Sony’s upcoming Madame Web movie is poised to venture into a realm of Spider-Man storytelling that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would likely hesitate to tread. This film, starring Dakota Johnson, delves into the life of Cassandra Webb, a paramedic gifted with precognitive and clairvoyant abilities. She employs these powers to protect three young girls destined to become Spider-People, shielding them from a formidable threat. Madame Web’s narrative is speculated to unfold before the era of Peter Parker, and there are even hints of Adam Scott portraying a young Ben Parker. This marks a significant addition to Sony’s expanding Spider-Man universe, particularly in a year when the MCU has fewer releases.
Through its collaborative efforts with Disney/Marvel Studios, Sony has already introduced a plethora of classic Spider-Man characters into the MCU, such as the Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and various iterations of Peter Parker. Additionally, Sony’s Spider-Verse films have brought numerous non-Peter Parker Spider-People to the big screen, emphasizing the notion that anyone can embody the iconic web-slinger. However, Madame Web stands out as Sony’s first live-action film to explore the origins and lives of Spider-People other than Peter, charting a unique course distinct from the MCU’s portrayal of the character. Sony’s willingness to embrace this distinctive direction signifies its readiness to take creative risks that the MCU might shy away from.
The Emergence of a Dark Spider-Man Villain
In Madame Web, Sony introduces a new and dark Spider-Man character named Ezekiel Sims, marking the first instance of a Spider-Person serving as the primary antagonist in one of its films. As revealed in the trailer, Ezekiel possesses clairvoyant abilities akin to Cassandra’s, and their origins likely share a connection, given Ezekiel’s prior association with Cassandra’s mother before her demise. Ezekiel foresees his future demise at the hands of three Spider-People: Julia Carpenter (Spider-Woman), Anya Corazon (Spider-Girl), and Mattie Franklin (Spider-Woman). In an attempt to avert this fate, he targets them in the present, while Cassandra employs her psychic powers to anticipate his assaults and protect the young Spider-People.
Sony has previously explored narratives featuring dark and villainous Spider-People, notably with Peter Parker succumbing to the corrupting influence of the Venom symbiote in Spider-Man 3 and Miguel O’Hara’s authoritarian tendencies in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. While the MCU could theoretically introduce a darker Spider-Man storyline in its fourth Spider-Man film, such a departure seems unlikely given this version of Peter has consistently been portrayed as a paragon of heroism. In Spider-Man: No Way Home, it was revealed that Peter’s unwavering goodness inadvertently enabled multiversal villains to wreak havoc in his world. The MCU Peter’s exceptional virtue sets him apart, making a storyline where he turns rogue a substantial departure from established characterization.
The MCU’s Commitment to a Heroic Spider-Man
The MCU is unlikely to explore narratives in which its Spider-Man takes a dark and morally ambiguous turn, primarily due to branding concerns. MCU’s Peter Parker is distinguished by his kindness and unwavering moral compass, even when compared to his multiversal counterparts. In No Way Home, his variants serve as mentors and urge him to remain on the path of heroism, as they have grappled with dark inclinations in their pasts and deeply regret those choices. This portrayal of a benevolent Peter has resonated strongly with audiences and aligns seamlessly with Disney’s family-friendly brand. Therefore, Marvel Studios is unlikely to risk deviating from this established persona, as it would represent a significant departure from one of its most beloved and successful heroes.
Furthermore, a narrative shift towards a darker Spider-Man in the MCU could undermine the character development established in No Way Home. Peter’s profound loss and subsequent temptation towards vengeance following Aunt May’s demise were pivotal moments in his journey. However, he ultimately chose heroism over vengeance, with Tobey Maguire’s Peter playing a crucial role in his decision. Peter’s selfless act of making everyone forget him solidified his inherently good nature. Any subsequent MCU film depicting him as a dark character could potentially undo this significant character growth. Consequently, for those seeking a darker iteration of Spider-Man, Madame Web offers an intriguing alternative within Sony’s cinematic universe.