“Madame Web”: the quagmire of the spider woman

On the eve of the release of Madame Web (VF), there is no doubt that the question that haunts the Sony studio is whether or not its production will suffer from “superhero film fatigue”. The phenomenon, real, has contributed to the recent costly failures of Black Adam, The Flash (Flash), The Marvels (The Marvels), and other suites of Shazam!, Ant-Man And Aquaman. This probably explains this, although Madame Web comes from the Marvel banner, we chose to give her an autonomous adventure, and not entangled in an overpopulated “cinematic universe”. Alas, this origin story about a superclairvoyant who was inoculated at birth with the venom of a rare spider becomes tangled in its own narrative web.

Cassandra “Cassie” Webb (Dakota Johnson) is a paramedic in New York. A self-confessed misanthrope, Cassie keeps people at a distance, apart from her colleague Ben (Adam Scott).

The young woman doesn’t know it yet, but she has a gift. Indeed, as she was preparing to give birth, her dying mother was taken in by a legendary people of spider-men living in the Peruvian jungle. Cassie thus received the “supervenom” from the arachnid that her mother was researching.

Which supervenom allows Cassie to glimpse the future, in snatches, and thus prevent certain tragic events from occurring. Like the murder of three teenage girls (Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor, Isabela Merced), chased by the dark character responsible for the murder of Cassie’s mother: Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim).

The result is a disjointed story, with narrative threads dangling all over the place. The enormous implausibilities, even for a fantasy genre, are numerous.

For example, at the start of the third act, although Cassie is wanted by the authorities, she easily manages to leave New York and go to Peru. In the space of an awkward ellipse, we find her alone in the jungle, apparently capable of finding her way even if she has never set foot there.

Not in his element

Often, the film gives off an impression of incompleteness, as if entire chapters had been skipped (four screenwriters are credited). During too many explanatory scenes, the film gets bogged down.

The attacks of Ezekiel, who dons a black Spider-Man costume contaminated by Venom, provide us with the only action sequences that the film has to offer. And let’s say that, in terms of scale, in terms of epicness, it’s far below average.

In fact, it is obvious that Madame Web did not enjoy the same budgetary generosity to which most superhero films are generally entitled: an amount of 80 million US dollars is circulating, while double, even triple, had become the norm. This is never more apparent than at the denouement: rather than possible annihilation of a galaxy, a planet or, at worst, a metropolis, as a generator of ultimate suspense, we are treated to the destruction of an old warehouse. This gives a fair idea of ​​the scale of the film.

Actress whose subtlety works wonders in productions as varied as How to Be Single (Single, instructions for use), Suspiria, The Lost Daughter or even the undervalued PersuasionDakota Johnson unfortunately seems out of her element.

In the first part, where we introduce the protagonist, Johnson maintains a good level of interest, but thereafter, his minimalist acting borders on lethargy. Mind you, we can understand the star’s lack of inspiration. For a tonic capable of stopping “superhero movie fatigue”, you will have to iron.

The film Madame Web hits theaters on February 14.

Madame Web (VO and VF)


Adventures, by SJ Clarkson. Starring Dakota Johnson, Tahar Rahim, Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor, Isabela Merced, Adam Scott, Zosia Mamet. United States, 2023. In theaters.

To watch on video

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