Madame Web director explains how her work on Netflix’s Jessica Jones influenced the new superhero film
Dakota Johnson as Cassie in Madame Web

(Image credit: Sony/Marvel)

Madame Web director S. J. Clarkson has made no secret of the fact that the new Sony Marvel movie is similar in tone to Jessica Jones; it’s gritty, dark, and, well, set in New York City. But now she’s revealed that the Netflix series directly informed one very specific aspect of the upcoming flick: the titular hero’s superpowers – or at least, in how Clarkson depicts them on-screen, anyway.

Set in 2003, Madame Web follows New York City-based paramedic Cassie (Dakota Johnson), who inexplicably finds herself with psychic abilities following a near-death experience. Soon, she’s plagued with terrifying snapshots into the immediate future… which isn’t ideal when you’re a first responder racing against the clock on a daily basis.

One random evening, she sees a horrifying vision of a man murdering three young women and saves them all by intervening, which subsequently thrusts the foursome into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the determined, ruthless killer.

“Well, Jessica Jones was my first introduction to comics, really, and everything came from the character there like it did with Cassie on this,” Clarkson, who directed the first two episodes of the Krysten Ritter-led show, tells GamesRadar+ and Total Film. “Jessica was a superhero; she has super strength, she can jump really high. Madame Web didn’t have that, so it sort of made it even more challenging because you had such a narrow lane in which to go down. 

“Then I thought, ‘Well, these cinematic opportunities are huge because how can I show all this psychological stuff’. Jessica had PTSD, so I’d already done some playing with the mind but, obviously, I wanted to make this different; we couldn’t shoot it in the same way,” she continues, suggesting she then had to come up with a “technique” to showcase Cassie’s clairvoyance.

Krysten Ritter and David Tennant in Jessica Jones

(Image credit: Netflix/Marvel)

“I had to figure out how to find a way in and out of that which became quite a rudimentary use of a diopter in front of the camera,” Clarkson laughs. “I probably shouldn’t tell you that because it’s a spoiler, but yeah, these wonderful actors allowed me to run all around while they’re in the middle of it. It was fun, especially the diner scene!”

Said diner scene features in Madame Web’s first trailer, and sees villain Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) attack teens Julia (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie (Celeste O’Connor), and Anya (Isabela Merced) before fatally stabbing Cassie. Fortunately, the violent scene later proves to be a vision, providing Cassie and co. with another shot at escaping Ezekiel’s clutches.

Madame Web releases on February 14. While we wait, check out all the new superhero movies heading our way. Keep an out for a future episode of the Inside Total Film podcast to hear more from our chat with Clarkson, as well as cast members Dakota Johnson and Tahar Rahim.

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I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.

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