There are bombs, and then there are bombs like Madame Web, a movie so bad it not only got an 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and it is not only Sony’s lowest-grossing Marvel movie by a margin of $60 million, its own star made it very clear she did not care for her own movie while she was supposed to be promoting it during the film’s press tour.

That would be Dakota Johnson, who plays the title character. Johnson fired her agents shortly after Madame Web’s trailer premiered — never a great sign! — and then during its press tour she was about as candid about the final product as you’ll ever see from a major movie star, saying to Bustle. “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 bulls—.” Johnson also said she probably would not make a superhero movie ever again.

But hey, Netflix has got all kinds of algorithms! And wouldn’t you know it? Despite its atrocious reviews, and the fact that it made only $100 million worldwide, last week Madame Web became the #1 movie on Netflix in the United States.


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That’s according to Netflix’s own data website, where Madame Web topped the list of films in the U.S. last week, coming ahead of Netflix originals like Mother of the Bride and Thelma the Unicorn, as well as other licensed titles like Shrek and Shrek Forever AfterThe Super Mario Bros. Movie, and Dumb and Dumber To. (At last, the world is beginning to recognize the brilliance of Dumb and Dumber To.)

Worldwide, Madame Web was the #2 movie around the world on Netflix, topped only by the aforementioned Mother of the Bride. In total, 10.8 million subscribers on Netflix watched Madame Web, for a total of 20.8 million hours.

That’s a lot of Madame Web.

In the film, Dakota Johnson plays Cassie Webb, an EMT who discovers precognitive abilities after a near-death experience. She also discovers that a man named Ezekiel (Tahar Rahim) with similar powers wants to kill three young women before they can grow into spider-powered superheroes. (They’re played by Isabel Merced, Celeste O’Connor, and Sydney Sweeney, who seems like she is regretting signing on for a supporting role in Madame Web as scenes are happening all around her.)

Cassie reluctantly seeks out the women and tries to protect them from Ezekiel, while also trying to figure out where her mysterious super powers come from. (Spoiler alert: They might have something to do with Ezekiel being with Cassie’s mom in the Amazon when she was researching spiders right before she died.)

Jessica Kourkounis

Was Madame Web unjustly mistreated by audiences? Are discerning Netflix viewers finally recognizing that it was a secret masterpiece? Uh, no. I saw the movie in theaters — paid my own money, in fact — and I can confirm it was as bad as you heard. It would have been bad by the standards of the comic-book movies of 20 years ago, much less 2024. As I wrote in my review...

Like a lot of those pre-Marvel Studios Marvel movies, Madame Web seems vaguely embarrassed to be based on a superhero comic. The same goes for Dakota Johnson, who plays the title character — although can you technically call someone a title character if said character never actually goes by the name mentioned in the title? Johnson plays Cassie Webb; no one onscreen ever calls her “Madame Web.” With one very brief exception, she never wears a superhero costume in the film, either. Like I said, everyone looks a little ashamed of what they’re doing. (Under the circumstances, that’s not an unreasonable reaction.)

But I get it; on Netflix, the price is right. If you’re already a subscriber you have nothing to lose by trying it (other than, you know, an hour and 56 minute of your precious life you won’t get back). I have to believe that a fair number of those 10.8 million subscribers are turning Madame Web off (or devoting their full attention to Ruzzle on their phones) long before it ends.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, Madame Web is now streaming on Netflix.

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