Dakota Johnson’s ‘Madame Web’ Press Tour Was the Real Movie

More interesting and puzzling than 'Madame Web' itself is the mystery of why Johnson even signed up for this role...

Dakota Johnson’s ‘Madame Web’ Press Tour Was the Real Movie

Press tours can decide whether anyone bothers to see a movie—sometimes, as we witnessed with Don’t Worry, Darling in 2022, a raunchy, controversial press tour can be the driving force that puts asses in seats amidst a brutal economy. Don’t Worry, Darling‘s press run truly had it all: a nasty divorce, infidelity rumors, feud reports, and even spitting. The Madame Web press tour, by contrast, did not have any of that. But it did and does have Dakota Johnson, whose stunning ambivalence about her new Marvel-adjacent movie has honestly been stunning, even entertaining, to watch. Compared to Madame Web‘s almost comically bad script, actor performances, and visual effects, Johnson’s weeks of bizarre commentary—about the movie, and, well, everything—have been, for me, the real movie. And it was all delightfully topped off with Johnson showing pretty much her whole ass at the red carpet premiere in Los Angeles on Monday.

For the last several weeks, instead of raving about her new movie as movie stars promoting their films are wont to, Johnson’s insights have ranged from “I don’t know if this is going to be good at all,” to most recently saying she’s unsure when she’ll watch Madame Web—maybe “someday.” Johnson’s comments to Entertainment Tonight on Wednesday have also been making the rounds on social media: Referencing her younger co-stars Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor, and Isabela Merced, Johnson says, “The three of them really bonded, and then there was me.” Taken out of context, that comment implies Johnson was ambivalent about her castmates, and most social media posts that include this quote do, indeed, take it out of context—probably because it’s funnier that way, and much more in line with Johnson’s indifference and low-energy when it comes to everything about this movie. Of course, Johnson also said, “I adore them, and I think they’re so talented and it was so fun to have them around,” but that’s less fun!

Then, there’s also the matter of this iconic line from the first trailer of Madame Web: “He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died,” Johnson narrates. The line, also out of context, became a viral Twitter meme because of how utterly ridiculous it is; it also signaled early on that this movie was probably going to be a little silly, which it is! This line is one of the first things Johnson was asked about during an interview with HuffPost UK to which she responded: “Why did that go viral? Somebody brought this up and I have no idea what it’s about.” When her interviewer points out it became a meme because it was taken out of context, Johnson makes an excellent point: “Isn’t any sentence out of context … out of context? That seems like a basic storyline to me.” Of course, as it turns out, all of this dialogue about that line was essentially pointless (or, rather, even more pointless), because the line isn’t even in the actual movie.

At different points in her press tour, Johnson has called the state of Hollywood “fucking bleak” and said it’s “disheartening” how difficult it is to make indie movies—all while fronting a major superhero movie, which is… interesting. In one of her more memorable lines, she also called discourse about industry nepotism “boring” and journalists who write about it “lame.”

So, there was no spitting, no drama, and no cheating on the Madame Web press tour—that we know of—but there was a whole lot of Johnson… saying words, deadpanning into the camera, and generally shrugging at the whole project, which I find downright fascinating. Having watched Madame Web, which sees Johnson speak and act in the exact same monotone, I find it all even more fascinating. Despite how often her comments have, at times, miffed me, I generally find her candor to be funny and entertaining. But between her actual performance in Madame Web and her clear lack of enthusiasm for the project, I have to ask: Did casting directors at any point consider casting someone who… actually cares about the movie??? Someone who would speak with feeling and inflections in their portrayal of Cassandra “Madame Web” Web, someone who would tell us all it’s a great movie and we should go see it???

All of this, to me, is the central mystery of Madame Web, the web that really connects us all: What was Dakota Johnson even doing here? Was it a hostage situation? Was she somehow paid a billion dollars to star in a movie set to make about $26.8 million in its opening weekend? Was she just woefully bored at home in her lime-green kitchen, looking for a reason to traipse around a Peruvian rainforest? Dakota, if you’re still taking questions at this time, those are mine.

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