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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

CineHawk review: ‘Madame Web’

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GRAPHIC: STEPHANIE SAVELA ’25/THE HAWK

Sony’s latest scheme to squeeze every last drop of value from the “Spider-Man” IP, “Madame Web” follows Cassandra Webb as she struggles to protect three teenagers from a super-powered maniac while coming to terms with her emerging psychic powers. Directed by S.J. Clarkson and written by a team consisting of Clarkson, Claire Parker, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, the film stars Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor, Isabela Merced and Tahar Rahim. It is currently playing exclusively in theaters.

Cassandra “Cassie” Webb, played by Johnson, is a dedicated paramedic working in New York City. After a routine call ends in a near-death experience, Cassie begins experiencing harrowing visions that foreshadow death and chaos. As she attempts to piece together the cause of these visions, Cassie becomes the reluctant protector of three teenage girls, played by Sweeney, O’Connor and Merced, from an equally precognitive Ezekiel Sims, played by Rahim.

Watching “Madame Web” will not inspire any particular emotion, rather, just one word: “Why?” Why does our protagonist leave three teenagers in the forest? Why do none of the villain’s lines match his mouth movements? Why is this film set in 2003? Why is a D-List supporting character of “Spider-Man” getting a solo film without Spider-Man?

From start to finish, “Madame Web” is meticulous in conveying not one ounce of passion or creativity in its story, direction, cinematography and score. This is a superhero film with the faintest glimpses of superhero action, which Sony was all too happy to put out for the film’s marketing.

This artistic apathy is embodied most of all by the vacuous performance of its lead, Johnson. Granted the script gives her next to nothing to work with, but Johnson imbues all of her scenes with an overwhelming sense that she would rather be anywhere else on Earth than on set. She at least fares better than Rahim, whose Ezekiel Sims is an empty plot device with impressively bad automated dialogue replacement that makes it impossible to take him seriously. The rest of the cast, while never offering anything of note, at least seem to try. 

At best, “Madame Web” may offer some ironic enjoyment to a more cynical viewer, but this corporate-mandated cash grab is a new low of the fading superhero genre.

3/10 rating
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