ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT

KSL Movie Show: ‘Madame Web’ is a lousy movie but fun to watch

Feb 15, 2024, 7:00 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2024, 12:52 pm

A "superhero movie" released in mid-February? That's ot the only thing questionable about "Madame W...

A "superhero movie" released in mid-February? That's not the only thing questionable about "Madame Web." (Sony Pictures)

(Sony Pictures)

SALT LAKE CITY — Since “Madame Web” came out on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, you’ve probably heard by now that it’s not getting much love. From critics and audiences alike.

Plus, given that it’s a so-called superhero movie and being released in mid-February — those, also, are not good signs.

Not that I want to be a contrarian here, but I didn’t hate this movie. I didn’t love it either, but some things made it enjoyable to watch and that’s what I’d like to focus on.

First off is Dakota Johnson who made her name in the “Fifty Shades” movies and has since fought like crazy to be remembered for something, anything else. She never imagined herself in a superhero movie, but here she is putting in, I believe, a unique spin on an overworked genre with wit, humor, and nonchalance.

Dakota Johnson’s unique spin

Cassie Web is an EMT/first responder and ambulance driver in New York City who has seen her share of tragedy in her life. We learn from the early scenes that her mother Constance Web (Kerry Bishé) was a scientist researching an unusual spider in the Amazon jungles of Peru in 1973.

She believed the spider’s venom had unique properties that could lead to curing many of humanity’s deadliest diseases.

She’s also heard the legends of a nearby tribe of “spider people” who exhibit great feats of strength and agility called Las Arañas. Unfortunately, so has her guide Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) who has designs on capturing one of these spiders for his personal gain.

Sure enough, no sooner does the very pregnant Dr. Web capture one, but Ezekiel fights her for it, gun goes off and Constance is mortally wounded. He flees, but flying out of the trees comes Las Arañas to attempt to save her or at least her child, which you can assume is the future Cassie.

Who is Cassie Web anyway?

Now, back to Dakota’s Cassie. She’s a sassy loner, whose best friend and co-worker is Ben Parker (Adam Scott). She is dedicated to saving lives in the Big Apple, but befalls an accident, when a teetering car on a high bridge goes over into the water with her in it and as life is leaving her body, she has strange visions and feels a new energy within her.

Ben manages to resuscitate her, though admits she was underwater for three minutes and technically should be dead, but these flashes of images persist and she realizes she’s seeing the future just moments ahead, sometimes longer, like “Happy Death Day” or “Final Destination” kind of stuff.

The heart of “Madam Web”

But unlike previous hero transformations, Dakota’s Cassie wants nothing to do with these abilities. Even when she helps three teens get away from the villainous Ezekiel who has dark “spider” powers on a subway. She sees that he’s trying to kill these girls from a vision of his own, but doesn’t know why or much care, until the four start to establish a bond.

She’s both funny and annoyed at what an inconvenience this has become and to me, that is what’s at the heart of this film.

Sure, I could go on about the blatant product placements, the stiff dialog especially from the underwritten villain (who by the way is usually a great actor), the frantic Michael Bay-like fight finale that you can’t tell who’s doing what. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t having a good time or that the story lagged.

“Madame Web” is simply a lousy movie with a handful of fun bits and I can say this – at least it was better than “Morbius.”

“Madame Web” (C) PG-13 for violence/action and language. Starring Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O’Connor and Adam Scott. Co-written and directed by S.J. Clarkson in her feature film debut. Filmed in Massachusetts. Running time: 117 minutes.

Steve Salles is the co-host of the KSL Movie Show. Follow the show on Facebook. Join the KSL Movie Show Club for exclusive perks by texting MOVIE to 57500.

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KSL Movie Show: ‘Madame Web’ is a lousy movie but fun to watch