*Spoilers*

The first trailer for “Madame Web” dropped on Nov. 15, giving audiences a glimpse into the new superhero. Although there was no mention or hint of Spider-Man in the trailer, audiences couldn’t ignore the similarities between the two storylines, questioning if “Madame Web” would be a parody of hero films or a new addition to Marvel’s Spider-Verse. These suspicions were answered when a comic book titled, “The Amazing Spider-Man … Meet Madame Web” surfaced, confirming that the 2024 film would be based on Marvel’s Cassandra Web, a blind and paralyzed psychic who uses her clairvoyant powers to help “Spider-People.” But after its release in theaters, news of the movie’s critical and commercial failure began sweeping the internet. Not only did “Madame Web” have a boring storyline and a measly combined minute of the actresses in their superhero costumes, but neither Spider-Man nor Peter Parker were mentioned once by name despite his birth being a side plot of the film. Audiences couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the film.

The film follows Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson): a paramedic who begins to experience brief visions minutes into the future after an accident. When these flash-forwards result in her seeing three teenage girls being killed by a man, Cassandra feels obligated to hide and protect them. Simultaneously, the film follows Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), the man determined to find these girls because he dreamed of them killing him. Cassandra leaves the girls with friend Ben Parker (Adam Scott) and his pregnant sister Mary Parker (Emma Roberts), to research in the Amazon. There, she discovers that Ezekiel killed her mother. She then has a vision of Mary going into labor and Ezekiel finding and killing the group. As this pans out in real time, Cassandra appears and uses a new understanding of her powers to eventually kill him. In the process, she loses her sight and becomes paraplegic. The film closes with a scene years into the future where Cassandra is still fully blind and wheelchair bound, having a complete grasp on her powers now. As the four women in a superhero team flash on the screen, the final words are narrated over: “You know the best thing about the future, it hasn’t happened yet.” 

Unfortunately, there were fundamentally no highs of “Madame Web” to outweigh the lows; the whole film felt unfinished in a way. The narrative is simple, almost childlike, with a lack of suspense or mystery integrated to combat such. For example, we are shown the villain’s motives at the 30-minute mark, which also feel insignificant to the audience. The film’s writing has full-on-the-nose statements, such as, “Us strays need to stick together,” and “What if I don’t want to know my future?” All characters feel bored and undeveloped, resulting in no reason for the audience to root for them throughout the film. 

During the opening week of “Madame Web,” the film received a 13% on Rotten Tomato’s “Tomatometer” and a worldwide profit of $53 million on a $80 million budget, failing both Sony and its audience members. It was undeniable that the film was ill-received due to its plain storyline, awkward writing and undeveloped characters but there were two things that seemed to highlight this even more so: Ezekiel Sim’s clearly dubbed audio, and Mary and Ben Parker’s near-to-complete erasure from the main storyline, despite being played by big names. Gas was added to the fire when press release interviews with Dakota Johnson were released and the actress seemed indifferent towards the film. When asked about script changes, she even stated, “there were drastic changes, and I can’t even tell you what they were.” 

However, once the original screenplay for “Madame Web” was leaked, it was evident why the actual outcome felt so forced. In this film, Madame Web and the Spider-Women try to protect a pregnant Mary Parker from Ezekiel Sims, a man who wants to kill her to prevent the birth of Peter Parker. It’s believed that this version was actually in the late stages of filming when Marvel contacted Sony, informing them they did not have the rights to use the names “Peter Parker” and “Spider-Man” in “Madame Web.” This tracks out; as stated, Ezekiel Sims lines are clearly dubbed over and Ben and Mary Parker’s storyline is practically missing. While these rumors have not yet been confirmed, it feels legitimate and as if Sony rushed an unfinished product into theaters.

Verdict: So, while it’s difficult to decide what made “Madame Web” so unbearable — the storyline, the writing, the company behind it — it’s still easy to agree on something: “Madame Web” is a bad movie.