In the ever-evolving world of superhero movie franchises, Sony's Spider-Man Universe has developed a pretty unique reputation. The franchise — which sets out to make live-action films around Spider-Man-adjacent characters that (largely) exist outside of the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Spider-Man movies — has made some unexpected and entertaining decisions along the way. So far, that has consisted of two Venom installments, a long-delayed Morbius movie, and a number of additional film and television projects in the works. On Thursday, Sony's plans for its Marvel universe surprised the Internet once again, when it was announced that Dakota Johnson is in talks to star in a Madame Web solo film.
While Madame Web has been rumored to be in the works in one way or another since 2019, with Jessica Jones alum S.J. Clarkson lined up to direct, this casting update perplexed the Internet, especially given Madame Web's unique position in the Marvel Comics sphere. The original version of the character, Cassandra Webb, is traditionally portrayed as a blind, superpowered elderly woman connected to a spiderweb-like life support system, who functions more as a convenient plot device for other heroes and villains than as a standalone superhero. This fact made fans not only question why 32-year-old Johnson would be cast as Madame Web, but what a Madame Web movie would even be about, with memes and copypasta quickly being made out of the character's limited role in the comics. While we're realistically still a ways away from potentially seeing Madame Web become a reality, there is a chance that the project could be something wildly different from the story that the Internet (and even some journalists) are assuming it to be. Sure, it could ultimately end up being a "young Cassandra Webb" movie — but it could also be a movie surrounding her successor, Julia Carpenter.
Created by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck in 1984's Secret Wars storyline, Julia was accidentally given superpowers in a secret government study held by The Commission, and began to operate as the second Spider-Woman. After operating on the corrupt government-created team Freedom Force, Julia broke ranks and became a true hero, eventually being inducted into the West Coast Avengers, the Secret Defenders, and Force Works. She also operated on a number of solo adventures, particularly against Death Web, a group that was also given super powers by The Commission. After dealing with the kidnapping of her daughter Rachel, Julia stepped away from being a superhero, and returned decades later as Arachne in the events of Civil War. She was then given Madame Web's powers — as well as her blindness — just before Cassandra Webb died. As Madame Web, Julia dealt with the goings-on of Spider-Island, as well as the events of the Spider-Verse and Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy storylines.
When you break down Julia's comic tenure — the story of a headstrong young woman and mother who operates as a superhero, and eventually gains the telepathic powers and responsibility of Madame Web — it's much easier to imagine the potential storyline of a Madame Web movie. The movie could hypothetically function as an amalgam of Julia's original origin story and the time she stepped into the role of Madame Web, with the legacy of Cassandra being built in. That would then, in a roundabout way, allow the film to establish any combination of previous-unseen Spider-lore — including Spider-Island, The Commission, and anything else Julia is tied to. It's also incredibly easy to picture Johnson, who has become a bit of an indie darling with projects like Suspiria, The Lost Daughter, and the upcoming Cha Cha Real Smooth, fitting the role of Julia.
If all of that is the case, it would then make sense for Julia's solo movie to be titled Madame Web — especially given the other potential Marvel projects that Sony has in the pipeline. In particular, it was announced in 2020 that Olivia Wilde is set to write and direct a female-fronted Marvel movie, with reports indicating that it would be focused on the original Jessica Drew incarnation of Spider-Woman. This way, the movies could establish both Jessica and Julia concurrently without confusion, as the movie version of Julia would be operating as Madame Web from the start.
Of course, there's always the chance that the Madame Web movie really will feature Johnson as Cassandra Webb, and try to chronicle a previously-unseen origin story for one of Spider-Man's most visually-interesting villains yet. But don't be surprised, as future updates around the Madame Web movie come to light, if it really ends up following the story of Julia Carpenter.
Which version of Madame Web do you think will be in Sony's movie? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!