Madame Web Could’ve Benefited From a Stronger Spider-Man Connection

Summary

  • Madame Web’s standalone nature has possibly doomed the movie’s box office prospects.
  • The Sony Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC) is lacking direction in a time of superhero fatigue.
  • One way that Madame Web could’ve been more profitable was with the actual introduction of Spider-Man.


The upcoming Madame Web movie has been questioned ever since its creative elements were announced. From changing a lot of elements about the title character to taking place within the still amorphous Sony Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC), there’s always been something going against the film. That’s seemingly being cemented in the movie’s box office prospects, but that could have changed with one minor — yet important — inclusion.

Despite being regarded as Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, the SUMC/SSU doesn’t have Spidey himself in any movie. Though the movie is currently poised for a disappointing box office performance, changing the lack of one hero in particular and paving the way for Spider-Man to become the focus was an easy way to make Madame Web more relevant among moviegoers. Likewise, it would also have increased interest in the Sony Spider-Man Universe as a whole, ensuring more hype for future entries.


Madame Web Is Already Sony’s Next Morbius

Madame Web and Morbius

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Madame Web Teaser Unveils New Footage of the Spider-Women’s Suits

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Many fans were immediately skeptical of the prospects for Madame Web, especially given the character and the changes made to Cassandra Webb. In the comics, Cassandra Webb is more of a side character, and due to her being a paraplegic elderly woman, she’s almost never an active part of any Spider-Man stories. Despite this precedent, the movie has her played by Dakota Johnson and portrayed as a young woman without any physical disabilities. Though she retains her clairvoyant powers, on the whole, the movie and many of the other characters involved (namely the villainous take on Spider-Man ally Ezekiel Sims) bear little resemblance to the source material.

On top of all this, there’s the fact that the movie’s quality has also come into question. This was especially the case after the first trailer for Madame Web was released, with even mainstream audiences scratching their heads at several elements. The most notable of these issues was a line involving Cassandra Webb’s mother doing research on spiders in the Amazon. Madame Web’s clunky dialogue quickly became the stuff of internet memes, and as a result, many are already expecting it to be comparable to the notable 2022 disappointment of Sony’s Morbius. That movie’s post-credits scene, in particular, was a sore point that spoke to another major issue with Sony’s Spider-Man Universe as a whole.

Sony Seemingly Doesn’t Have a Plan for the SUMC

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The Sony Spider-Man Universe began in 2018 with the release of Venom, and that movie notably had to remove Spider-Man from the title antihero’s origin story. Despite some rocky critical reception, the film and its 2021 sequel were financial hits. Sadly, that wasn’t recreated with Morbius, and that’s likely to remain the case for Madame Web. A major issue with all of these movies is that they’re examples of Sony wanting to ride the wave of shared cinematic superhero universes, but without the forethought.

There’s seemingly no throughline for the SSU/SUMC, with very little in the way of proper build-up. It’s unclear if Spider-Man himself exists in this universe or if the villains are all going to team up to fight him. It doesn’t help that so many of the movies are seemingly being developed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in mind. Early trailers for Morbius involved scenes with Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes/Vulture from the MCU, and these sequences suggest that the movie was set in that universe. Similarly, reports have stated that Madame Web was at one point envisioned as the origin story for the MCU’s Tom Holland Spider-Man. That might have been the best option, but even then, riding on the interest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t the guaranteed success it once was.

Sony Can’t Rely On the MCU’s Waning Popularity

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One theory among more cynical fans is that Sony has tried to capitalize on the success of Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe to generate interest from casual viewers. Those unaware of the legal situation involving the cinematic rights to Spider-Man will simply assume that Sony’s fare (beyond the animated Spider-Verse movies) are connected to the MCU. Thus, the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would, at least initially, feed into the Sony Spider-Man Universe movies. It’s a flawed concept that, if true, speaks to the general lack of planning on display in the Sony projects. After all, even less discerning audiences might eventually get wise to the reality of Sony’s movies. Conversely, vaguely “tying” things to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no longer the bulletproof plan that it once was.

The MCU’s movies are also becoming a lot less popular after Avengers: Endgame, and ironically, it’s Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man movies that are the only consistent hits. There have been multiple MCU projects in a row with mixed to negative reception, with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania being a major critical black eye. Likewise, movies and shows that might have once dominated the competition are struggling, with 2023’s The Marvels being the MCU’s biggest bomb yet. Thus, the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t anything that other movies might want to hitch their wagons to. At the same time, Spider-Man himself is still the most profitable property, which speaks to perhaps the biggest mistake with Madame Web.

It’s Time to Announce the Non-MCU Spider-Man

Images of Josh Hutcherson and Spider-Man.

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Sony outright owns the cinematic rights to Spider-Man and his related characters, not Marvel Studios. In fact, this has outright changed plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Kraven the Hunter kept out of previous movies due to Sony owning him. Thus, Sony is well within rights to simply have its own live-action Spider-Man movie series with a version of Peter Parker that’s not played by Tom Holland. Given that the Sony Spider-Man Universe is over half a decade old and still doesn’t feature Spidey himself, the time for the studio to do this is now.

Introducing Spider-Man properly in to the SSU/SUMC would do wonders in terms of making audiences care about the upcoming movies. If nothing else, they’d likely have further crossovers or battles against the Sinister Six to look forward to. It might also make all these villain spinoff movies worthwhile and have a purpose. Not only would this give something to build up toward, but it might also make the immediate movie that Spider-Man is featured in more anticipated. Movies that were once only mild curiosities to some might suddenly become must-see cinema due to their containing a certain hero that people are actually interested in. As much as Spider-Man serves that role in the current MCU, he can definitely do the same and more in the SUMC.

This is the kind of attention that the supposedly standalone Madame Web movie desperately needs, especially given its current box office trajectory. Given how steeply Morbius fell off a cliff at the box office following its first weekend, a similar fate can easily befall Sony’s newest movie. Regardless of quality, these films might not be such flashes in the pan if they were actively building toward something, especially if it involved an element that was guaranteed to entice viewers. Spider-Man is that element, but excising him as much as possible is not going to help the SSU maintain any semblance of relevance. Instead, movies like Madame Web need to make their connections to the Web-Slinger clear. After all, there’s no reason for general audiences to care about a Spider-Man Universe without Spider-Man.

Madame Web spins into theaters on Feb. 14, 2024.

Madame Web Updated Film Poster

Madame Web

Cassandra Webb is a New York City paramedic who starts to show signs of clairvoyance. Forced to confront revelations about her past, she must protect three young women from a mysterious adversary who wants them dead.

Release Date
February 14, 2024

Director
S.J. Clarkson

Cast
Sydney Sweeney , Isabela Merced , Dakota Johnson , Emma Roberts

Main Genre
Superhero

Writers
Kerem Sanga , Matt Sazama , Burk Sharpless

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