clarkson’s work sets the bar very high), which will certainly find its niche among fans of bad cinema. For Spider-Man fans, I recommend another viewing of “Through the Multiverse.” Sometimes, instead of watching something new, it’s worth having fun with what’s proven.


“Madam Web”dir. S. J. ClarksonUSA 2024, distribution: United International Pictures, cinema premiere: February 14, 2024.