Why the Madame Web Movie Turned Out So Bad, Explained

By Gillian Blum Posted:
Ezekiel Simz, Dakota Johnson, Madame Web logo, Cassandra Webb

Whether it came as a surprise or a confirmation of suspicions, Madame Web was objectively a failure and flop.

The bad reception likely resulted from many factors such as fundamental storytelling choices and an association with an already-belittled franchise.

Over its entire theatrical run, Madame Web grossed slightly over $100 million, with a production budget of around $80 million.

Opening week saw Madame Web earn a bit over $15 million, which made up 35% of its total gross. With a 61% earnings drop from week one to week two, Madame Web could confidently be considered a financial flop and a bad movie.

[ Madame Web's Bad Reviews Explained: 6 Biggest Criticisms ]

Why Did Madame Web Flop?

Madame Web main girls
Marvel

Madame Web was a critical and financial flop, and several factors contributed to bringing it to that bad point.

The Story Itself

Madame Web's story seems to have gotten lost in the conversation surrounding its other bad missteps. But the movie's actual plot is fundamentally flawed.

The movie shows how Cassie (Dakota Johnson) became blind and paraplegic (she was hit by an exploding firework). It includes the birth of Peter Parker. It shows audiences a young Uncle Ben.

For a movie about how "her web connects them all" which features a scene where Cassie sees that connecting web, Madame Web's plot points simply do not connect.

Is Cassie trying to save the three girls whom Ezekiel Sims believes will one day kill him, or learn about her powers? Who are those girls? Why them specifically? Things like this make the plot seem random, and, as many have said, incoherent.

On The Heels of Morbius + Writers

When a movie announces that its writers are the same team who created a film based on the same intellectual property that was so bad it literally flopped twice (Morbius), it's hard to blame people for being skeptical. Madame Web proved those skeptics right.

Whatever live-action Sony Spider-Man Universe movie was to follow the absolute disaster that was Morbius needed to be airtight. At the very least, it needed to beat the low bar Morbius set. A recipe for success in that regard does not include re-hiring those same writers.

Plus, it did not help that the internet immediately started giving the infamous Madame Web trailer the Morbius treatment, even before the former was released, let alone after critics tore it apart.

Lack of Passion from Actors Involved

If a movie's actors are not passionate about what they are doing, said movie will suffer for it. Passion is vital to a movie — it brings heart, stakes, and believability to the project.

Unfortunately, it seems that at least some of Madame Web's main stars did not have any passion for the project, making the bad even worse.

With Madame Web's theatrical run so close to that of Sydney Sweeney's passion project Immaculate, many wondered why Sweeney even chose to be in Madame Web to begin with. She told The Hollywood Reporter that to her, the movie "was a building block" that offered her critical industry connections:

"To me that film was a building block. It’s what allowed me to build a relationship with Sony. Without doing 'Madame Web' I wouldn’t have a relationship with the decision-makers over there ... Everything in my career I do not just for that story, but strategic business decisions. Because I did that, I was able to sell 'Anyone But You.' I was able to get 'Barbarella.'"

While it was a smart career move on Sweeney's end, her involvement in Madame Web truly had little to do with the movie itself.

Dakota Johnson shared in an interview with Bustle that during filming, she started to find that the movie was not exactly what she originally signed onto.

"Sometimes in this industry, you sign on to something, and it’s one thing and then as you’re making it, it becomes a completely different thing, and you’re like, Wait, what?"

This is not to blame these performers. However, a lack of passion from the performers could accentuate the already flimsy script, possibly making audiences less inclined to feel passionate too.

Not Only Not Comic Accurate, but Spat in the Face of the Comics

Madame Web seems to have attempted fan service but instead may have just disappointed comics fans.

Advertising ahead of the movie indicated that the characters Julia Cornwall, Anya Corazon, and Mattie Franklin would spend time as their superhero counterparts from the comics.

There was footage of them in their superhero suits, which raised expectations. That footage was in the movie, technically, but only via visions of the future. It dangled the representation of these relatively more underground female characters in front of fans' noses, only to give just a taste.

This is on top of jokes that may have been intended to be darkly ironic but did not land with comics fans. For instance, there is a moment where a young Ben Parker asks, "You've never been shot at in Queens?" This is, of course, a reference to when he will be shot in Queens in the future, but many just found it sad.

Bad Timing, Even Worse Marketing

Despite not even being in the MCU, Madame Web certainly suffered from the effects of MCU fatigue.

Fans have felt somewhat oversaturated by Marvel content over the past couple of years. This feels especially prevalent when the quality of the movie is as low as Madame Web's is.

Madame Web's flaws only add to the belief so many have that the MCU is dropping in quality as it rises in quantity, at a time when that is dominating superhero discourse.

If nothing else, Madame Web's trailer is infamous for one particular line: "He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders just before she died."

Interestingly enough, the line was not even in the actual movie. However, it represented many of the main criticisms people have of Madame Web. They argue that the line feels forced and unnecessarily complicated and that it can be hard to tell if it is meant to be taken seriously.

Still, some loved the trailer and hoped the new movie would help fix the damage from Morbius. People liked the visuals a lot, and found the story compelling, even if a little confusing.

Both of these reactions to the trailer just worsen the experience of Madame Web for many fans. 

Those who hated the trailer or liked it ironically may have gone in expecting the worst, and many reviewers argued Madame Web was still a disappointment despite these low expectations. Those who loved the trailer may have gone in with higher expectations, which were shattered upon seeing the movie itself.

Will Kraven Continue This Pattern?

All signs point to the upcoming Kraven the Hunter film following in the crooked, stumbling footsteps laid by Morbius and Madame Web.

The movie was delayed to December, and, in what may be a display of hubris on Sony's part, the studio said it was so that people could watch it "over and over again."

Many have compared this to the infamous Morbius re-release, and it could be argued that this level of confidence is entirely unearned (at least based on past films).

Ultimately, though, it remains to be seen this December when Kraven the Hunter releases.


Madame Web is streaming on Netflix.

- In This Article: Madame Web
Release Date
February 14, 2024
Platform
Theaters
- About The Author: Gillian Blum
Gillian Blum has been a writer at The Direct since 2022, reporting primarily from New York City. Though she covers news from across the entertainment industry, Gillian has a particular focus on Marvel and DC, including comics, movies, and television shows. She also commonly reports on Percy Jackson, Invincible, and other similar franchises.