Although Madame Web marks writer-director S.J. Clarkson’s feature debut, she has previous experience working with female superheroes in the director’s chair on the highly lauded Jessica Jones. It’s a shame that experience wasn’t brought to the table in Madame Web.

The film starts out rough. After some B-movie dialogue about a race of superpowered Spider-People, bad guy Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) murders a pregnant woman and runs off into the jungle. The audience is soon made to understand that the woman’s daughter, Cassie, will eventually cross paths with the fabled Spider-Folk of legend.

Cut to Cassie (Dakota Johnson) in 2003, working as a paramedic alongside future Spider-Uncle Ben Parker (Adam Scott). During a rescue, she gets trapped in a sinking car and begins seeing visions of the future. At this point, viewers who have ever seen any depiction of a character gaining premonitory abilities may leave the theater at will for the next thirty minutes, as Cassie’s gradual realization and acceptance of her powers will not put any new spins on the formula.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel’s experiencing his own premonitions, depicting his death at the hands of three Spider-Ladies in a scene so poorly costumed it almost feels lifted from WB’s Birds of Prey—another female superhero property, canceled the same year this story takes place. This leads to one of Madame Web’s most bizarre moments, in which Zeke’s underling Amaria (Zosia Mamet) tracks the girls down with a computer program that records Zeke’s premonitions, unmasks the girls’ costumed faces, and de-ages the images to locate their current teenage selves. Why a clairvoyant killer can’t find his victims without doing a Google Image search on his psychic visions is never adequately explained.

Things play out rather predictably from there. Cassie’s visions lead her to team up with the future Spider-Women against Zeke, and a pregnant Mary Parker (Emma Roberts) is clumsily shoehorned in along the way so fans will think Spider-Man is somehow relevant to this story (he’s not). In the end, none of the origin stories begun by the film are fully actualized, because Sony realized at some point they couldn’t have a team of Spider-Women prior to the birth of Spider-Man, rendering this entire entry to the franchise conceptually pointless.

However, the film does still have some minor strong points. The effects and costumes may be terrible, but the fight choreography is fairly tight and often well-edited. This is particularly evident in a couple of early premonition sequences.

The cast is solid, but woefully underutilized. Dakota Johnson attempts more range here than in previous projects, but it hardly matters when the script itself narrows her range to merely "unremarkable as a superhero" and "unbelievable as a functioning adult." One example is at Mary’s baby shower, when Mary has attendees fill a bowl with fond memories of their mothers. Cassie puts in a blank strip of paper, leading to an awkward monologue about her mom’s death during childbirth. But the audience has already seen that death occur, so who is this for? Is it just so Cassie can steal attention at someone else’s baby shower? Because that doesn’t make a protagonist especially likable.

Other characters are simply uninteresting. Adam Scott is the perfect embodiment of a young Uncle Ben, but this isn’t his story. Isabela Merced and Sydney Sweeney stand out as two of the film's three Spider-Women, but the characters aren’t given much range. And Celeste O’Connor’s semi-cartoonish performance feels like the product of an older white woman trying to write a sassy black teenager. Only Rahim’s performance as Sims feels truly noteworthy, and that’s because it’s hilariously inept. His raspy attempt at a villain voice is so ill-suited to his appearance that it wouldn’t be surprising to learn he’d been dubbed over.

As a character, Madame Web is a sensible addition to any Spider-Man cinematic universe. But as a director, Clarkson fails to deliver on even a quarter of the character’s potential. If Sony hopes to save their franchise from an eternal quagmire of horse-beating Morbin’ Time memes, it will need to add a more suitable entry, because this is not the film.