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  • Tyler Harlow

Madame Web

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O'Connor, Tahar Rahim, Emma Roberts, Adam Scott, Zosia Mamet, Mike Epps, Kerry Bishé

Director: S.J. Clarkson

Cassandra Webb (Johnson) is living in New York as a paramedic, closing herself off to any meaningful relationships due to losing her mom when she was born. After a near-death experience where she almost drowns, she finds herself able to see the future, and a face from her past reemerges in Ezekiel Sims (Rahim), who worked with her mom before her death. Sims possesses the same ability as Cassandra and has seen his death at the hands of Julia (Sweeney), Anya (Merced) and Mattie (O'Connor) and will stop at nothing until the girls are dead. After Cassandra saves the girls from Sims, they find themselves on the run and attempt to stop Sims before he can fulfill his mission to kill the girls.

Hopes were not high for this, as it not only comes from the same studio who gave us the absolutely awful Morbius only a few years ago, but it also comes from writers Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama who not only wrote that film but also Dracula Untold, Gods of Egypt and The Last Witch Hunter. While one of those is a guilty pleasure of mine (it's The Last Witch Hunter btw), these are not films that should inspire confidence in this latest superhero flick.

Those fears are not without foundation because this movie is an absolute mess, You know what kind of movie you're in for almost immediately with stilted and expository dialogue delivered with some acting performances that wouldn't hold water in most high school productions. It's honestly hard to tell what is more responsible for that: the script or the direction. Director S.J. Clarkson, who mostly cut her teeth directing TV shows like Jessica Jones, The Defenders and Succession appears to not be comfortable with a Marvel-sized budget.

Speaking of which, the visuals in this movie are just poor. The movie takes place in 2003 and the movie feels like a relic of the superhero movies we got around then that is somehow getting a release now. As poor as the visuals are, the ADR is somehow worse. I don't know if it was an issue with Tahar Rahim's performance but what he is saying either doesn't match up to what his mouth is saying, whether he is on-camera or the camera is behind him over his shoulder. It's embarrassing for a movie of this stature to have this issue.

The movie is also kind of dull, with no real major action set piece happening until the finale. Things happen, but there is nothing to really keep you invested in what is happening. A lot of suspense that could have been is wasted showing us what Sims is up to and how he is tracking the girls. It would have been a fun thing to have him just show up places and give the sense he literally could be anywhere. Similarly, we see his dream early on in the film which sets him after the girls, something that wasn't necessary and could have kept his character shrouded in mystery. In all honestly, a lot of these inept storytelling and post-production decisions keep the movie weirdly watchable. As much as my final grade will disagree with this, I kind of still enjoyed watching the movie.

Poor Dakota Johnson. She does everything in her power to keep this movie watchable. People like to rag on her, but she feels like the only one who got the memo on what kind of movie she was making. Much like the other characters around her, she is simultaneously endearing yet keeps them and us at arm's length. I also have to give the movie some kind of credit for at least giving Sweeney, O'Connor and Merced's characters different personalities. While there isn't much development outside of these little personality quirks, it's still something. It also feels like a major whiff on the filmmakers' part to not develop the characters they would ultimately become in future sequels (if those happen, which seems unlikely). I am also sure Tahar Rahim is a talented actor but none of that is on display here, though dare I say not his fault given the issues mentioned earlier? Either way, he does not make a very menacing antagonist. Adam Scott only feels like his character was included as a wink to Spider-Man fans to keep them interested.

Have I been too cruel? Maybe. Considering I did have a weird sense of fun watching it. But its ultimately hard to defend the film with its many astonishing and unforgivable filmmaking errors. Should this get a sequel, I hope everyone steps up their game.

Grade: D+


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