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Release Date: 02/14/24 [Cinemas]
Genre: Action. Adventure. SciFi.

Studio: Columbia Pictures.

"Cassandra Webb develops the power to see the future. Forced to confront revelations about her past, she forges a relationship with three young women bound for powerful destinies, if they can all survive a deadly present." 


Depending on who you ask, an internet meme can be either one of the best or worst marketing tools for a film. This strategy proved highly effective for last summer's double feature Barbie and Oppenheimer, as the Twitter frenzy surrounding “Barbenheimer'' quickly infiltrated pop culture. However, a similar narrative had a detrimental effect on Sony's Morbius, thanks to the internet meme “It's Morbin' Time.” Unfortunately, I fear that Madame Web may suffer a fate similar to the latter.


Following the film's trailer release on November 15th of last year, many viewers immediately grasped the type of movie they were in for after encountering a painfully clunky and awkwardly stitched-together line from Dakota Johnson. In the line, she states, "He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died." If attempting to read makes your brain hurt, you're not alone. The flow turns the line itself into a puzzle, making it challenging to decipher and serving as a clear indicator of the film's poor dialogue quality.


Ironically, the trailer sparked my enthusiasm for the film. I derive immense joy from watching campy or almost "bad" films, as evident in my recent reviews of Mean Girls and Argylle. Although far from masterpieces, both films provided incredibly enjoyable viewing experiences. Madame Web seamlessly aligns with these two films. Although the screenplay is undeniably atrocious and the direction raises questions even on its best day, the cast's overly dedicated performances and the film's unwavering commitment to its artistic vision contribute to making it one of the most enjoyable screenings; even if it doesn't necessarily qualify as one of the best cinematic endeavors.


Set in the same universe as Sony's other Spider-Man spin-off movies, such as Venom and Morbius, Madame Web is the first among the bunch to focus on Spider-Man's adjacent heroic characters rather than the villains he faces. The cast boasts notable names like Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Adam Scott, and Emma Roberts, as well as some fresh faces whose performances seamlessly blend in with the rest.


I particularly admire Dakota Johnson for her wholehearted commitment to various projects. This dedication is evident in her breakthrough role in the film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey, showcasing her prowess in mainstream franchises – even if their premise is a bit ridiculous. Additionally, she excels in delivering incredibly nuanced and emotional performances in smaller budget indie films, as seen in her role in the 2019 film Peanut Butter Falcon. Her acting style, comparable to Kristen Stewart's, can be interpreted as either incredibly introspective or flat and emotionless. In this performance, despite the horrendous lines she's forced to deliver. Johnson manages to make her titular role a believable and fully fleshed-out character that grounds the film – as much as it can for the absurdity of its script.


Sydney Sweeney is another stand out in the ensemble, and although I may not particularly enjoy the show she's in, her portrayal of a deeply emotionally tortured teenager in Euphoria is astounding. It highlights her ability to navigate the peaks and valleys of her characters, demonstrating an intense connection to realism. This role, in particular, sets her apart from her other performances, as Sweeney transforms into a demure and shy teenager with profound insecurities that amplify her shyness. While the role may be somewhat shallow given the amount of screentime she's allotted, her fully committed portrayal ensures she remains a captivating presence on the screen. Her star prowess is totally palpable, and it's no wonder her career is flourishing.


Certainly, it's crucial to acknowledge the attitude I brought into watching this film, which significantly contributed to my enjoyment – primarily because I anticipated it to be subpar. While I'm more than willing to commend the acting, almost every other aspect aligns with those low expectations. The screenplay becomes unintentionally laughable at numerous moments, disrupting the immersive experience that should be. Beyond the creative elements, the technical work throughout ranks among the worst I've ever witnessed. Although the CGI doesn't quite reach the poor quality of its early 2000’s development days, it stands as one of the poorer examples in a modern film with the resources and budget to achieve better.


The most egregious example of technical failure in the film lies with the portrayal of the villain, played by Tahar Rahim. He is prominently featured in the opening scene, and I couldn't help but notice his line delivery felt clunky and awkwardly phrased. It wasn't until a subsequent significant scene that I discovered the reason behind this – his character is entirely dubbed throughout the entire film. Beyond the opening scene, I can genuinely state that I never observed his lips moving in sync with his line delivery. If they were moving, it was a feeble attempt, utterly inadequate to match the absurdity we, as the audience, were hearing. It's reminiscent of an exceptionally poorly dubbed anime, notorious for its cringe-worthiness, and at best, it ventures into the realm of complete insanity.

While I found personal delight in Madame Web, I encourage viewers to approach it with an open-minded attitude that might enhance their enjoyment. I willingly admit that this film won't resonate with a majority of audiences, and I understand why many have labeled it challenging to sit through. However, if you can let loose and embrace the entertainment, it becomes the perfect film for a Valentine's Day release – ideal for a fun outing with a partner or potential date.

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