Madame Web trailer breakdown: identifying the key characters

The Sony Spider-Man Universe (SSMU for short) continues to expand with the reveal of the Madame Web trailer. Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson plays the title character, a clairvoyant mutant whose ability to see the future spins the space-time continuum into multiple threads of possibility.


The movie is helmed by S.J. Clarkson who has overseen episodes of Marvel shows Jessica Jones and The Defenders. Madame Web is perched within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) adjacent franchise that encompasses the likes of Tom Hardy's Venom and Jared Leto's Morbius.

Don't know your Madame's from your Morbius's? Here's a closer look at the three main characters in the trailer.


Cassandra Webb/Madame Web (played by Dakota Johnson)

The Madame Web movie looks to be an origin story of the popular Marvel comics character. In the original strips, Madame Web, real name Cassandra Webb, originated as an elderly, blind, wheelchair-bound clairvoyant on a life-support system; in the movie, she's a younger, sprightlier paramedic whose ability to predict things before they happen is seemingly both a gift and a curse.

In the trailer, she predicts a violent diner attack that's undertaken by someone wearing a Spider-Man-like costume (more on this mystery individual below). Cassandra's unwitting time-space intervention means she not only adjusts her destiny but that of several women who were in the vicinity at the time, one of whom is Julia Carpenter (see below). Cassandra's ability to effectively see the multiverse has already drawn comparisons with the live-action Doctor Strange films and the acclaimed animated Spider-Verse movies.

How, exactly, Cassandra gets these powers in the movie isn't clear at this stage. In the comics, she's a longtime sufferer of a neurological condition known as myasthenia gravis, which imbues her with psychic abilities. We might imagine there's a medical diagnosis scene in the movie that's yet to be revealed, assuming that the film stays true to the original canon.

In the comics, Madame Web used her powers to discover Peter Parker/Spider-Man's secret identity. This happened when Spider-Man rescued one of Madame Web's students who had been kidnapped during a scam at the Daily Globe newspaper. Later, Madame Web helped Spider-Man prevent an assassination attempt against a political candidate.

No incarnation of Spider-Man, from the MCU or otherwise, has appeared in an SSMU movie so far. However, at the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Tom Hardy's title character was apparently transported into the MCU. This is validated by a TV broadcast of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) outing Tom Holland's Spidey as per the climax of Spider-Man: Far From Home. 

Will the Madame Web movie bridge the gap between the Venom films and the MCU entries to finally introduce Tom Holland's wall-crawler into the Sony canon?

Dakota Johnson in Madame Web movie


Julia Carpenter/Spider-Woman (played by Sydney Sweeney)

Julia Carpenter aka Spider-Woman was the second character to take up the Madame Web mantle in the Marvel comics. But let's back things up a bit. Again, if we're assuming the Madame Web movie is canonically accurate, we could expect many elements of Julia's backstory to be incorporated, namely the moment when she was intentionally injected with a spider venom and plant extract that transformed her into Spider-Woman.

Spider-Woman's abilities encompass the usual super-strength and wall-crawling. She also has the ability to create webs out of psychokinetic energy. And if the name seems familiar, that's because we met the animated iteration of Spider-Woman in this year's Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse where she was voiced by Issa Rae.

Either way, the Madame Web movie acts as the character's live-action debut. She's played by Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney although the trailer plays its cards close to its chest. We get the impression this is Julia Carpenter before she's gained her Spider-Woman abilities, although this shot in the trailer appears to show her in costume. Maybe the climax of this movie will tease Julia's transformation and a possible standalone entry in future?

Sydney Sweeney in Madame Web movie


Ezekiel Simms (played by Tahar Rahim)

So, who is the mystery villain in the apparent Spider-Man costume? He would appear to be Ezekiel Sims. In the comics, Ezekiel is a man from Earth 616 who undergoes a ritual that grants him the powers of a Spider-Totem. Upon being granted these powers, which are almost identical to Spider-Man's powers, he sets about amassing a fortune. He then uses both his powers and his money to assemble a massive corporation.

When Peter Parker/Spider-Man later arrives on the scene, Ezekiel feels threatened. He hires several private detectives to investigate Spider-Man's life, allowing him to piece together who Spider-Man is. By this stage, Ezekiel is a middle-aged man although the big-screen incarnation of his character is much younger and played by the versatile Tahar Rahim (star of the powerful prison drama A Prophet).

Is the Ezekiel shown in the movie an all-powerful tycoon with global reach or merely a thug-like Spider-Man copycat who locks horns with Madame Web? Once again, we can't speak with authority about the movie's canonical accuracy. Maybe, as with Jessica Carpenter, this is Ezekiel Sims in the act of transforming into his comic book counterpart. 

Tahar Rahim in Madame Web movie


Madame Web is released on February 14th, 2024. If you can't wait that long, satisfy those comic book urges and click the link below to book your tickets for The Marvels, on release now.