Arts, Movies

‘Madame Web’ Is Not A Superhero Film


Madame Web is not as bad as you may have heard. The film falls victim to the expectations of the superhero genre when it was only meant to be judged a psychological thriller. 

When the audience accepts that Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson) is no more of a superhero than Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in Back to the Future, Madame Web is both entertaining and intriguing.

The film follows Webb as she develops unique psychic powers. One of them is a prophetic ability. Webb starts living through traumatic events in her life before they happen. 

After her prophetic visions, the clock resets and she can try to live through the events again, this time with the knowledge of how things would play out in that specific future. According to the time travel rules in Madame Web, the future can be changed. 

As a paramedic, Webb’s character has the instinct of a Good Samaritan wired inside of her. Her capability to see the future, however, puts her morals to the test.

While on the train, Webb sees a vision of three girls sitting nearby. They’re attacked and murdered by a super-powered masked man as the rest of the train passengers panic and watch in horror. The time then resets, and Webb is left to decide whether or not she helps the three teens escape their prophecy of death. 

Webb’s prophecies are the focal point of the film and a useful plot device, making for some of Madame Web’s best scenes and action sequences. The audience gets to see the possible future and then sees how every minor action changes that future to create a wholly different one.

It’s not as if this trope hasn’t been done in films before, but Madame Web executes the concept well. 

One of the most intense scenes comes when Webb loses track of the three girls she’s been protecting, and after a trek through the woods she finds them dancing at a diner to Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” By the time Webb arrives on the scene, so has the masked murderer. Webb and the girls put up a fight as best they can but all four are inevitably murdered by the killer. 

Then, Webb is back in the middle of the woods for take two, and she can hear from her car’s radio that “Toxic” has just started playing on the radio. What follows is a race against time to get to the diner before the song ends so she can save the girls from their deadly fate. 

Notice how Webb actually dies the first time in the diner scene, though. She has the power to see a possible future, but she has no other real physical abilities for most of the film. Webb is not a fighter, but rather just an ordinary woman who is trying to do the right thing. 

The title of Madame Web and the character’s Spider-Man connections lead the audience to think that Webb is a superhero. Yet, Webb is not even a superhero in Marvel comic books—she’s more of a third party character who gives the heroes advice on their adventures. 

If Madame Web was truly meant to be a superhero movie, it is sorely out of place and needs a creative overhaul. The movie’s finished product feels much more like a psychological thriller that plays games with the audience’s, and Webb’s, minds. 

While the concept of the movie is engaging and thought-provoking, some of the writing in Madame Web is less than stellar. Especially in the verbal arguments, cringe-worthy comments and awkward responses seemed to be the norm. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the actors, but rather the writing team’s mistake—they also wrote Morbius, so the poor writing isn’t all that surprising.

The movie is also lacking in the antagonist department. Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) serves as the mysterious masked murderer, but his motives are weak and he’s impossible to sympathize with. Sims is a rich and greedy murderer who is trying to prevent his own death by murdering the three girls. He never considers reasoning with them and he immediately chooses violence.

Madame Web suffers from bad writing and a lacking villain, but still gives a good story that entertains and finishes nicely. It might not be the superhero film that people are expecting, but Madame Web might surprise audiences if they just give it a chance.

February 18, 2024