Critics savage Spider-Man spin-off ‘Madame Web’

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Critics savage Spider-Man spin-off ‘Madame Web’

Madame Web, the fourth film in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, has been branded a “tangled mess” by critics, who have largely savaged it.

Starring Dakota Johnson and Sydney Sweeney, both the film premise and the acting have come under fire in a string of one-star reviews.

Based on Marvel Comics, the film centres around a paramedic with arachnid-based psychic powers.

Last year the trailer went viral for its “laughably unsure tone”.

In a single-star review, the Guardian’s Benjamin Lee called the film “as dumb and schlocky as the worst of the genre, with lousy network TV effects, uninvolving action and unfunny and inelegant dialogue”.

Variety’s Peter Debruge also slated the film, saying it felt “superfluous” in a “world already a little overcrowded with arachnid-related superheroes”.

The title character has “ill-defined powers and nothing especially interesting to do”, he added.

In the Marvel comics, Madame Web is an elderly blind woman with psychic powers. As a clairvoyant, she assists Spider-Man but is little more than a “fringe character” in the original stories, according to Variety.

On screen, Web – played by Johnson – is presented as a “an athletic Gen X ambulance driver”.

Rolling Stone called the latest in the SSU franchise “the Cats of superhero movies” – a reference to the derided 2019 film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical.

Madame Web is “so much worse” than you have heard, David Fear brutally wrote, adding: “You look forward to a future in which this film’s end credits are in your rearview mirror and gone from your memory.”

The Hollywood Reporter said Madame Web was yet another film that falls into the category where “every year, studio executives dig up minor characters, dress them in a fog of hype and leave moviegoers to debate, defend or discard the finished product”.

Critics were somewhat more split about the acting.

While the Guardian dismissed Johnson as “one of the most ill-fitting tentpole leads I can remember”, IndieWire said the leading lady “does her best to save a hilariously retrograde Superhero”.

“Johnson is one of the most naturally honest and gifted performers to ever play the lead role in one of these things, and while that allows her to elevate certain moments in this movie way beyond where they have any right to be, it also makes it impossible for her to hide in the moments that lay bare their own miserableness,” David Ehrlich wrote.

The movie is not the first of Sony’s superhero films to have been received negatively by critics.

Its 2022 film Morbius, about a living vampire, was branded a “hopeless Marvel venture” by the Telegraph.

Since Avengers: Endgame made box office history in 2019 by taking a record-breaking $1.2bn (£980m) in global ticket sales in its opening run, many superhero films have struggled to take off.

In November, The Marvels made just $47m (£38m) in its first weekend, while Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom also all underperformed at the box office in 2023.