From the moment the infamously bad first trailer dropped, we knew Madame Web was going to be an absolute vibe. But even putting aside lines about researching spiders in the Amazon right before the main character’s mom died, Dakota Johnson’s recent press tour for the movie hasn’t exactly helped this latest Sony superhero foray feel like a winner, either.
For example, while lauding director S.J. Clarkson during an interview with EW, Johnson shared this little tidbit about the way the film was shot: “I’ve never really done a movie where you are on a blue screen, and there’s fake explosions going off, and someone’s going, ‘Explosion!’ and you act like there’s an explosion. That to me was absolutely psychotic. I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to be good at all! I hope that I did an okay job!’ But I trusted her. She works so hard, and she has not taken her eyes off this movie since we started.”
Not exactly a raving endorsement of the movie. But on the upside, Madame Web at least boasts plenty of star power, arguably the most of any of these “Spider-Man movies sans Spider-Man” flicks.
The latest chapter in Sony’s Spider-Man Shared Universe brings four of Marvel’s classic spider-themed female heroes to the screen, including Johnson as the titular Madame Web, Sydney Sweeney and Celeste O’Connor as different versions of Spider-Woman, and Isabela Merced as Araña. It also features Adam Scott as a young Uncle Ben and Emma Roberts as Peter Parker’s mom, Mary, who also happens to be a secret agent in the comics. Tying it all together is the villain of the piece, black-spider-suit-clad Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim). You may remember this baddie from J. Michael Straczynski’s divisive comic book run from the early 2000s.
Fortunately, we don’t have to wait much longer to know what’s what. Not only does the movie drop this week, but first reactions and reviews are already coming in from critics and influencers who attended the world premiere on Monday as well as screenings around the world. Here’s what people are saying about Madame Web ahead of its release:
“The film, directed by SJ Clarkson and starring Dakota Johnson as a clairvoyant paramedic in New York, has as much energy as an employee subjected to an ice breaker during a corporate retreat,” says THR. “It is an airless and stilted endeavor driven by a mechanical screenplay (written by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless and Claire Parker & Clarkson). Its lack of imagination would be astounding if it wasn’t so expected.”
“Madame Web is a messy, messy film,” says Slashfilm, giving the movie a 6 out of 10 stars. “Credited to four screenwriters and three story writers, Madame Web is a massive, clunky jumble, replete with some strange editing and pacing that makes it feel like the result of a lot of experimental tinkering. Stylistically, it’s all over the map, sometimes pushing action/mystery and sometimes settling on scenes of disarming affability.”
“Worse than a creaky narrative devoid of suspense, though, is how much Madame Web’s writing strains to emulate teenage girls cracking wise with each other or any other kind of positive human emotion,” says Collider, giving the movie an abysmal 3 out of 10 stars. “This is a screenplay that speaks in backstory and surface-level comic book references (like Sims always being barefoot). It doesn’t understand how people actually interact with one another.”
“The script is confusing, the action stale and the visual effects cheap,” says Variety. “A recurring device that places Cassie at the center of what looks like a giant plasma ball, surrounded by static tendrils, is downright embarrassing. But guess what? Tickets still cost just as much as they would for a more canonical Marvel movie. So why settle for the knock-off?”
“Madame Web isn’t so much a movie as it is the pretense of one — a collection of Easter eggs and prequel nonsense strung together by half-assed ADR and dialogue that feels like it was drummed up in Screenwriting 101,” says Inverse. “But the most alarming thing about Madame Web is that it is a movie that never really gets started. Instead, it’s just one long prelude to the actual story, like being trapped in one of Cassie Webb’s time-looping visions with no escape.”
Some other reactions from social media:
Madame Web hits theaters on Feb. 14.