Mucking with Movies: 'Madame Web' | – The Aspen Times

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As I sat there, about forty-five minutes into a movie that was quickly becoming irredeemable, I began thinking about what I could have sent in this week instead of reviewing “Madame Web.”
The recently released music biopic “Bob Marley: One Love” looked equally soulless but had lost out, as at least this wasn’t at the expense of one of the most commercially-averse artists in history.
I’m sure I could have tricked my editor into believing that the “Santo Y El Aguila Real” DVD I had just bought was a hot new foreign film and not from 1973, starring the most popular Mexican luchador of the time, and then I remembered I still owed her an Oscars column. Could have done that …
Going in, I had low expectations for “Madame Web,” but I thought that maybe it could be fun and campy.
It wasn’t.
From the first line to the last one, it was an unmitigated disaster.
Constance Webb (Kerry Bishe), mother of main protagonist Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson), is in the Amazon researching spiders. The mythical spiders in question are rumored to have, you guessed it, mystical properties. Webb wants to use them to cure diseases, and Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) wants to use them to garner riches via nefarious means. Sims wins out, but it is never quite explained how he plans and eventually uses this spider to make his money. Exploiting the arachnophobia of his enemies? Perhaps. Honestly, can’t think of another use.
This is but one of the innumerable plot holes that yawn open throughout “Madame Web.” Incomprehensible choices are made by almost every character at least once during the film. This isn’t just sour grapes, a critic being pedantically overwrought about a superhero flick. I’m more than willing to suspend practical belief for the sake of a story – I’m a pro-wrestling fan, for goodness sake. But these are decisions so unbelievably stupid that you cannot possibly believe any real human being would be capable of making them.
If there was a follow-up explanation about why they were happening, at least it wouldn’t be so insulting. But there isn’t. So many gaps band together that, eventually, they just become a black hole and swallow the flick whole.
It’s difficult to establish rules for a film when things are this nonsensical. But what little had been set up is thrown away when the third act begins, with Cassie flying to Peru, so that she can find what happened to her mother, and her powers can get their origin story moment. Until then at least, we had the baseline that this story was confined to the boroughs of New York City due to an intense search from both Sims and NYPD. How this woman can get to the airport, board an international flight, and navigate her way through THE AMAZON RAINFOREST defies even the logic director S.J. Clarkson had put into her film.
Clarkson also makes some of the worst shooting decisions I’ve seen ever put to print. When a car leans precariously over a bridge, threatening to send EMT Cassie and her patient spiraling into the water, we don’t know that’s even happening. Clarkson had elected only to show the following shots of Cassie running and then close-ups once she’s inside the car. We only discover the danger once the car begins its plunge, so no suspense is created. When our heroes are running towards safety with the threat of a brick wall stopping them from their destination, the brick wall blows at the prediction of Cassie. But we, as the audience, don’t get that exhilarating catharsis because we don’t get to see the wall fall. We hear the sound, and then the bricks are already crumbled as actors run through.
Towards the end, a worthwhile metaphor for motherhood emerges that should be noted. With teenagers in tow, Cassie’s Spidey-Senses enable her to protect them as she can foresee the dangers that they do not have the wherewithal to be aware of. It is a really strong moment, an oasis in the suffocating desert that is this film.
“Madame Web” does not approach overall decency in any cinematic category, though – not in writing, not in directing, not in acting. The fact this film was able to go from start to finish without somebody stepping in to try to steer it toward competency reeks of Hollywood desperation.
We have reached the point of superhero saturation, and this is the rushed, final cash grab before the bubble bursts entirely.
Critic Score: 2.2/10
Jack Simon is a mogul coach and writer/director who enjoys eating food he can’t afford, traveling to places out of his budget, and creating art about skiing, eating, and traveling while broke. Check out his website to see his Jack’s Jitney travelogue series. You can email him at for inquiries of any type.

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