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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

Movie Review: ‘Madame Web’

With the anticipated release of the new Phase 4 Marvel Movie, Madame Web, it seems as though the Marvel Cinematic Universe is taking a turn for the worse.
Marvel, a globally known franchise, is facing the heat from even its most loyal fans after the release of ‘Madame Web.’ (Photo Credit: Robert Anasch / Unsplash)

This past Valentine’s day, the new phase 4 Marvel movie, Madame Web, came out. The buzz surrounding the film was massive, and the film includes actors with big names like Dakota Johnson, Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney, young actress Isabela Merced, and Emma Roberts. Over the past few months, the female-led cast has spoken in interview after interview, gearing up for the debut. It had all appearances of a hit. However, soon after the premiere, it was evident that Madame Web’s reality was not anywhere near the expectations. 

Starting from the red carpet premiere, influencers took online, bashing the movie. From poor acting to overall convoluted plot of the film, they saw Madame Web as one of the biggest flops in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With only a grossed $40 million at the domestic box office and a 12% “Tomatometer” Rotten Tomatoes score, it appears that there is no comeback for this project. 

Mark Kermode, a Tomatometer-approved critic, called the storytelling “somewhere between pathetic and perfunctory. Largely perfunctory.” 

Manohla Dargis, the chief film critic for The New York Times, recently called the movie an achiever of “memorably terrible status.”  In the article, “Madame Web Review: Dakota Johnson Can’t Save This Spidey Spin-off,’ she did praise Dakota Johnson by writing about the film, “there are glimmers of wit and competency. And then there’s its star, Dakota Johnson, who has a fascinating, seemingly natural ability to appear wholly detached from the nonsense swirling around her.”

Here is the star of the movie Madame Web, Dakota Johnson, walking on a carpet in 2021. (Photo Credit: Kevin Kunze, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

As the star of the movie, one would expect Dakota Johnson to have many action-filled scenes, yet Johnson received minuscule screen time while in the actual Madame Web suit. The entire storyline circles around a cliché, overdone plot where a normal person discovers their superpowers and has to run away from a villain.

”Overall, it was obvious that the movie was just a set-up for upcoming spin offs and sequels. Maybe by the ninth movie, we’ll get some suits and an extended battle scene!” said Rainie Zheng ’24. 

Critics went online and clearly agreed with statements like Zheng’s. However, recent headlines point to the conclusion that Madame Web will end up being a standalone movie, after Johnson revealed that she “probably will never do anything like it again” in an interview.

The true heart of Marvel are the beloved actors who play our superheroes. Fans of the original six Avenger actors, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, and Chris Hemsworth, play a huge part in the audience turnout, showing love and affection for both the movies and the Marvel universe. However, Dakota Johnson does the exact opposite: and she agrees that she does not “make sense in that world.” Sources have recently reported that SONY executives are angry with the actress for publically dragging the movie during interviews

Here is the original cast of Marvel at Comic Con following the premiere of Avengers 1. (Photo Credit: rwoan, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Agreeing with the recent media remarks regarding her role, student Thasina Tabassum ’24 had a lot to say. “Maybe it’s just not her genre of acting. We’ve seen Dakota Johnson in movies like 50 Shades of Gray, Persuasion, and How to Be Single. Those are all obvious romance movies that just require reading a script. We know she can’t handle the action, and now we just have confirmation.” 

In more recent news, actress Sydney Sweeney responded to the hate to protect her reputation, taking a similar route to Johnson. Sweeney admitted that the SONY movie was simply a building block for her career, and nothing more. She viewed this movie purely as a business decision to land bigger opportunities, like her newly released, hit rom-com Anyone But You.

It’s clear that the movie was purely a project, rather than a passion. Their outlooks on the Marvel movie and their own standings in it plays a role on how the movie is perceived to the rest of the world. If the leading actresses publicly states that the movie did not click for them, how could it click for the audience?

