Madame Web Review – IGN

Madame Web – A New Spin on Marvel Characters

Look out world, Madame Web (the character) is young, not blind, and socially awkward! In fact, Madame Web (the movie) spins such a new take on Cassandra Webb and so many other Marvel characters that it probably shouldn’t be called Madame Web at all! Separating its characters and their origins from their comic-book counterparts, this is a movie that makes basic decisions in dialogue and structure, and feels stuck in the year it’s set in, 2003. Sometimes that’s good thing! But most times it’s very bad. Madame Web is a waste of talent, a weak execution of its clairvoyant-hero-protects-future-Spider-Women conceit, and too focused on the family of the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler whose web truly connects this scattered cinematic universe.

Madame Web Trailer & Character Background

In the Madame Web trailer, Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson) recalls that her mother was studying spiders in the Amazon right before she died. While this fact about Constance Webb (Kerry Bishé) quickly became a copypasta punchline, Cassie actually has a good reason to be fixated with it: After all, her mother did die on that trip, and she was still pregnant with Cassie! Although Constance dies from childbirth, her daughter survives with the help of Las Arañas (a.k.a. Spider-People) and their super-healing spiders. The incident leaves adult Cassie feeling abandoned, angry, and full of disdain, and she keeps other people at arm’s length as a result. Little does she know that Las Arañas granted her a clairvoyance that will lead her to adopt a litter of other spiderlings who similarly have no web to call home.

Character Exploration

We get very little background information on Cassie: She’s a New York City paramedic who likes American Idol and Chinese food, but hates “family stuff.” (Again, abandonment issues.) A product of the foster system (with no explanation of how she got back to the United States from the Amazon), she claims that she turned out fine, but “fine” is more like “surface level survival with a hard shell.” And underneath that hard shell? Just a slightly less hard shell? Cassie is a loner with horrendous bedside manner – but outside of professional settings, Johnson is perfectly cast in the role. She owns Cassie’s awkwardness and disinterest in pleasing other characters. I predict that Johnson’s delivery of canned retorts and clunky exposition will live on in the minds of the Terminally Online – it’s worth noting that only part of the “studying spiders in the Amazon” line makes it into the final cut – but she was made for this “reluctant mother” role.

The Depth of Madame Web

The tone of Madame Web fits uncomfortably between psychological thriller and coming-of-age roadtrip dramedy, but the quips and visual humor – like Cassie’s attempt to climb walls – of the latter hamper the former. This is a movie whose plot is driven by a man trying to kill three future Spider-Women in very violent ways! As delightful as they try to be with the script they’re given, Sydney Sweeney, Isabel Merced, and Celeste O’Connor are portraying basic, mismatched archetypes. Sweeny’s Julia Carpenter is meek and worrisome, searching for the same type of support and validation as the character she plays on Euphoria. Merced’s Anya is intelligent, discerning, and wary of new people, but she eventually loosens up. Franklin’s Mattie is outspoken, impulsive, and rebellious.

Family and Motivation

These are young women who share with Cassie the experience of being abandoned and forced to take care of themselves. After retreating inward, they pull together to find some semblance of a family – an emotional arc that I wish Madame Web explored more deeply, and from each character’s perspective, rather than being shared one-by-one when the chips are down. It’s a depressing motivation, but one that isn’t common in superhero movies, and while it’s a true bummer, I appreciate the direction of having these girls find fulfillment with each other, even if it’s not fully developed.