Web of disappointment: Why “Madame Web” takes the crown as the worst SSU film

"'Madame Web' was a superhero movie with no superheroes, truly one of a kind. Besides the fact that Cassie has no physical advantages, the three girls didn’t have any of their powers yet so as one can imagine, the fight scenes were complete crap." - Arts & Entertainment Editor / Al Harmon.

If you’ve ever seen those users on TikTok making videos eating certain foods or using a product saying “I tried this so you don’t have to,” this review is essentially the same thing. I watched “Madame Web” so you don’t have to, and trust me, you don’t.

Now as a critic, I know I’m supposed to go into the theater unbiased, but as a Marvel fan, I had no hope for this movie. “Madame Web” stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb, the clairvoyant and telepathic protagonist whose film marks the fourth flawed installment to the messy Sony Spider-Man Universe (SSU) the studio is attempting to build. With the characters they own the rights to, Sony has been pathetically trying to form the Marvel comics superhero team the Sinister Six, a group of villains that share Spider-Man as their common enemy.

While there are some SSU movies I can tolerate, like the first “Venom” for example, the other two including “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and the 2022 pop culture phenomenon “Morbius” were absolute garbage.

In a not-so-difficult race, “Madame Web” takes the crown for being the worst of all four SSU projects, with a rating of 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, a score that is somehow lower than Morbius’ rating of 17%—a film so bad that it became the meme to say it was the best cinematic masterpiece ever created. All that “praise” even gaslit Sony to the point that they re-released the film in theaters again. Sadly, I don’t think that trick will work this time with “Madame Web,” and it’s definitely for the best, that movie was awful. One user on Letterboxd said it best, “This makes ‘Morbius’ look like ‘The Godfather,’” and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The film opens up in the Peruvian Amazon in 1973, as Cassandra Webb’s mother Constance (Kerry Bishé) is researching spiders under the supervision of her protector Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) while pregnant with her daughter. Specifically, she is looking for a rare arachnid of Amazonian folklore whose venom is said to have healing properties that could cure Cassie’s rare and fatal genetic disorder. However, these creatures are not so easily acquired, as they are reportedly guarded by the legendary Amazonian spider people (yes, this is real). When she finally captures the spider and returns to their campsite, Ezekiel turns against Constance, shoots her, and leaves both her and the unborn Cassie to die, fleeing with the eight-legged wonder in a jar. 

As Constance lies on the ground groaning in pain, the trauma of injuries induces her into labor. Suddenly, these spider people– who were only believed to be a fairytale– climb down from the trees, pick up Constance, and swing her through the jungle back to their home, a scene with such bad CGI and animation that it made me laugh out loud.

There is where a baby Cassie is born in a mystical pool. In an attempt to save her mother, another one of those magical spiders bites Constance in the chest while she’s giving birth. While that doesn’t save her, Cassie is eventually born and that bite inevitably gives her powers, something she does not realize until decades later.

Fast forward to New York City in 2003, Cassie is now an EMT with her co-worker Ben Parker, the infamous uncle to one Peter Parker. After responding to a crash on a bridge, Cassie accidentally gets locked in a car that tumbles over the edge and lands in the river below. While underwater, she gets transported to a disgustingly bad CGI otherworldly dimension full of webs interlocking visions of her future. This accident unlocks Cassie’s powers and causes her to start seeing glimpses of upcoming events, visions that are so uncontrollable and realistic that she can’t decipher them from reality.

Before her serious cases of Deja vu start popping up, Cassie comes in contact with three teenage girls. On the job, she saves the stepmother of goodie-two-shoes Julia Carpenter (Sydney Sweeney) and almost hits the rebellious skateboard riding Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) with her ambulance after she skates out in front of her, Mattie happily flips her off when Cassie blares her siren in annoyance. After her shift, she returns home to her apartment and walks past the smart, math-savvy Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) who is talking to the landlord, proudly wearing an “I eat math for breakfast” shirt. 

This is where Ezekiel comes back into the picture, who is now cursed with a nightly vision of his death after stealing the spider from the Amazon and keeping it in his NYC penthouse. The vision shows a future Julia, Mattie, and Anya, with powers in their respective spider suits destroying his apartment, where he meets his demise as they shove him out of a broken window. To avoid this destiny, Ezekiel intends to kill the three girls before they gain their powers by using facial recognition technology he steals from the National Security Administration (NSA) to track them down. 

While Cassie and the three girls don’t know each other yet, they are later brought together after Cassie has a vision about their deaths when they all conveniently end up on the same subway train after Ezekiel tracks the three girls in Grand Central Station. Together, all four go off the grid while they figure out a way to stop Ezekiel, who now has the abilities of the ancient spider people and can kill someone with a simple touch because of the toxic venom running throughout his body.

Whether it was Cassie randomly traveling back to Peru for a week to train and control her powers that never ends up being shown in the movie, the butchered “with great power comes great responsibility” line that made everyone in the theater snicker, or the fact that the baby shower scene for a pregnant Mary Parker (Emma Roberts), the mother of Peter, was a walking Pepsi ad, the screenplay for “Madame Web” was comically bad. Not to mention the fact that Ezekiel gets killed by being squished by a Pepsi sign on top of a warehouse, the lamest death since Wanda Maximoff’s demise in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and yet again another shameless plug for their sponsor.

The best moment has to be when the three teen girls save Cassie. After their final battle with Ezekiel, who dies after being smothered by the “P” and “S” in Pepsi, Cassie falls into the river yet again and gets hit in the face with a projectile which causes her to become blind and paralyzed. When Julia fishes her out of the water, the three begin performing CPR on her, something that Cassie taught them in their hotel room while they were hiding from Ezekiel.

It’s a callback that is a good message for the real world, but in the context of superhero movies, it was lame. I get that Cassie is an EMT, but her being saved by CPR in a Marvel movie is just plain stupid. But considering she was just a normal person with psychic powers, I guess it makes sense to treat her as a normal patient. 

“Madame Web” was a superhero movie with no superheroes, truly one of a kind. Besides the fact that Cassie has no physical advantages, the three girls didn’t have any of their powers yet, so as one can imagine, the fight scenes were complete crap. The acting was also terrible, and it was clear that no one in that movie cared or wanted to be there. Ezekiel’s line delivery was especially bland, and it looked and sounded as if he did a voiceover the entire time. Cassie’s attempts at giving passionate one-liners were hilariously lazy, a cringe-worthy performance that added even less character to a hilariously bad script. All this combined with the awful cinematography, “Madame Web” was an atrocity and achieved the impossible feat of making Morbius look like a competent film.

To no surprise, Sony once again proves that they don’t know how to make a well-thought-out cinematic universe, and judging by the fact that “Madame Web” had no post-credit scenes hinting at future projects, hopefully, they have accepted that and will stop making more for the sake of humanity.

The fifth film in the SSU, “Kraven the Hunter,” is set to be released at the end of August, and the mediocre world is set to expand with yet another movie. Given Sony’s overall track record, please just save your money and don’t go see it. If it drags on as long as “Madame Web” did, fans are in store for a very painful viewing experience.

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