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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

‘Madame Web’ and the death of superhero films

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SONY Pictures

This article contains spoilers.

Sony’s newest superhero flick, “Madame Web,” has turned out to be as disastrous as its predecessors. It has fallen to 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, citing a “predictable plot” and uneven execution. The MCU-adjacent film follows Sony superhero films “Venom” (2021) and “Morbius” (2022), both of which have been deemed as much of a hilarious disaster as “Madame Web.” 

The film was released on Feb. 14 and centers around Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson), who begins to show signs of clairvoyance after a near-death experience. Amidst revelations about her past, she is drawn to and protects Julia Carpenter (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) against adversary Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim). Sims believes the three are destined to kill him, and therefore hunts them down. 

The film’s main issue lies in its overall premise of an origin story, one that never gets its intended payoff. Sims targets the three women due to their future role as spider-women destined to kill him, but the movie never shows them stepping into these roles.

The film ends with Johnson’s character becoming blinded and paralyzed while defeating Sims, which happens to the original comic book character. However, it never delves into her promised mentorship with Corazon, Carpenter, and Franklin. 

The origin story that this movie was trying to create failed immensely. Little to nothing is accomplished despite the film’s 114-minute run time. The three young women are never shown becoming Spider-Women in the future. This is due to the film’s ultimate goal of getting the story to the point where Madame Web is at a place to mentor them, but that catalyst mentorship is not focused on or explored much at all. 

Another aspect that could have been more explored was the depiction of the birth of Peter Parker. He is not specifically named as Spiderman despite the year that the movie takes place, 2003, being chosen because it was the year of Parker’s birth. This odd exclusion perhaps has to do with the other issue that this movie is not fully a part of the MCU canon. Instead, it is part of Sony’s Spiderman universe despite Madame Web herself being a Marvel character originally. This blurred line causes an interesting tiptoeing around Parker’s identity that undermines the impact of the film overall. 

The press and reviews around this movie after its release have reflected its shortcomings. Critics are calling this film representative of the death of the superhero genre. 

There has also been much online discourse concerning Johnson’s phoned-in performance in the film and her comments during the press tour since the film’s release. She made headlines for failing to remember the names of the Spiderman movies that Tom Holland starred in for Marvel, guessing the names of the movies as “Spider-Man: Here He Comes” and “The Goblet of Spider-Man.”

She also said how she had not seen Madame Web herself, nor had she ever watched any of her movies at all. She said it was “psychotic” to work with a blue screen for the first time and she wondered if the film “was going to be good at all!” 

Such unguarded comments have also garnered Johnson some praise for her humanity and the refreshing nature of stars letting their masks slip, so to speak.

The question now remains for the Sony Spiderman Universe (SSU) of what to do next in light of such a failure that was “Madame Web.” 

There are talks of bringing the popular animated character Miles Morales from “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” to the live-action screen, though in what context is still up for debate. Such a possibility also brings the prospect of crossing over Morales with the MCU’s Holland’s Spiderman, pushing the franchise into the SSU and out of the MCU. This would depend entirely on the SSU’s ability to perform well with the characters and produce the same revenue and results as the MCU. 

But no matter what Sony and the MCU decide to do next, the irony remains that despite Madame Web’s clairvoyant nature, the production wasn’t able to predict how much of a flop the film would turn out to be.

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About the Contributor
Danielle Bartholet, Assistant Living Arts Editor
Danielle Bartholet has been passionate about writing as long as she can remember, writing on her high school newspaper and then for the Berkeley Beacon since 2023. She is currently a freshman at Emerson as a WLP major and a marketing communications minor. She is from Houston, TX, and enjoys reading and writing, as well theatre.

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