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  • Scott Carter Cooper

Madame Web



This afternoon I was invited to see Madame Web


Let me preface my comments with this disclaimer.  I am not a fan of the superhero/fantasy genres.  With an occasional lapse, such as the Christopher Nolan Batman series, I find them to be tedious and predictable at best, and morally objectionable at worst.  I believe they have not only much to degrade the quality of the offerings at the movies but have insidiously contributed to the current rise in authoritarianism; promoting the idea that the unwashed masses possess neither the intellect or wherewithal to unleash great misery and downright evil onto themselves, nor the abilities or responsibilities to quash said evils.  The evils and salvation of the world can only be brought about by the genius of one (usually) man.


Phooey.


Still, I went to Madame Web with an idea of trying to learn something.  I was vaguely aware that the movie was not well received by the Marvel Universe inhabitants.  I had actually seen a couple of discussions about the injuries and insults the movie inflicted upon the delicate sensitivities of the Marvel fans.  I’ve sat through my share of bad performances, and my trick for survival is to try to establish in real time the reasons for the poor quality.  If one is willing, there is something to be learned from everything.


To begin with, the delightful surprise of the film is Dakota Johnson.  Given her lineage, one would not expect much, but in the few things I’ve seen her in I’ve been pleasantly surprised by her talent.  With the exception of the actor playing the villain, whose name is best left unmentioned, the cast is quite charming and worthy of a brief franchise in the Marvel Universe.


The same cannot be said of the writers.  There are flashes of competence.  The overall story is a good one and it’s easy to see how a treatment would be greenlit for production.  However the execution of the story is lumpy, with gaps in basic logic an eight-year-old would find hard to swallow.  I’m not talking about the explanation of the hero’s superpowers, which are implausible in the real world at least usually adhere to the logic within the world the hero inhabits.  Here, otherwise smart mortals make wildly stupid decisions with barely a whisper of explanation.


The dialogue is patchy, with Dakota Johnson’s scenes having some charm, and the villain’s scenes sounding like a the first draft of a high-school play.  Exposition is the hardest thing to write in any genre, but in movies it’s particularly delicate business.  Here dialogue starts with the sophomoric phrases like, “As you know…” or “Remember the time when…”


There’s just enough in this film to be frustrating.  You can see the potential for a decent movie and possibly a satisfying sequel, but the lapses in basic logic, the cardboard dialogue and the plot black holes have killed any and all possibility for this female-led franchise to be anything more than a bitter memory to the fans of the genre.  If there’s any good news here, it’s that Ryan Reynolds’s Green Lantern and Ben Affleck’s Daredevil will no longer be the butt of the superhero jokes.

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