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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

‘Madame Web’ not that bad

‘Madame Web’ a cult classic in the making
Dakota Johnson adjusts her hair on the premiere of “Madame Web” in Mexico. “Madame Web” has not been receiving great reviews from critics, but the film has redeeming qualities. (Marco Ugarte | AP Photo)

If one is to truly appreciate the beauty of “Madame Web,” then one must open your mind to the possibilities and challenge your understanding of good cinema. 

When life seems out of whack and the world seems to crumble around you, pause, take a moment to breathe and reflect. Consider ways to reframe and recontextualize your situation and let go of your preconceived notions. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that people think “Madame Web” did poorly, but to be honest, I think most of the criticism misses the bigger picture. 

The film is not a typical superhero origin story, it’s more nuanced than that.

Let me explain. While yes it’s true at one point the characters involved – both in their “Madame Web” and comic versions – are indeed superheroes, the characters do actually get their powers in the film. 

None of the main protagonists, with the exception of Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson), actually get their powers. In Cassandra’s case, she got her powers after being exposed to the venom, in-utero, of a Peruvian spider believed to have incredible healing properties.  

The movie is less a superhero origin movie and more a film of self-acceptance. 

I really enjoyed that aspect of the movie; the story is all about Webblearning to come to terms with her past and discover who she is and what she is capable of. The journey she went through in becoming her authentic self and unlocking her potential felt powerful. 

Webb’s social awkwardness and difficulty dealing with people was very relatable. One such scene was when she got the drawing of a family from the little boy whose mom she saved. 

She took it not knowing what to do with it but ended up putting the drawing in a box with her mother’s things, her only connection to her past, which shows the level of care and empathy Webb is capable of.  

Her driving skills were also epic to watch. 

Whether Cassandra was running down the bad guy with a taxi or zooming through the streets in her ambulance, every time she got behind the wheel was sensational. 

If you grew up in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, then there’s a lot of nostalgic throwbacks to enjoy such as “American Idol” and Beyoncé songs. 

When “American Idol” came out, my siblings, cousins and I used to watch it every week. “Madame Web” really made me laugh and connect to past experiences with the billboards, music and advertisements displayed.  

Then, there are the other characters. I enjoyed Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) because I found his acting to be amusing and his line delivery to be campy and comical.  

He attempts to be suave and seductive, such as in the beginning when he sleeps with an NSA woman, but his performance feels more like something you’d see in a telenovela – a Spanish soap opera.

While, yes, Ezekiel could have been flushed out more, his evil intentions were clearly derived from his curse after stealing the mythical Peruvian spider from Cassandra’s mother. 

While not explicitly stated, it can be assumed he wanted the spider simply to become powerful. However, due to the curse he received, he was driven to be even more volatile than before, as seeing your own death every night is bound to drive anyone insane.  

In the start of the movie, Ezekiel claims he had been looking for the spider for years. Then, when he explains his dream, he mentions not wanting the girls from his visions to destroy everything he worked for. 

Contextually, you can see the fruits of Ezekiel’s labor. He’s in excellent shape, he has nice clothes, an expensive looking apartment, and based on his car, you can also assume lots of money. It is not cheap to live in New York, but from what we see of Ezekiel’s life, he seems to be living well. 

The relationship between the three girls was also touching. The way they grew and changed together was truly heartwarming. With them all coming together in Cassandra’s apartment, eating and laughing together, then the film showing their future superhero costumes, it felt like the start of something amazing.  

Despite its shortcomings, “Madame Web” is worth the watch if you keep an open mind. I’d pay to watch the film again and would recommend “Madame Web” to everyone. I’d give it four out of five stars. 

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