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  • Jeff Beck

Madame Web: Yet Another Mediocre Entry in the Comic Book Genre (Blu-ray)


The Film:


Thus far, Sony's "Spider-Man" spinoff films have been quite the fascinating little experiment. Starting with "Venom" in 2018, the film may have taken quite the critical lashing, but that didn't stop it from having an insanely impressive box office tally that reached over $800 million worldwide. Three years later, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" also received a rather lousy reception, but still brought in a hefty $500 million worldwide. However, when it came to a third spinoff, "Morbius," things didn't turn out quite so well, leading not just to terrible reviews, but also a rather disappointing box office. This brings us to the latest outing in their Spidey Universe, "Madame Web," another attempt to shake things up with some new characters in hopes of once again finding great success as they had previously with the "Venom" films.


Starting back in the '70s, we follow an expedition in the jungles of Peru led by Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) and his colleague Constance Webb (Kerry Bishé), who happens to be pregnant. When they come across a rare species of spider that has special healing properties, Ezekiel betrays them, steals the spider, and leaves Constance for dead. However, thanks to the help of a local tribe, she is able to give birth shortly before her death.


Thirty years later, we find Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) working as a medic in New York City. After surviving a near-death experience on a particularly rough call, she begins having visions, which she slowly realizes are giving her glimpses into the future. Meanwhile, Ezekiel has been having dreams in which Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie Franklin (Celeste O'Connor), and Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) kill him, causing him to do everything in his power to track them down. Cassandra's visions soon draw her into the situation, leading her to locate the girls first in order to protect them from Ezekiel, who will stop at nothing to secure his own future.


If the first three entries in this odd little subset of Spidey-related films is any indication, it would seem that the goal of these projects was never really to create a film that would receive praise from critics or audiences, but rather to create films that might be able to compete with the true comic book giants at the box office, and as we've seen, it's been mildly successful so far, at least as far as the "Venom" films go. The trouble has been trying to find something else in the limited number of characters they have access to that could achieve a similar level of prosperity.


Sadly, much in the vein of "Morbius," "Madame Web" has proven not to be that film either, from either a critical or financial point of view. As a comic book film, it falls prey to the same pitfalls that many of these films have fallen into of late, including featuring a bland/uninteresting plot with sub-par writing and flat/unengaging characters that you end up not caring about in the least. On that basis, the film never stood much of a chance, not if the goal was to make an entertaining experience that comic book fans could get excited about, one that would have them riveted to the screen with impressive action and a compelling plot. Anyone who read the screenplay well before production commenced would've been able to tell you as much.


That said, while many viewers have had fun picking on the film over the last few months, the strange thing is that it's really no worse than any of the other mediocre comic book films we've gotten over the last couple of years, like "Shazam: Fury of the Gods," "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," "Black Adam," or "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," all of which share those similar traits listed above. "Madame Web" is merely another entry in a continually growing line of disappointments in the genre, a line that shows a clear, unfortunate lack of effort from the filmmakers behind these unremarkable outings.


If anything, these films, and the disappointing box office numbers they've posted, have shown that audiences aren't going to settle for mediocrity anymore. They want fun & excitement, along with engaging characters & storylines that give them a thrilling experience, not something that puts them in danger of nodding off or merely elicits a shrug when all is said and done. Perhaps it's simply time to go back to the drawing board with these spinoffs, much like DC is doing with their entire collection. One thing's for sure, it's clear that changes are most definitely needed, for if things merely stay the same, that list of disappointments will only continue to grow.


Video/Audio:


"Madame Web" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The image is perfectly clear & sharp throughout its two-hour duration, highlighting its multitude of extensive special effects. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is marvelous, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and music in outstanding quality. Overall, Sony has done a wonderful job for their latest superhero outing's debut home release.


Special Features:


Future Vision (7 Minutes)

Casting the Web (9 Minutes)

Oracle of the Page (5 Minutes)

Gag Reel (5 Minutes)

Fight Like a Spider (6 Minutes)

Easter Eggs - The Many Threads of Madame Web (4 Minutes)

Deleted Scene - You Died (1 Minute)


The Blu-ray comes with several interesting behind the scenes featurettes, totaling a little over 30 minutes, that explore areas such as casting, bringing the comics to life, and the film's extensive action sequences, all featuring interviews with the cast & crew.


Conclusion:


"Madame Web" is merely another addition to the continually growing list of mediocre comic book films that show a clear lack of effort being put into their stories & characters, leaving viewers with yet another entry that elicits little more than a shrug, as opposed to the fun & exciting experience such a film should be delivering.


Score: 2.5/5


Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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