Bolstered by the back-to-back success of Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: No Way Home, Sony continues to expand their non-MCU Spider-verse, adding Dakota Johnson to the roster in a Madame Web movie. This will be Sony’s first female-fronted superhero movie, and the film is set to be directed by S.J. Clarkson, who previously worked on the Marvel Netflix series Jessica Jones and The Defenders. The script is from Morbius writers Matt Sazama and Burke Sharpless.
In the comics, Madame Web (aka Cassandra Webb), is an elderly woman with myasthenia gravis, which leaves her bedridden and blind, but thanks to psychic abilities, she is able to project her astral form—as we’ve seen Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch do in the MCU—and help heroes like Spider-Man from within her “web” of clairvoyance and psionic powers. Given that Dakota Johnson is not, as far we know, an elderly woman, I wonder if she will be playing the younger version of the character called Julia Carpenter. In the comics, a dying Cassandra Webb passes her powers off to Julia, who becomes the second Madame Web. Or maybe they’ll do old age makeup on Johnson for Cassandra’s corporeal form, and she’ll be young in her astral form. It’s not clear what Sony is doing with this but casting Dakota Johnson indicates Madame Web will not be elderly at least some of the time.
I continue to wonder what the value of a Spider-verse without the MCU is, though. With Venom, Sony has stumbled ass backwards into an Avengers-free hit franchise, but Morbius will be the real test of how much audiences want a Spider-verse without the potential for Avengers crossovers (and even that is leaning on Michael Keaton to play an alt-version of the Vulture, touching the MCU tangentially). I like the idea of Dakota Johnson as Madame Web, she’s the kind of freaky-creepy superhero an interesting actor like Johnson can sink her teeth into, but I just don’t trust Sony. The Venom movies aren’t GOOD, they’re just bonkers enough to be fun, thanks largely to Tom Hardy’s eccentric performance(s). A Madame Web movie, though, wouldn’t have the same kind of demented rom-com vibe that works for Venom. But they do seem committed to casting oddball actors to play their weirdest characters, and that I can support.