The first trailer for Madame Web starring Dakota Johnson and Sydney Sweeney is here, showing off Johnson as Cassandra Webb, a clairvoyant mutant with spider powers. She’s usually an old, blind woman in the comics, but the film reimagines her as sexy, young Dakota Johnson.
Cassandra is Spider-Man adjacent in the comics, so she is part of Sony’s not-quite-MCU that contains Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, as well as Tom Hardy’s Venom, Jared Leto’s Morbius (lol forever), and, eventually, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kraven the Hunter. While the Venom movies have been successful, the rest of the not-Spider-Verse has been less so—Morbius was an epic flop (that Sony got tricked into re-releasing into theaters because they didn’t understand memes). Will Madame Web be more of a Venom, or a Morbius?
The trailer, while not great, isn’t as immediately ridiculous as Kraven the Hunter, at least. At first, I was kind of into it, such is the power of Dakota Johnson. Cassandra is a paramedic; Adam Scott is her partner who resuscitates her when she drowns. This, somehow, unlocks or creates her psychic ability, it’s not clear, but Cassandra ends up with the ability to see the future. Oh, also, Adam Scott is playing Ben Parker. Emma Roberts is on board as May Parker. Are we to believe these are Tom Holland Spider-Man’s aunt and uncle and that Emma Roberts eventually turns into Marisa Tomei? Nah, it’s probably some multiverse/timeline bullsh-t. The relationship between the Sony Spider-Verse and the MCU has always been fraught.
Cassandra then ends up protecting a trio of snarky young women from a black-suited Spider-Man played by Tahar Rahim—this is Ezekiel Sims, one of the many multi-versal Spider-Men. Are you confused yet? Just wait! There’s more! The three young women are Julia Carpenter (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor). They are all Spider-People, too, two of them use the Spider-Woman moniker, Anya is Spider-Girl, and Julia Carpenter also uses the Madame Web moniker. Are you still with me?
No? Did you check out? It’s a lot! Sony has always banked on people having an endless appetite for Spider-Man, which is true, actually. And unlike Morbius, at least Madame Web has people running in around in various Spidey suits—we get a quick glimpse of Sydney Sweeney suited up in a black and white version—so it feels more of a piece with the MCU Spider-Man, except for the Ben and May Parker thing. But it’s set in New York, people are wearing Spidey suits and have Spidey powers, for casual audiences who don’t parse specific differences between universes and super-teams, this might play.
What works less is how bad the dialogue gets in the trailer. People are already dunking on one specific line.
he was in the amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died pic.twitter.com/8AKSb7wEy4— Mark Graham (@unclegrambo) November 15, 2023
If we learned anything from Morbius, it’s that you don’t want your superhero movie to become too much of a meme.
he was in the amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died pic.twitter.com/adWQw8rYkK— alex (@alex_abads) November 15, 2023
To be fair to Madame Web, it doesn’t look Morbius bad, and this trailer is better than the one for Kraven, so I don’t think this movie is hopeless. I just wonder if the multiple Spider-People will play without the charm, verve, and outrageous art of the animated Spider-Verse films. Audiences can keep up with multiple iterations of a character, but do they WANT to? So far, audiences have been VERY lukewarm on the multiverse. Spider-Verse is the only exception, but it has that fun, funky animation working in its favor. Audiences seem to take that as its own thing. Will linking Madame Web change that, and have audiences buying into a live-action Spider-Verse? Or is this an attempt to give their live-action Spidey movies, which have so far been unable to include Tom Holland, some Spideys for the bad guys like Venom and Kraven to fight? Do you even care?
Attached - Dakota Johnson out in New York yesterday.