Sony’s animated Spider-Verse films have been amazing, which is more than can be said about the studio’s stabs at creating their own MCU-adjacent live-action movie series centered around Spider-Man. That process got off to a goofy start with Venom and its sequel before running aground with 2022’s Morbius, and it now fully crashes and burns with Madame Web, a torturous saga that haplessly spins about in circles trying to fashion a competent tone or coherent action sequence. No matter its heroine’s clairvoyant super-powers, it’s a debacle incapable of seeing—and thus avoiding—its every subsequent misstep.
Madame Web (Feb. 14, in theaters) begins in the Peruvian Amazon circa 1973, with Constance (Kerry Bishé) searching for a rare spider that possesses potentially magical healing powers (thanks to its peptides!). Upon finding what she’s looking for, Constance is promptly betrayed by her bodyguard Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), who wants the spider and its abilities for himself. Left for dead, Constance is rescued by the jungle’s legendary spider-people, who spirit her back to their spider cave, put her in a pool and compel their pet spiders to bite her—none of which protects her from death but does allow her unborn baby to live. This is as absurd as it reads, and director S.J. Clarkson stages it with all the grace of a runaway train, her snap zooms, whiplash cinematography, canted angles, and overly theatrical lighting turning this prologue embarrassingly comical.
Thirty years later in New York City, Constance’s now-grown daughter Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson)—yes, that’s her last name, and no, no one makes a joke about it—is an EMT working alongside Ben Parker (Adam Scott), aka the future uncle of original Spider-Man Peter Parker, whose name is never uttered but whose birth (courtesy of Emma Roberts’ expectant Mary Parker) tangentially factors into these helter-skelter proceedings. Cassandra is a fearless lifesaver if far from a people person, as she demonstrates when she rudely accepts a thank-you gift from a young boy whose loved one Cassandra has brought to the hospital. As clumsily embodied by Johnson, Cassandra is dedicated to her altruistic profession and also something of a loner jerk—a contrast that never meshes and isn’t helped by the headliner either under–or over-acting every moment in the film, thereby transforming it into a showcase of unintentionally hilarious expressions and utterances.
Source: The Daily Beast
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