Monday, February 19, 2024

Madame Web (2024)

Movie of the year movie of the year MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Madame Web is one of those movies I didn't know they made anymore. I laughed many times in this movie, but not once after an intentional joke. Any good performances are buried under the detritus of weird lines, awkward editing, and awe-inducing plot connections.

The film stars Dakota Johnson of Fifty Shades of Grey fame playing Cassandra Webb, whose mother was researching spiders in the Amazon right before she died. The specific spider she was researching was one that for no explainable reason gives everyone it bites superpowers, so of course the man she hired for security on this research expedition shoots her and takes the spider. Don't worry though, there's a tribe of Peruvians called Las Arañas (or something) that all dress like Spider-Man and have spider powers, who try to save Cassie's mother's life by having one of their magic spiders bite her, but she dies birthing Cassie anyway. In present day, Cassie works with Ben Parker (?!??) as an EMT and after almost drowning at the scene of a car accident starts having psychic visions of the future. Her visions start to coalesce on three teen girls who are being hunted by Ezekiel Sims, the aforementioned spider-thief who thinks these teens are gonna kill him because he had a dream about it. Things go on from there.

Cassie is supposed to be a socially awkward weirdo I think, but instead comes off as a robot who has a quiet contempt for every person around her. Her interactions with the three teens (who are destined to become Spider-Women because sure why not) mostly consist of yelling and strained silence. Based on a single sentence uttered by Julia Cornwall (they changed her name from Carpenter for some reason) the police have branded Cassie a kidnapper and nobody tries to rectify that situation for the whole movie. Despite this, Cassie easily flies to Peru to "find answers" later on in the film with no apparent issues.

The Teens are boilerplate, Julia is the bookish shy one, Mattie Franklin is the rebellious skateboarder, and Anya Corazon is the science nerd. They really don't do much except bicker a little bit and follow directions after Cassie yells at them. The glamor shots in the trailer of all three as Spider-Women come from short flash-forwards at the beginning and end of the movie, so we don't see them actually being superpowered because I guess that happens later.

But you know who does have spider powers?? Ezekiel Sims is the best part of this movie. Not because I think they did anything well with him, no no no. Ezekiel dresses like discount Kaine and can kill people with his poison touch, but he mostly just gets hit by cars. For a reason I cannot fathom, every single line he says is rerecorded. There are times that his lines don't match his mouth movements even though one must assume it's the same guy saying the line as when they filmed it. The kicker is: They don't even sound good! It's getting to Tommy Wiseau level of ADR, where every line is detached and uncanny.

Speaking of which, that's where this flick shines. You thought the "He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died." was a stilted line with a worse delivery, but believe me there is far more treasure in there. It's funny that they felt the need to take that specific line out of the movie, but left in where Cassie says, "I don't have a neuromuscular disorder." with the same tone as someone denying they're wearing mismatched shoes. Sometimes I repeat to myself, "The girls? The girls have powers? In the future?" I can't possibly list them all, they blaze by like an entire fireworks show going off at once, you're still goggling at the first one before five more fill the gap.

Now there's no way of verifying this unless some actors decide to spill, but it seems like they added a bunch of extra scenes to reiterate things you should already have figured out. You get the backstories of each of the teens twice, the same scenes of Cassie's mom (who was in the Amazon researching spiders right before she died) and it's confusing because it's alongside the repetition they do to show Cassie is experiencing visions! But at the same time there's stuff buried in the movie like they want nerds to analyze it like the first Iron Man movie. So like the Parker family is in there. Emma Roberts plays Mary Parker, Peter Parker's mom, who is pregnant with little Petey, though they never ever say that the child will be named Peter. They only mention the name "Parker" once, even though Ben is Cassie's only friend and Peter's birth is the catalyst for the climax. Is it drilled into your head that the fireworks warehouse on the docks (sponsored by Pepsico) is a deathtrap no less than four times, but the fact that Peter Parker's birth happens in this movie is some kinda Agatha Christie caper for you to figure out.

Now I'm gonna spoil some things because who gives a shit. At the end Cassie is blinded after getting hit in the face by some fireworks after she beats Ezekiel. They go to great pains to show you that she has become blind, with the gray eyes of movie blind, a big bandage over her eyes in the hospital, and sunglasses in the final scene. But also in that final scene, Cassie is suddenly in a motorized wheelchair. She has become paraplegic? I think? I have no idea why. I watched this fucking movie twice because I was sure that I missed something. The only possible explanation that exists within the movie is that Cassie does, in fact, have a neuromuscular disorder, only it skipped the first few decades of her life and caught up with her after she got blind.

There's just so much in this goddamn movie. I haven't even started on Las Arañas and how they all paint themselves red and cover themselves in web patterns and that means Spider-Man is appropriating the culture of this Peruvian tribe of spider men. Or that it didn't even need to be a science spider that bit Peter because there just exists a superpower granting spider, which is great unless you shot a pregnant woman to get one because then you are cursed with dreaming of three hot women in spandex killing you. (Where's the downside?)

It's great. I love it. Make more, please.

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