Madame Webb (Blu-Ray) Review

Ned Jordan
In Short
A really good Blu-Ray release of a film that could have been and should have been much better.
Madame Webb Poster

When it comes to comics, I exist in a twilight region. I know far more than the general public, even those who catch every MCU movie in the theaters, but my knowledge pales in comparison to those who are truly into comics. I mention this because when I first heard about the Madame Webb movie, I was only ever so vaguely aware of who she was, and this was probably also what the film was up against with the movie-going public, even the those who regularly watch super hero movies. The movie simply could not assume that its audience was as familiar with a Madame Webb origin story as it was with yet another Spider-Man origin story, and yet that’s just what it did.

The first thing that comes across as strange is that most of the movie takes place in 2003. Why 2003? There’s no connection to a major world event that occurred in that year, or to any major plot points that would have been rendered moot in the age of the smart phone. The answer lies in some connections to Spider-Man that can only be uncovered outside of the context of the movie – providing pure fan service comes at the expense of the narrative at hand, and makes the story weaker since it can’t stand on its own without that insider knowledge that exists outside of the film. Now I’m all for leaving little nuggets of lore within a film for true fans to recognize, but you can’t alienate the rest of the audience who isn’t in on the reference. Hey look, some guy named Ben has a sister who’s having a baby …

But that’s not the only mistake this film makes. There are some huge motivating factors for some of the central characters that are never explained, most surprisingly for the villain, Ezekial Sims. He betrays Constance Webb, Cassie “Madame” Webb’s mother, on an expedition to the jungles of Peru to locate a mythical spider with healing powers, but we’re never really given any context to understand their relationship or the motivation for the betrayal. It’s hard for the audience to feel anything at the moment of betrayal when they don’t understand the nature of the relationship in the first place. Fast-forward to 2003 and Sims is an obscenely wealthy magnate obsessed with a dream in which three women with spider powers murder him in the future. He’s rich, he keeps the magical spider in his apartment, and he seems to have some limited Spider-Man like powers – how, why, who knows? Anyway, he is able to describe the look of the masked assassins in his dreams to a degree to which a hacker he hires is able to watch every surveillance camera in existence on the East Coast to track age-regressed versions of his killers via facial recognition. Oh, and for some unexplained reason there’s a weird vibe between Sims and his hacker Amaria that hints at either an abusive relationship or a hacker with misgivings about her work, but, whatever, that never goes anywhere.

So, while Sims is obsessed with killing his future assassins who are merely teenage girls at the present, Cassie finds herself becoming their protector. She has the power to watch events unfold in the present, and then rewind time to get a do-over and change the outcome the second time around. So she sees Sims kill the girls over and over again, and then rewinds time to thwart his efforts. We’re never given any clue as to why three super heroes would murder someone, but they eventually do murder him for attempting to murder them for murdering him in a different manner in the future. Got that?

I think that Madame Webb could have been at least a passable super hero movie, but it appears to be the victim of post-production script updates. There are a number of lines of dialog that are spoken with a character’s back to the camera, and if you watch closely you can see some moments of dialog delivered without the character moving their lips. The lack of anything in this movie referencing Spider-Man directly, or how the three teenaged girls eventually become the three Spider-Women who appear so briefly in Sims’ vision of the future, makes one wonder if the explicit connections once planned for the film died in some sort of corporate licensing hell and forced the movie’s plot to be reworked before release. Not that those issues alone are responsible for the plot’s problems – we still are left with enough issues that the movie’s best possible timeline would have resulted in it being a serviceable, average super hero movie. In that case, it may have had a chance for a sequel, or even an outside chance at a franchise, but as it stands, we have probably seen the last of Madame Webb until it’s aged enough to warrant a reboot.

Put all of its plot issues aside, and the Blu-ray release itself is good. The picture quality is excellent, and the audio quality is as well, with a perfectly balanced sound mix between the dialog and action scenes and immersive surround sound. In addition to a digital copy of the film, the Blu-Ray release offers a number of special features. The cast interviews aren’t that illuminating – you primarily get a lot of sound bites of cast members praising other cast members for how great they are to work with. The behind-the-scenes looks at what went into the action scenes are fascinating – it’s always interesting to see what was real and what was added later for iconic scenes in a movie, as well as understanding what the actors actually saw and interacted with when they filmed those scenes. The best feature is a look at the comic book origins of the film, as well as some of the tributes to the comics and easter eggs the team dropped into the film.

Final Rating: starstarno starno starno star

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Transmitted: 6/19/2024 8:00:42 PM