30th May2024

‘Madame Web’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O’Connor, Tahar Rahim, Emma Roberts, Adam Scott, Zosia Mamet | Written by S.J. Clarkson, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Claire Parker | Directed by S.J. Clarkson

Directed by S.J. Clarkson (whose Marvel credentials include the Jessica Jones series), Madame Web is the fourth film in Sony’s Spider-Man universe, following Morbius and the two Venom movies. Essentially revamping a classic character from Amazing Spider-Man comics (where Madame Web has always been portrayed as an old woman), the film serves as a standalone adventure with significant connections to a certain wall-crawling web-spinner (who technically does appear in the movie, just not in a form that will please Spider-fans).

After a jungle-set prologue detailing the mysterious, spider-heavy circumstances of her birth in 1973, the film jumps forward 30 years to 2003 and centres on Cassie Web (Dakota Johnson), a single paramedic, whose platonic best friend is one Ben Parker (Adam Scott), who’s about to become -yes!- an uncle. After a nasty accident in which she’s technically dead for a few minutes, Cassie begins experiencing visions of the future that she doesn’t understand.

Shortly afterwards, Cassie encounters three seemingly unconnected young women – Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) and Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) – and her visions force her to save them from Ezekiel (Tahar Rahim), a mysterious man in a familiar-looking costume, who is trying to murder all three teens. After a trip to Peru for plot reasons, Cassie realises that her new-found powers are connected to both Ezekiel and the circumstances of her mother’s death, and determines to stop him in order to protect the girls’ future.

Johnson makes an engaging lead, adopting a slightly exasperated air throughout (especially when effectively babysitting three teenagers) that works well. Her character arc, such as it is, ends up being unexpectedly moving, and her performance compensates for the script’s shortcomings in that department. The supporting cast is a lot of fun too: Sweeney, O’Connor and Merced (all playing pre-established versions of Spider-Women from the comics) gel together nicely and have a likeable rapport, while Scott is reliably solid as Ben. Similarly, Tahar Rahim brings intensity and charisma to Ezekiel (a revamped version of the comic character), even if he’s a bit rubbish when it comes to executing an evil plan.

The script – co-written by Clarkson – does a decent job when it comes to character and even has the occasional amusing gag (notably a riff on the traditional spider-power-testing sequence), but it falls down quite badly when it comes to clumsy exposition, eventually resorting to an explanation scene involving Cassie’s powers that isn’t explained and makes no sense in context.

On a similar note, the action is something of a mixed bag. Clarkson keeps things moving along nicely enough, and there are enough punch-ups, car chases and explosions to maintain interest, but the action sequences are often poorly executed and, crucially, they fail to make the most of Cassie’s future-telling abilities (scenes are often repeated with different outcomes), at least in a way that is satisfying to an audience.

Speaking of mixed bags, the fact that Madame Web plays around with the timeline has both good and bad consequences. On the one hand, it allows for some fun soundtrack choices and references, but on the other, it confuses things considerably for comics purists, who are likely to be infuriated by the suggestion that multiple spider-themed characters will be web-slinging and wall-crawling about before Peter Parker even becomes your friendly neighbourhood you know who.

Ultimately, this is comic book nonsense of the highest order (especially when Cassie’s full power-set is revealed), but despite its various flaws, it’s still entertaining, thanks to a committed and perfectly pitched central performance from Dakota Johnson and a collection of likeable characters. At the time of writing, it seems unlikely that Madame Web will get either a sequel or a spin-off, which would be a shame, as the various Spider-Women have a lot of potential.

Special Features:

  • Casting the Web Featurettes
  • Future Vision Featurettes

**½  2.5/5

Madame Web is available to buy on digital, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD Steelbook now.

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