Madame Web movie review: zero stars. We have reached the superhero nadir

Zero stars ☆☆☆☆☆

There are incredibly complicated, ancient, IP-related contractual reasons why Sony keep releasing these weird Spider-Man films without Spider-Man in them (hi, Morbius). Basically, they have to make a certain… actually, I don’t fully understand. Or care. The end of superheromovieaggedon cannot come swiftly enough so far as I am concerned. And films like Madame Web will surely do nothing but speed up this process.

To the millions who do care about superheroes, though, this film is a highly contemptuous insult: and the fat cats at Sony (no doubt privately as exhausted by the prospect of making nothing but superhero films as the rest of us) would do well to remember that audience has paid for a lot of third quarter bonuses.

AI will be watching this film with its feet up on the seat in front, maniacally laughing and thinking, “Wow, maybe this business is going to be easier to take over than I thought.”

It is an insult, too, to a quite staggeringly talented cast – Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor, Zosia Mamet, Adam Scott, Tahar Rahim – who are all given absolutely nothing to work with. There is not a single, even attempt at a joke or a one liner. There are two half, painfully slow action scenes.

There were no advance screenings of Madame Web – wonder why? – so I got to read many of my swifter peers’ reviews as I finished my own. Many of them were one star reviews. My question to my swifter peers would be: what was the one star for?

Dakota Johnson, who must at some point surely have contemplated extending an olive branch to EL James to beg for a dialogue polish, is Cassie Web. She discovers she can see a bit into the future: a device that is used again and again and again to violently annoying effect, like back when you had a scratched DVD that kept skipping back or forward a few seconds.

She has to protect three teenagers (O’Connor, Isabela Merced, and Sweeney in fancy dress as a nerd with glasses and pop socks) whom Ezekiel (Tahar Rahim) wants to kill because he has visions of a future in which they kill him. He also knew Cassie’s late mother.

Viewers of Madame Web trailer will know this thanks to the already endlessly-memed line, now absent from the film, from Cassie, that goes, “He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders just before she died!”

And that’s it. Honestly, this is just… ‘Contractual Obligation: The Movie’. As the credits rolled, I stayed and watched all the names floating upwards, aghast at what I had just seen, feeling sorry for everyone down to the second assistant assistants who have probably already decided on a new career in cyber.

It is genuinely shocking – grotesque, even – that an industry we are constantly being told is in crisis is spending $80 million, plus marketing, on films like this. Worse still, you don’t have to be a crackpot conspiracy theorist to take Madame Web of a piece with Batgirl – completed to the tune of $90 million, then never released anywhere – and surmise that there are dark misogynist forces at work somewhere trying to banish the idea of female superheroes forever.

Wrong superhero, but: a dud, a dud, a dud, a dud, a dud, a dud, a dud, a dud a… Just crap, man.

In cinemas from 14th February