I genuinely enjoyed Morbius and remain baffled at the hyperbolic hate it received, but Madame Web deserves to be crushed under the boot of a gleefully destructive Internet. I am kinder than most, of course, so I found some saving graces here and there, but… this movie is legitimately bad, folks. There’s no getting around it.
The film begins when Ezekiel Sims was in the Amazon with Cassandra “Cassie” Webb’s mom when the latter was researching spiders right before she died, and when the film flashes forward to thirty years later, he has not aged at all and it is 2003. The only reason this movie takes place in 2003 is because it features Peter Parker as a fetus in the belly of EMMA ROBERTS for some fucking reason. The fact that Peter Parker is a fetus in the belly of Emma Roberts has absolutely no bearing on the actual plot of this movie, and it is fucking embarrassing how much Sony tries to remind you about Spider-Man in this movie.
They say the word “spider” three hundred times! Adam Scott plays Uncle Ben! One character casually namedrops her uncle (J.) Jonah (Jameson)! Look, I have enjoyed the Venom movies, and as I already stated, I enjoyed Morbius, and everyone hated those movies for their tenuous connections to Spider-Man, but this movie actively annoyed me with its shameless pandering. THEY EVEN GANK GREAT POWER/GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.
Okay anyway the actual plot of this movie, which it took four (4) people to come up with—Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (writers of the aforementioned Morbius), director S.J. Clarkson (a TV director making her film debut and failing spectacularly), and Claire Parker, with a story credit to Kerem Sanga, so make that five (5) people, but also an additional literary credit to Chris Bremner, so make that six (6) people—is that Cassandra “Cassie” Webb has her precognitive spider powers awakened (she’s a spider-woman who can see the future; Cassandra Webb, get it, comics are amazing) and must protect three teenage girls named Julia Cornwall, Mattie Franklin, and Anya Corazon from Ezekiel Sims, a spider-man who seeks to kill them because he has a vision of them killing him (as costumed superheroes, not teenage girls). I cannot stress enough how much this is the entire plot of this 115-minute movie.
Would you believe me if I told you she doesn’t even meet the girls she’s supposed to protect for NEARLY HALF THE MOVIE? Believe it, believe everything I tell you about this movie, I would never lie to you. Believe me when I tell you this movie takes a looooooooong time to get to the fireworks factory, and I mean that because the action climax of this film occurs at a LITERAL FIREWORKS FACTORY.
The villain of this film, Ezekiel Sims, has one goal and one goal only, and while I can understand not wanting to die or whatever, Tahar Rahim does nothing with this character to make him interesting or intimidating or memorable, struggling to deliver his English lines in a semblance of an American accent as his French accent keeps slipping through. He has visions, but also he can crawl on walls, but also he can talk to Cassie in her dreams? His power set is very unclear, and also why did he not age in thirty years. Also why is Zosia Mamet here, what favor did she owe.
The three teenage girls named Julia Cornwall, Mattie Franklin, and Anya Corazon are not endearing or likable at all, so we don’t have a real attachment to them apart from the fact that we see a vision of them becoming badass superheroes that will not be fulfilled in this film. Sydney Sweeney is awful here, a vapid shell of a human being. Celeste O’Connor is annoying here, a one-note jerk of a human being. Isabela Merced is… okay here, a science nerd who wins my affection by default despite not being an actual character.
These three girls who are established as having no connection to each other somehow get drawn to the same place because of destiny or whatever—and look I could be into this shit if done well but it is not done well, that is basically this movie’s ethos, take something I would be into and not do it well—and despite being complete strangers, immediately act like they’ve known each other for years. Their relationship to each other makes no sense, their relationship to Cassie makes no sense, I could be into this found family shit if done well but remember what I said about this movie’s ethos.
The protagonist of this film, Cassie Webb… is good! And by good I don’t mean good, I mean that I really enjoyed Dakota Johnson not giving a shit in this movie. There’s about twenty percent of the movie where she’s kind of acting in a dramatic fashion, but the other eighty percent? She does not want to be here, she thinks this is all stupid, and it honestly makes Cassie a fun character unlike other superhero protagonists. I can see why Clarkson, who directed a couple episodes of Jessica Jones, likened her to Jessica Jones because they do have a similar “I’m so over this but I guess I gotta save people” vibe. For all the failings of this movie, Johnson’s entire presence manages to make this film far more watchable than it otherwise would be.
Which is impressive because everything about the way this film depicts Cassie’s clairvoyance makes the film borderline unwatchable. Initially, it’s effectively disorienting by showing a scene happening and then revealing it to have been a vision, putting us in the same POV as Cassie. But as the film progressives, it gets more and more inconsistent and chaotic, with multiple visions occurring at the same time, visions being thrown in piecemeal, visions resetting back to different points… like… this is the only reason this movie exists, right, to have your psychic superhero, and you can’t even show her powers without being incoherent?
Also why did you take a comic book character who is elderly and has myasthenia gravis and turn her into a movie character who is young and does not have myasthenia gravis. You know what comic books fans love? Changes.
Speaking of borderline unwatchable, someone please take away cinematographer Mauro Fiore’s membership to the ASC because I have no idea why he is sometimes switching to some kind of demented documentary style with random push-ins and pull-outs. I thought he was having trouble focusing the camera and they just left it in the movie. I’ve never seen anything like it.
At one point Cassie steals a taxi and then she just drives it around for the rest of the movie. She crashes it, it’s beat up, and she keeps driving this stolen taxi. She drives her stolen taxi to the airport, pays to leave it at the airport for a week, and then drives her stolen taxi home. At no point does she return this stolen taxi. As far as I know, the stolen taxi is now her car at the end of the movie and she is a wanted fugitive.
There is some stuff I actually liked in the action climax! Un-ironically cool business that is actually done well! And then it gets incoherent again, but for a few minutes there, damn, four stars, baby, four stars. There’s a little subplot about how Cassie feels about her mom that’s almost almost emotionally affecting. There’s Cassie’s whole character arc about embracing these teenage girls as her own. There’s a genuinely funny gag where Cassie checks to see if she’s a wallcrawler. There’s this bit where the girl whose thing is riding a skateboard does a skateboard-type thing in the action climax, FOUR STARS.
But then there’s the completely embarrassing sequel tease at the end that made me understand why some people describe this movie as a two-hour trailer because yeah. I went to see this at the drive-in because I wanted to go to the drive-in but needed a movie where I wouldn’t mind if the picture and sound sucked. So thank you, Madame Web, for being a movie that sucked.