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The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

‘Madame Web’ fails to web-up Sony’s disastrous Spider-Man franchise

Sony Pictures
Madame Web does worse than Mobius, adding to Sony’s ‘web’ of disaster films.

On Valentine’s Day, Sony Pictures looked to continue their trend of counteracting a good superhero film with a mediocre project, and “Madame Web” hit that goal spot-on. From lazy writing to the lead actress dropping her agency after this movie’s initial trailer, saying “there’s a lot to unpack” is an understatement. With ratings for this movie sinking below 13%, even passing the depths of the infamous “Morbius” film, this entry into the Sony Spiderman Universe (SSU) may finally be the iceberg to Sony’s titanic, so let’s dive right into it.

To begin addressing the trainwreck of factors plaguing this film, we must address the plot which centers around Cassie Web (Dakota Johnson) and the events that flip her world upside down. Over the course of the film, she transitions from her life as a socially-awkward, orphaned paramedic to a clairvoyant nanny on the run from the villain Walmart Spiderman, referred to as Ezekiel and played by Tahar Rahim, with three female teenagers she meets on a subway.

From minorities to women to single parents, the buildup of recent superhero representation is through the roof.

Contrary to its abominable ratings, however, this film didn’t drop the ball on every possible front, and the protagonists were actually very engaging. Johnson may not have been able to bring out all 50 shades of her acting expertise in this project, but her portrayal of Web’s social awkwardness and quick thinking made her character very easy to resonate with. As Web was also very clever in multiple chase scenes through her clairvoyance, one time even using defibrillators to shock spider-dude through her car, it was very hard to find reasons to hate on the character. Even for three very abrupt additions to the cast, the teenagers and Web synergized very well with each other, with Celeste O’Conner’s performance of Mattie Franklin bringing life to the more dark and ominous plot. 

However, even with the raw talent of “Madame Web”’s cast, balloons can’t make elephants fly, and neither could this superstar roster for this film’s central problem: the main villain. All that’s been given in terms of his backstory was a single line about growing up in poverty before he shoots a pregnant woman for a red and blue spider in the middle of a jungle in Peru.

A work of art, truly.

Fast forward to modern times, this guy somehow injects himself with said spider blood and gains spiderman powers (minus the web slinging) in exchange for the ability to slowly poison people if he holds them long enough. Ever since he got his powers, he’s been dreaming about these three teenagers in the future killing him when they become superpowered individuals. Back to the present, he sleeps with and kills a security worker to get her account information to all of NYC’s surveillance footage and has his hacker track down the girls that he wants to kill before they get to him. The pregnant woman he gunned down before was actually Web’s mother and the Peruvian locals used their special spider’s powers to temporarily revive her to help her give birth before she died, and as an effect, their spider injected powers into the unborn baby. Web eventually becomes the three teenagers’ mentor and gives them spider powers.

Not getting any deeper into this story, the amount of questions that never get answered about him points to just how little thought was put into the movie’s main antagonist: How does he afford anything? He’s never shown to have a job besides being a bodyguard to Web’s mother for like a few weeks, however, he has a luxury, high story NEW YORK CITY apartment where he hires a hacker for no reason before getting the city’s surveillance. How did he find out about the super-spider species in the first place? Why was his only plan to take out his future killers to track & kill them all on public transport when they just happened to all be together, all sitting close to the daughter of the woman you murdered for these powers? WITHOUT a costume at that? As a character who only drops one liners to explain his motives and spares even less for his own origin story, the masked menace role that this man was supposed to play falls flatter than that kid that got crushed by his bulletin board. But hey, he “grew up in poverty” so cut him some slack.

With other projects that crumbled from pre-release issues, “Madame Web” certainly didn’t pioneer on this front. While nothing could’ve topped the catastrophe that was the production of DCEU’s “The Flash,” Johnson was entirely misled into taking her role in this film. Before taking on her role, Johnson had reportedly turned to fellow actress Elizabeth Olsen, famous for playing Wanda Maximoff in the MCU, and asked for advice, implying that she had mistaken the studio behind this film. This would’ve been seen as more of her fault had this incident not been a repeat occurrence, as previously “Morbius” star Matt Smith recalled turning to Karen Gillan (Nebula from the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ franchise) for advice on joining the MCU. Whether it was a coincidence that these actors that played such critical roles in their respective films both requested guidance on the wrong movie studio for their projects or not, no explanation in this scenario paints Sony Pictures in a positive light.

Had Madame Web been brushed up just a bit, it could’ve been a solid addition to the downward spiral that is the live-action superhero scene nowadays. For a movie centralizing around the connection between the antagonist to everyone else, Sony managed to fumble a star-studded cast due to one of the worst villains of all time, up there with “Wish”’s King Magnifico and, ironically, “Morbius”’s Milo. He had a backstory short enough to be a song title  and executed a set of plans so terrible that three teenage girls managed to evade him on foot for literal weeks despite having access to so many resources that Helen Keller could’ve tracked them better in his place. Had this movie been the first of its kind it might’ve seen a trickle of relevancy online meme culture-wise, but with the internet drying up their laughing stock with “Morbius,” the failure of this Sony-Spiderman entry leaves itself hard to remember in any capacity.

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About the Contributor
Leo Xiao
Leo Xiao, Staff Writer
Leo joined the Tribune because he likes the people there and covering stories is pretty fun for him. He took J1 last year, and his goal for this year is to try covering clubs in mini-sections of the newspaper, as he finds it cool to promote more aspects of Dougherty Valley. In his free time, Leo enjoys playing violin, Smash Bros Ultimate and League of Legends. If he could be anyone else on the tribune, he'd be Ella for no particular reason.

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