Sony is still building its own universe of Spider-Man characters, and while the success of the Venom films and the near-universal acclaim for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and its sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, suggest it is feasible, there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid. The primary stumbling block: the absence of (a live-action) Spider-Man, who is still on loan to Marvel Studios.
Nevertheless, Sony has been working toward this goal since before the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and though the critical and commercial stumble of that film put things on pause, it will eventually be a reality thanks to nearly-finished projects like Kraven The Hunter and Madame Web, the latter of which is currently scheduled to be the next expansion after Venom, the Spider-Verse pictures, and Morbius. But is it a gamble? Madame Web may be familiar to a generation of fans who fondly remember the FOX animated Spider-Man series, but she’s something of a mystery to those who were not plopped in front of the TV weekday afternoons in the mid-to-late 1990s. Nevertheless, there may be something to her — and the characters entering her web — that may yet prove compelling.
Let’s take a look at everything we know about Madame Web and see if we can’t make an educated guess about its chances in the 2024 superhero landscape.
(Photo by Marvel.com)
Back in the Marvel Comics universe, Madame Web first appeared in 1980’s The Amazing Spider-Man #210 by Denny O’Neil and John Romita Jr (with inker Joe Sinnott, colorist Bob Sharen, and letterer Jim Novak). In its pages, Cassandra Webb proved to be a clairvoyant with remarkably accurate predictions for Peter Parker and an in-depth explanation for her life support apparatus, which resembled a spider’s web. As it happens, the older woman had myasthenia gravis — an autoimmune condition impacting nerve impulse reception in the muscles — and her late husband created a way to sustain her life. Meanwhile, her ability helps Spider-Man save the day, and she agrees to keep his dual identity a secret.
Subsequent stories would reveal her precognitive skill is a mutation (in the X-Men sense) and that she is the grandmother of Spider-Woman Charlotte Witter. She also helped train Mattie Franklin, who also became Spider-Woman. Eventually dying, she was able to gift her abilities to yet another Spider-Woman, Julia Carpenter.
But as we mentioned above, the character arguably made her largest impression to viewers of the 1990s Spider-Man animated series, where she occasionally tested Peter (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes) in preparation for a battle across the Multiverse. Yes, it was happening even back then!
In the film, though, Cassandra is a New York area paramedic who finds she can see into the future. While trying to run from her abilities, her past, and a spider-themed assailant, she ends up helping three women who have spidery futures of their own.
(Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Sony Pictures)
As is customary for Marvel characters, New York City is the film’s primary location, although the trailers suggest Cassandra — or Cassie — will venture out of the five boroughs as the plot demands.
But one question remains about the setting: which New York are we seeing? The one of Morbius? The one Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) fled prior to the beginning of Venom? The one Kraven the Hunter (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) will stalk in his self-titled film? Or is it yet another New York held together on the silken strands of the Spider-Verse?
Considering the way multiverses became groan-inducing in 2023, it is possible Madame Web will avoid this question altogether, with few — if any — references to a larger Spider-Verse or Marvel Multiverse. And, perhaps, that will be a refreshing change.
(Photo by Sony Pictures)
Dakota Johnson stars as Cassie. As mentioned above, she is a paramedic with clairvoyant abilities, the source of which may be her mother’s research into obscure spider-related topics. Joining her on a path through the spider-world are Sydney Sweeney as Julia Carpenter, Celeste O’Connor as Mattie Franklin, and Isabela Merced as Anya Corazon. You may recognize two of the character names from above or your own delving into Spider-Man comics. The third is a 2004 addition to the spider-woman ranks who goes by the name Araña when in costume.
Indeed, the three represent the future Cassie sees and a threat to Tahar Rahim’s Ezekiel Sims. Originally a businessman in the comics who came into possession of spider abilities via a ritual, his feature film counterpart worked with Cassie’s mother and now considers the eventual Spider-Women his primary opposition. It is possible the film’s take on Sims shares a belief with the one in the comics: Those with animal-like abilities are part of supernatural food cycle.
Other cast members include Mike Epps, Emma Roberts, Adam Scott, and Zosia Mamet. Although their roles have not been confirmed, reports suggest Scott is Ben Parker, Peter’s uncle who famously instructed his nephew on what comes with great power. Similar reports cast Roberts as a pre-aunt May Parker. And considering Spider-Woman Charlotte Witter is unaccounted for, maybe Mamet’s character will use a bit of time travel to meet her grandmother. This is based on Marvel comic books, after all. Anything is possible.
Also: IMDb lists Jill Hennessy as appearing in the film in the role of “Beautiful Woman.”
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
The film is helmed by director S.J. Clarkson, a Marvel veteran thanks to two episodes each of Jessica Jones and The Defenders. Her non-Marvel bona fides include episodes of Succession, Orange is the New Black, Banshee, and Dexter, among a slew of others. Although this is her first feature, her television credits are quite varied and suggest the sort of experience required to launch a Spider-Man character without the help of Peter Parker.
Clarkson also has a writing credit on the film alongside Claire Parker and the earlier writing team of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. The latter pair also share a story credit with Kerem Sanga. Reportedly, Sazama and Sharpless’ early draft predates any casting or Clarkson agreeing to direct. The script was rewritten once the director took the job and Johnson was cast in the lead. The pair’s earlier film work includes Morbius, Gods of Egypt, and Dracula Untold.
Former Warner Bros. Pictures executive Lorenzo di Bonaventura serves as producer with Adam Merims and Claire Parker as executive producers. Additional crew include director of photography Mauro Fiore, editor Leigh Folsom Boyd, production designer Ethan Tobman, costume designer Ngila Dickson, and composer Johan Söderqvist.
(Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Sony Pictures)
Like so many other films these days, Madame Web was delayed several times, but it is currently holding onto a February 14, 2024 release date, and it has been reported that it will be the longest film yet in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe at 1 hour, 56 minutes. And though the title character is precognitive, it is hard for us to say how much of a future she has in the movies. Sony’s Spider-Man universe has yet to really kick off as intended, and though there is the possibility of success, it is possible Cassie will make a cameo in Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse before disappearing into the mists.