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Film: Madame Web
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O`Connor, Tahar Rahim, Mike Epps, Emma Roberts, Adam Scott
Rating: 2/5
Director: S.J. Clarkson
Runtime: 116 min

This feature debut from longtime television director S.J. Clarkson is yet another sub-standard arachnid-related origin story based on Marvel comics. Given the recent spate of Marvel duds, this one coming from the Sony stable, there wasn’t much expectation going in. The film may not be as bad as expected but it certainly doesn’t have what it takes to enthuse the audience (in large numbers) into the theatre. The spider-man premise feels like deja vu.

‘Madame Web’ has Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson), a clairvoyant paramedic linked to a secret history that involves a rare spider and the Amazon forest, forging a relationship with three young women – shy Julia (Sydney Sweeney), bookish Anya (Isabela Merced) and rebellious Mattie (Celeste O’Connor), destined for powerful futures. How the three young women find their superpower is left for another movie. Here they are the random target of wealthy and obsessed Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) who can also see the future and knows these three will end up killing him when they get older.

After trying to save a man whose car flipped on the highway, Cassie falls into the East River. That near-death experience activates her clairvoyant powers but it also makes her feel even more alienated than before. She now has heightened senses and nagging futuristic visions but for the audience, it all feels uninspiring. Clarkson’s experiments with slick effects and unusual angles meant to underscore Cassie’s changed worldview and state of unease make it even more bewildering.

The narrative is an underwhelming, dusty, and hokey endeavor driven by an assembly line screenplay credited to Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, and Claire Parker & Clarkson. The lack of imagination here is pretty much astounding. Sketchy background info has the characters explain themselves through vacant exposition.

This film does not seem to have any major ambition other than to get the franchise off the block. There’s not much style or energy going for it either. Too many gaps in the story make it rather hard to follow. Meaningless dialogue and chaotic visuals make the implausible sci-fi elements seem even more incorrigible.

Clarkson, lacking in big-ticket experience, makes this actioner play out in a flat uninteresting style. Things keep moving at a fast enough pace with fluid camera movements and speedy transitions but the vague expository visuals fail to make it intriguing. We keep seeing Cassie surrounded by static tentacles, there’s no clear-cut definition in it. Freaky ‘Final Destination’ like premonitory flashes and Cassie’s attempts to re-run them in a controlled sequence, fail to make it stimulating. And the big, noisy action sequences fail to raise the bar on this experience. The script fails to make sense, the action feels stale and the visual effects are unprepossessing.



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