As they’re wont to do, and honestly, as is prudent for them to do, Clarkson, writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (“Dracula Untold,” “Morbius”), and the rest of the sizable team at both Sony and Marvel appear to have sought a balance between fan service and a fresh start. Johnson’s Cassandra Webb (yes, Madame Web is Ms. Webb’s honorary moniker and not a nickname) and Sweeney’s Julia Carpenter are both derived directly from the “Amazing Spider-Man” comics first authored by Denny O’Neil and artist John Romita Jr., and later Joe Kelly. But there’s plenty of original spin and brand-new inventions to keep things unburdened by the weight of Marvel’s increasingly unmanageable lore.
In the comics, Cassandra Webb is depicted as an old woman kept alive by an intricate, spider-like web, hence her nickname. A rare neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis renders movement virtually impossible, but also gifted her with powerful telepathic and clairvoyant abilities. There’s tons of lore around Cassandra and various spider-women, including Julia Carpenter, to whom Madame Webb eventually transfers all her power in a moment of crisis. But as can be seen in the new trailer, the new film appears to want to keep things, how shall we say, spritely, especially in the casting of the 34-year-old Johnson in the role of Cassandra Webb. The “Spider-Man” movies consistently perform quite well, but these days, with superhero movies seemingly on an unstoppable decline from their former perch atop the zeitgeist, it’s anyone’s guess.
You’ll be able to judge for yourself when “Madame Web” zooms into theaters on February 14, 2024.