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Madame Web: The Negative Reviews Didn't "Surprise" Dakota Johnson

Madame Web star Dakota Johnson says that the movie's negative reviews didn't "surprise" her, and the film is an example of filmmaking by way of committee.

Article Summary

  • Dakota Johnson expected negative reviews for Madame Web, citing filmmaking by committee.
  • Johnson doesn't blame director SJ Clarkson or writers for the film's issues.
  • Art suffers when made by committee, impacting big and even smaller films, says Johnson.
  • Madame Web's failure is a symptom of enduring issues at Sony, not individual faults.

The writing on the wall for Madame Web appeared bright and evident to everyone from the moment we saw the first trailer and images. There was a glimmer of hope that maybe the film would be so bad it somehow became good, but it was just a mess and even its good ideas were kneecapped by poor execution. While the film's failure was fascinating to watch, people were even more fascinated by the bizarre press tour that the cast, and primarily star Dakota Johnson, was on. Johnson seemed aware that everything wasn't going well, and her honesty was refreshing. She was recently interviewed by Bustle, and when asked if the negative reviews were surprising, Johnson replied, "Unfortunately, I'm not surprised that this has gone down the way it has."

Madame Web: 2 New High-Quality Images Have Been Released
Cassandra Webb/Madame Web (Dakota Johnson) in Columbia Pictures' MADAME WEB. Photo By: Beth Dubber © 2023 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

However, Johnson is a nepo baby [even if she doesn't want to admit it], so she has seen this industry from every angle, and even when she is talking about the failures of Madame Web, she never puts it on director SJ Clarkson or even the people who wrote the script. Instead, Johnson sees Madame Web as the amalgamation of everything wrong with Hollywood right now, and everything about that is done by the people at that top, not the people making the actual film.

"It's so hard to get movies made, and in these big movies that get made — and it's even starting to happen with the little ones, which is what's really freaking me out — decisions are being made by committees, and art does not do well when it's made by committee," Johnson explained. "Films are made by a filmmaker and a team of artists around them. You cannot make art based on numbers and algorithms. My feeling has been for a long time that audiences are extremely smart, and executives have started to believe that they're not. Audiences will always be able to sniff out bullsh*t. Even if films start to be made with AI, humans aren't going to f*cking want to see those.

"But it was definitely an experience for me to make that movie," Johnson continued. "I had never done anything like it before. I probably will never do anything like it again because I don't make sense in that world. And I know that now. But 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? But it was a real learning experience, and of course, it's not nice to be a part of something that's ripped to shreds, but I can't say that I don't understand."

Madame Web was a massive failure, but Johnson doesn't want us to see that as a failure of Clarkson, herself, or costars, but the people at Sony and every other studio who believe in movie making by way of committee. This is the thing that sunk the previous version of the Spider-Man franchise, and Madame Web appears to be a symptom that the disease never really went away; Marvel Studios just helped Sony hide it a little better. Sony is releasing two more Marvel movies this year, but this failure will be lingering over this studio for a long time. It's just good that Johnson is stepping in and ensuring that a promising director like Clarkson doesn't end up in director jail for something that wasn't her fault.

Madame Web: Summary, Cast List, Release Date

"Meanwhile, in another universe…" In a switch from the typical genre, Madame Web tells the standalone origin story of one of Marvel publishing's most enigmatic heroines. The suspense-driven thriller stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb, a paramedic in Manhattan who may have clairvoyant abilities. Forced to confront revelations about her past, she forges a relationship with three young women destined for powerful futures…if they can all survive a deadly present.

Madame Web, directed by SJ Clarkson, stars Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O'Connor, Isabela Merced, Tahar Rahim, Mike Epps, Emma Roberts, and Adam Scott. It was released on February 14, 2024.

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Kaitlyn BoothAbout Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Film critic and pop culture writer since 2013. Ace. Leftist. Nerd. Feminist. Writer. Replicant Translator. Cinephillic Virtue Signaler. She/Her. UFCA/GALECA Member. 🍅 Approved. Follow her Threads, Instagram, and Twitter @katiesmovies.
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