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On the Screen: ‘Madame Web’ a long way from Marvel’s best

DAVID ADAMS watches ‘Madame Web’…

Madame Web (AU – M/UK – 12A/US – PG-13)

In a Word: Flat

Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor), Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), and Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney) in Columbia Pictures’ Madame Web.

We’ve grown used to the spectacular with Marvel – ever stranger worlds and better effects, plenty of humour and extravagant, interconnected storylines. Madame Web, which forms part of the Spider-Man Universe and which was made in association with Marvel Entertainment, takes a much more low key and traditional approach to the superhero origin story and while it’s mildly entertaining, it doesn’t come close to the best we’ve seen from Marvel.

The story is centred on Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson), whose mother Constance (Kerry Bishé) gives birth to her while hunting for a rare – and potentially world-changing – spider in the jungles of Peru in 1973.

“Ultimately director SJ Clarkson oversees what’s essentially a chase film as the mysterious man pursues them and Cassandra does what she can to thwart him while at the same time trying to understand more about her own past and her now developing powers as a foretelling the future. “

Saved by some tree-climbing tribesmen, the new-born Webb is given some life-changing abilities at birth (no awards for guessing how given the Spider-Man connections) but it’s only after we flash forward 30 years to the early 2000s that we see them starting to play a role in her life.

Now working as a paramedic in New York City with partner Ben Parker (Adam Scott – Spider-Man fans will recognise the name of his character), Cassandra starts come into her powers after a near-death experience.

Her life is further thrown into turmoil when she encounters three girls – Anya (Isabela Merced), Mattie (Celeste O’Connor), and Julia (Sydney Sweeney) – who are being pursued by a strange masked man (Tahar Rahim) who is determined to kill the three girls before they, as his dreams foretell, kill him.

Ultimately director SJ Clarkson oversees what’s essentially a chase film as the mysterious man pursues the girls and Cassandra thwarts him at every turn while at the same time trying to understand more about her own past and her now developing ability to foretell the future.

The action is solid enough but straightforward and the main characters and the storyline just doesn’t ultimately prove compelling enough to elevate the film to more than a single watch. Much, including why the girls all start to show powers, is left unexplained.

There’s clearly much more to be told in the story of Madame Web – as is pointed to in scenes at the film’s end – but it seems doubtful that this is a strong enough opening to create much of a desire for more.


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