In general, the disappointment surrounding Marvel’s Phase 4 projects as a whole is no secret, and this movie solidified all those doubts. The messy plot reflected the exact criticisms of The Marvels, a Phase 4 movie that came out in the past year. The dreadful CGI attempts that reflect one of Nickelodeon projects, are the same as we saw in the final battle scene of the Black Widow movie. One would expect that with the added experience, fan base, technology, and talent, viewers would be getting better films. However, it’s crystal clear that Marvel’s new phase is a step down from the past. 

One student had a differing opinion on the movie. Chrissy Jung ’24 thought that the Madame Web movie was a great reprise of the Spiderman movies, bringing in a new female character into the world. “We’ve seen Spiderman, and now we get Spiderwoman. I don’t see how that’s so bad.” 

Jung honestly brings a great point into consideration. The strong feminine energy we get from this movie and its star-studded, all female cast certainly cannot be ignored. However, looking at it from another perspective, it’s clear that Madame Web lives nowhere near the bounds of the other Spiderman movies. The movie Spiderman: No Way Home became the third highest grossing Marvel film of all time, making over $1.9 billion worldwide in 2021. Following that, Spiderman: Far From Home made over $1.13 billion worldwide. Even the lowest grossing Spiderman film, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, was extremely successful. It made $384 million just last year, which is nowhere near the $90 million that Madame Web has made at the global box office so far. 

With the success of the Tom Holland Spiderman trilogy and the Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse movies, it seems like Marvel is pushing old ideas into new projects to hold their audience. However, much of the Marvel Comics Universe fan base wants to see more movies on original comic heroes that haven’t been broadcasted in the cinematic universe yet. The Marvel comics span decades of hard work, yet we see more spinoffs and dupes as the phases go on. In this light, there is really no reason for Marvel executives to expect huge success when the movie was made to highlight a side-character in the Spiderverse. The movie was bound to hit a wall in production and marketing after using the Spiderverse card through it all. 

Madame Web was clearly an unnecessary movie for Marvel to make, but maybe a necessary step for them to take. The film brought out the dissatisfaction that Marvel Comics Universe fans have been having for the duration of Phase 4, and played as a wake up call for Marvel. As for Dakota Johnson’s future in Marvel, it seems as though the only thing we’ll see from Madame Web was the one battle scene we received in the almost two hour movie. I doubt we’ll be seeing her character, as well as any character in that film, in future collaboration projects with other superheroes as well. We heard it from Johnson herself, who decided that Marvel wasn’t the right fit for her after numerous interviews, months of filming, and the global premiere of the movie. 

Whether the movie was a good idea gone wrong, a rushed project, or a building step for future marvel films (or Sydney Sweeney’s career for that matter), it did one thing correctly. It brought out the worst in Marvel fans. For an hour and 54 minute Marvel film, it was 1 hour and 54 minutes too long. 

Starting from the red carpet premiere, influencers took online, bashing the movie. From poor acting to overall convoluted plot of the film, they saw Madame Web as one of the biggest flops in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With only a grossed $40 million at the domestic box office and a 12% “Tomatometer” Rotten Tomatoes score, it appears that there is no comeback for this project. 

About the Contributor
Saldon Tenzin, Staff Reporter
Saldon Tenzin is a Features Editor and Social Media Editor for ‘The Science Survey.' She is responsible for highlighting the art of journalism through both articles and media posts. Saldon views journalism as a way to tell unheard stories, spanning from personal spotlights to political and social issues. As a young girl who enjoyed magazines rather than thick chapter books, Saldon knows that pictures can not only add to a story, but just as effectively stand alone and tell one. Outside of the Journalism class, Saldon spends her time as part of the school’s Student Government and has been the president of the school’s Podcast Club for three years. Recently, she spent more than half a year creating a radio story for WNYC, the New York Public Radio, and was invited on the Brian Lehrer’s show following the broadcast. She enjoys watching horror movies with her younger brother, loves baking, and lives for her summer trips to Wisconsin. Though she thoroughly enjoys writing articles and taking photos, Saldon wants to pursue a career in Broadcast Journalism, specifically in radio/podcasts.