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‘Madame Web’ is not saved by Dakota Johnson

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By Lindsey Bahr | Associated Press

There is a lot of pretty niche comic book mythology swirling around “Madame Web,” the inspiration for the newest of Sony’s “Spider-Man” spinoffs.

This is a character who goes back to 1980 and whose powers of clairvoyance helped Peter Parker at some point. She’s elderly and blind and sits atop a web throne that keeps her alive. But to be honest, reading about her didn’t help give any more meaning or urgency to the Dakota Johnson movie that’s heading to theaters Wednesday. You’ve been warned.

“Madame Web” is striving to be a classic superhero setup movie, about how the future Madame Web — now just single gal paramedic Cassie Webb — comes to terms with her newfound power that allows her to see the future. Well, sometimes at least, when it involves a death or something extremely violent.

It’s also about the origins of a few other Spider-Women who are now just a couple of teenage girls, played by 20-somethings Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) and Celeste O’Connor (Mattie Franklin). Watching the flash-forwards to these three in their Spidey costumes makes you feel like there’s some Marvel TV show you forgot to watch that might make you care more.

A scene in which they try to sell the idea that all four women are connected in some cosmic way is so wildly strained (“you live in my building,” “you ran in front of my truck”) and inconsequential, you wonder if whichever screenwriter wrote their run-ins initially was even talking to the one who had to try to sell these coincidences. It’s impossible to know what exactly the four credited screenwriters (and three “story by” credits) are responsible for, but “Madame Web” feels like the stitched-together product of a bunch of people who weren’t actually collaborating.

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