‘Madame Web’ No Spoiler Review: A Spider-Verse Movie Made For A Different Era

As Sony’s fourth movie in their expanded Spider-Man cinematic universe, and the first movie following the internet meme factory that was Morbius, fans’ expectations for Madame Web were mixed at best and neutral at worst. Some planned to watch it as fans of the Spider-Man franchise, but after its less than favourable release day, many are asking:

Is this movie worth the watch?

Madame Web tells the origin story of Cassandra Webb, a New York City paramedic who starts to show signs of clairvoyance after going through a near-death experience. Forced to confront revelations about her childhood, she must protect three young women from a mysterious adversary who wants them dead.

Initially promoted as a suspense thriller that would be more grounded and gritty compared to previous Sony superhero films, the movie does deliver on an intriguing premise with a lot of potential. Combine that with some fun throwbacks to the 90s and a few interesting but inconsequential references to the Parker family, and you’re a couple of steps closer to a decent superhero flick.

Cassandra Webb played by Dakota Johnson is set up to be a slightly edgier take on the female superhero archetype, complete with adult language (gasp!) and a loner personality. Her three rescuee turned mentees played by Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, and Celeste O’Connor are clearly meant to be the charming teenagers who represent the hopeful heroes of the future.

But like most things in the movie, this cast of rising stars doesn’t quite stick the landing. Their characters aren’t quite likeable enough, their personalities are a little too one-dimensional, and their story doesn’t present quite enough stakes for the audience to get invested. Cassandra’s relationship with the three girls should be the heart of the movie, but instead feels unconvincing and forced into the story only for plot progression.

Despite the promise for a grittier tale, the movie seldom steps outside the boundaries of a PG13 rating. Even with a promising villain in Tahar Rahim’s character, the movie shies away from exploring darker themes. That combined with low-impact and uninspired action sequences results in a villain that feels less like a threat and more like an exaggerated cliché.

The clincher is the movie’s commitment to its 90s setting. It’s one thing to reference an era in music or fashion, but the entire movie felt anachronous from its scripting and camera work, to its wardrobe and special effects. What may have begun as a play on nostalgia and a reference to 90s era superhero flicks, ended up feeling dated and brought me out of immersion multiple times throughout the screening.

There’s no sugar-coating that the movie is below average by today’s standards, but if you’re looking for a fun, low stakes movie to watch with your family over Chinese New Year, this isn’t your worst pick. Just maybe pretend that it came out in the 90s.

Final Score: 3/10

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