You know a superhero movie is in trouble when even the “first reactions” from fan sites are scathing.
Now the critic reviews for Marvel and Sony’s Madame Web have been revealed (read on below), and the writeups are pretty devastating for the Spider-Man spinoff.
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Madame Web is from director S.J. Clarkson (The Defenders) and stars Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) as a New York paramedic who develops psychic abilities, with a script by Clarkson, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless and Claire Parker.
Johnson escapes most of the criticism, but everything else is getting skewered as the latest example of superhero movie fatigue meeting a genuinely disappointing film. Madame Web (which falls under the Sony umbrella) arrives just two months after The Marvels became the lowest-grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe title of all time, earning just $206 million. If the below reviews for Madame Web are any indication, it may open even lower than The Marvels (which hailed from Disney’s Marvel Studio).
Also, in an apparent effort to “just get this over with,” Madame Web had its world premiere last night, its review embargo ended this morning and the film will open in theaters tomorrow.
Enough context. Here’s what you came for:
The Hollywood Reporter: “It is an airless and stilted endeavor driven by a mechanical screenplay … Its lack of imagination would be astounding if it wasn’t so expected … The film operates on a need-to-know basis, forcing people to explain themselves through inelegantly breathless exposition.”
The Daily Beast: “… a torturous saga that haplessly spins about in circles trying to fashion a competent tone or coherent action sequence. No matter its heroine’s clairvoyant super-powers, it’s a debacle incapable of seeing — and thus avoiding — its every subsequent misstep … director S.J. Clarkson stages it with all the grace of a runaway train, her snap zooms, whiplash cinematography, canted angles, and overly theatrical lighting turning this prologue embarrassingly comical … full of bad dialogue delivered badly by talented men and women stuck with crummy material and equally lousy stewardship … Sony’s Spider-Man Universe is now completely lifeless — and in no need of resuscitation.”
Rolling Stone: “Madame Web isn’t as bad as its somewhat botched promotional campaign might suggest. It is, in fact, way worse. A genuine Chernobyl-level disaster that seems to get exponentially more radioactive as it goes along, this detour to one of the dustier corners of Marvel’s content farm is a dead-end from start to finish. It is the Cats: The Movie of superhero movies. Not a single decision seems of sound mind. Not a single performance feels in sync with the material. Not a single line reading feels as if it hasn’t somehow been magically auto-tuned to subtract emotion and/or inflection. The sole amazing factor of this Spider-spinoff is that someone, somewhere signed off on actually releasing it … a Showgirls of comic-book cinema.”
UPI: “A new low for superhero debacles … At least Catwoman and Batman & Robin believed in what they were doing. They were wrong, but Madame Web just feels like a cynical copy of the bare minimum to qualify as a comic book movie.”
Collider: “Madame Web’s writing strains to emulate teenage girls cracking wise with each other or any other kind of positive human emotion. This is a screenplay that speaks in backstory and surface-level comic book references (like Sims always being barefoot). It doesn’t understand how people actually interact with one another … Beyond even those staggeringly amateurish filmmaking flourishes, Madame Web has none of the laughs or thrills that general audiences come to superhero movies for. Much like Morbius from two years ago, it’s a pale imitation of comic book motion pictures from the past.”
IndieWire: “From its lack of stakes to its absence of style, and from its laughable CGI to its palpable discomfort with the rhythms and tropes of its genre, Madame Web is a superhero movie that feels like it was made by and for people who have never seen a modern superhero movie … Johnson has a rare gift for weaponizing social discomfort into sandpaper-dry comedy, and Madame Web threatens to become a real movie whenever it allows its star to revel in the fact that she doesn’t really want to be in it … The characters just stand around and trade perfunctory dialogue in bland locations — sometimes while watching much better movies than the one they’re trapped in.”
IGN: “Madame Web tries to connect many plots and people together to a confusing, yet ultimately bland result. It tries to balance the comedic tone of a modern superhero movie with what could be a more interesting psychological thriller if it invested more time on developing its hero and villain, rather than spreading itself thin trying to connect all these new versions of characters together. It fails as a one-off and a franchise starter, not telling a fulfilling origin story for Cassie nor giving a compelling argument for the future Spider-Women. The weak dialogue unfortunately stands out, but the few action set pieces harken to the older Spider-Man movies of the early 2000s.”
USA Today: “Worst superhero movie since Morbius.”
3C Films: “… an embarrassing mess. Talented stars wasted on probably the worst comic book movie I have ever seen. Filled with atrocious dialogue, awkward editing, & all around laughable structure. I sat there baffled scene by scene someone approved this. The memes will redeem it.”
Slashfilm: “I hesitate to describe it as a superhero film. It’s more like a pre-origin story, a tale of who various Spider-Women were before they got their powers. Audiences are treated to several flashes-forward to the time when they’ll be in costume, but Madame Web isn’t about how they got their powers or stitched together their outfits. It’s merely about the assurance that they will indeed be heroes someday … This may be one of the final films of the superhero renaissance. Enjoy it before it topples over entirely.”
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