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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | ‘Madame Web’ tells an aggressively nonsensical story in the worst way possible

A Spider-Man spinoff for absolutely nobody, ‘Madame Web’ is full of nonsense dialogue, technical issues, and an annoying plot.
The poster for the movie Madame Web, which will be released Feb. 14, hangs outside Willamette Town Center in Salem, Oregon. The Madame Web character is from Salem in the Marvel comic books.

There is no way to properly encapsulate the fever dream that is watching “Madame Web.” It is a once-in-a-lifetime disaster of a film.

Released in theaters on Feb. 14, “Madame Web” follows Cassandra Webb, played by Dakota Johnson, as she navigates her paramedic job with newfound psychic powers. At least, I think they’re psychic; the movie decided to keep that info as vague as possible.

Soon after Cassandra is empowered, the villainous Ezekiel Sims, played by Tahar Rahim, storms the streets of New York City to hunt three teenage girls whose futures as Spider-Women would foil his evil plans. Cassandra then takes it upon herself to kidnap the girls and protect them from Ezekiel.

Much of the “Madame Web” plot revolves around Cassandra and Ezekiel being able to see the future. However, the film never cares to explain the parameters of the characters’ abilities, making the stakes of the film unclear.

The Spider-Women-to-be were played by Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, and Celeste O’Connor to a lackluster fault. There was not a single moment in the film where I found myself caring about any of the three characters at all.

An especially cringe-worthy scene involving the three teens takes place in a diner when Cassandra has left the trio to their own devices. Julia, Sweeney’s character, notices a table of teenage boys in the diner so the three girls decide to stand on top of the boys’ table and start awkwardly dancing — as teenagers so often naturally do in real life.

If someone told me “Madame Web” was produced by aliens, I’d believe them. It is not often that a high-budget film comes along with as many technical issues as this one. Early in the film, a boom mic somehow snuck past editors and made it into the final cut.

Scenes are sequenced in such a baffling order during the more intense moments of the film, so much so that it was often hard to tell what I was looking at. Director S. J. Clarkson has directed episodes of wildly successful series such as “Game of Thrones” and “Succession,” but “Madame Web” feels like it could have been made by artificial intelligence.

As a fan of Spider-Man comics and movies, I was hoping a movie as terrible as this would keep as far away as possible from the beloved character. Spider-Man’s cherished Uncle Ben, however, was unfortunately an integral character in the film.

My favorite moment of the film comes with a butchered redux of the famous Spider-Man proverb: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Instead, however, Cassandra’s mentor tells her, “Where there is great responsibility, great power will come,” which was a nonsense phrase delivered with such reverence that I couldn’t help but laugh.

There is an argument to be made that the film is so bad it ends up being an entertaining watch. I enjoyed laughing at the absurdity of what I was watching, but I could very easily see other viewers simply getting bored.

It’s hard to blame anyone involved in the making of the film for its disastrous outcome, these are artists simply trying to make a living after all. Instead, it’s fascinating that a professional movie studio like Sony Pictures would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in stupid superhero slop.

“Madame Web” is, unfortunately, now playing in theaters.

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About the Contributor
Charlie Hickman
Charlie Hickman, Arts Reporter
Charlie Hickman is a sophomore at the University of Iowa. He is majoring in English on the Pre-Law track with minors in Political Science and Cinema.