Madame Web (2024) Review: There’s No Future In This Atrocious Superhero Movie Dud

Madame Web emphasizes a lot on the déjà vu experience. That means we will see a lot of scenes where the main character’s precognitive ability (Dakota Johnson’s Cassandra Webb a.k.a. Cassie) can see the future before it happens.

With her clairvoyant-like power, the same scenes will be repeated twice. Yes, they are redundant and what’s worst about them is S.J. Clarkson’s penchant for shooting her movie in a disoriented way. It’s like she wants us to inhabit Cassie’s perplexing state. Well, that’s understandable but at the same time, the over-reliance on disjointed editing and fast-moving camerawork meant to mirror Cassie’s experience grows more distracting than immerses us — at least for me — deeply into her character’s point-of-view.

Before I go further, here’s what Madame Web is all about. The movie begins with a 1973-set prologue in the Peruvian Amazon jungle as we learn about the pregnant scientist Constance (Kerry Bishé) is determined to find a rare spider with explorer Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) by her side. The spider in question happens to have a special healing power but Ezekiel, however, has other ulterior motives.

Cut to the present day, well, in 2003, the movie introduces Constance’s adult daughter Cassie working as an FDNY paramedic alongside her colleague, Ben Parker (Adam Scott). One day during an emergency rescue that ends with Cassie stuck inside a car nosedives into the river, she suffers not only a near-death experience but also awakens with a strange set of premonitions.

While she tries to make sense of her newfound ability, it is a matter of time before she sees the vision of three teenagers — Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) and Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) — being killed by a mysterious man in a black Spider-Man-like suit. That man would be Ezekiel, whose clairvoyance keeps bothering him about the three future Spider-Women going to stop him one day.

Tahar Rahim in "Madame Web" (2024)

So, the rest of the movie is about Ezekiel’s determination to find these three teenagers at all costs with the help of Amaria (Zosia Mamet), a tech-savvy assistant responsible for keeping an eye on their whereabouts using the surveillance video system.

Cassie, in the meantime, is reluctant to keep the three teenagers from harm. And ironically, the word “reluctant” fits well with Dakota Johnson’s impassive acting which makes me feel like she’s doing this for the sake of a paycheck. Her flat dialogue is reminiscent of reading the lines from a cue card.

It doesn’t help either when her interaction with the three teenagers is devoid of substantial character development. It’s hard to root for them and frankly, I barely care whether they can make it alive because the stakes are depressingly low and Tahar Rahim’s antagonist turn as Ezekiel Sims doesn’t come across as a formidable villain. The three teenagers played by Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor and Isabela Merced hardly make any lasting impressions here with their mediocre performances.

S.J. Clarkson, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Morbius (!) scribes Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless and television executive producer Claire Parker, relies heavily on tedious exposition dumps to move the story forward. The added clunky dialogue makes things worse, coupled with the erratic pacing and incomprehensible action set pieces are a series of splitting headaches. The needle drops, particularly the use of Britney Spears’s “Toxic” in the nighttime diner scene are awkwardly misplaced.

If you keep track of the entertainment news, S.J. Clarkson once made the headlines as the first female director to helm the untitled Star Trek 4 but the project failed to see the light of day. Imagine the inferiority she might bring to that franchise if the project remains with her on board, especially given the piss-poor result seen in Madame Web.

Madame Web is currently on my list as one of the worst movies I have seen in 2024 so far. Like the horrendous Morbius two years ago, this embarrassing failure sure feels like revisiting the nightmare of 2000s-era bad superhero movies.