Madame Web: Dakota Johnson’s Spider-Man Spin-Off Receives Harsh Criticism from Critics

Dakota Johnson is best known for her role in Fifty Shades of Grey
Dakota Johnson is best known for her role in Fifty Shades of Grey [ JESSICA KOURKOUNIS/SONY ]

Madame Web, the Latest Installment in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, Faces Harsh Criticism as Critics Brand it a “Tangled Mess”

Featuring the talents of Dakota Johnson and Sydney Sweeney, the film has received a series of one-star reviews that express concerns about both the premise and the acting.

Inspired by the Marvel Comics, the story revolves around a paramedic who possesses unique psychic abilities connected to arachnids.

Last year, the film’s trailer gained significant attention, with some viewers noting its tone as uncertain in a way that elicited laughter.

Critical Reception Highlights Weaknesses of the Film

In a less favorable review, Benjamin Lee of The Guardian expressed his disappointment with the film, labeling it “as dumb and schlocky as the worst examples in its genre.” He pointed out the usage of subpar visual effects reminiscent of network TV productions, lackluster action sequences, and dialogue that failed to engage or deliver humor.

Peter Debruge from Variety also criticized the film, deeming it “superfluous” in a world already teeming with arachnid-themed superheroes. He felt that the title character’s powers were poorly defined and lacked any particularly intriguing aspects, leaving the character with little of interest to contribute to the storyline.

Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced and Celeste O'Connor star alongside Johnson
Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced and Celeste O’Connor star alongside Johnson[JESSICA KOURKOUNIS/SONY]

In the Marvel comics, Madame Web is initially portrayed as an elderly blind woman endowed with psychic abilities. Her role primarily involves aiding Spider-Man, albeit being considered a peripheral character in the original stories, as noted by Variety.

Dakota Johnson portrays Madame Web on screen, offering a distinct portrayal of the character as an athletic Gen X ambulance driver, showcasing a fresh interpretation.

Rolling Stone drew a comparison between the latest installment in the SSU franchise and “the Cats of superhero movies,” alluding to the widely criticized 2019 film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical.

David Fear’s critique expressed a blunt perspective, deeming Madame Web as even worse than the prevailing negative opinions, while expressing hope for a future where the film’s end credits fade from memory.

The Hollywood Reporter categorized Madame Web as another instance of studios resurrecting minor characters, enveloping them in excessive hype, and leaving moviegoers to engage in discussions, defenses, or dismissals of the final product.Critics exhibited mixed opinions regarding the acting performances in Madame Web.

Dakota Johnson ‘does her best’

The Guardian, while offering a differing viewpoint, described Johnson as “one of the most ill-fitting tentpole leads I can remember.” On the other hand, IndieWire acknowledged the leading lady’s efforts to salvage a humorously outdated superhero narrative.

David Ehrlich praised Johnson as one of the most sincerely genuine and talented performers to have taken on a leading role in this genre. He noted that her abilities allowed her to elevate certain moments in the film beyond expectations. However, this also meant that she couldn’t conceal the moments that revealed the film’s inherent shortcomings.

By presenting these perspectives, it is evident that critics had varying opinions on Dakota Johnson’s performance in the film.

Dakota Johnson, known for her refreshingly honest interviews, has been a part of Sony’s superhero films that have faced criticism from reviewers. One such film is Morbius, released in 2022, revolving around a living vampire. The Telegraph labeled it a “hopeless Marvel venture.”

Following the massive success of Avengers: Endgame, which broke box office records in 2019 with over $1.2 billion (£980 million) in global ticket sales, several superhero films have encountered difficulties in replicating that level of success. For instance, The Marvels, released in November, only managed to earn $47 million (£38 million) during its opening weekend. Similarly, films like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom also faced challenges in meeting box office expectations in 2023.

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