Was Madame Web’s Ezekiel Voice Dubbed?

Tahar Rahim as Ezekiel Sims in Madame Web voice dubbed adr

There are a lot of ridiculous things in the currently playing Madame Web. Brief jaunts to Peru. A climactic fight at a fireworks factory. Pretty much the whole plot. But the one question that’s driving everyone over the edge is: Was Madame Web‘s Ezekiel voice dubbed?

Specifically, what exactly was going on with the character of Ezekiel Sims, played by Tahar Rahim? Why does what he’s saying barely ever seem to match what his lips are doing? And it often sounds like it’s coming from another room? The reason is pretty simple, and it’s all because of a not-so-dirty not-so-secret called ADR.

So, let’s get into it. Here’s what you need to know about whether Ezekiel Sims was dubbed, and the distinction between dubbing and ADR.

Was Madame Web‘s Ezekiel Sims Voice Dubbed?

Let’s get this out of the way. Tahar Rahim is from France and is using some sort of indescribable accent in this movie. But he speaks perfect English and has sounded absolutely fine in previous English-speaking productions like The Looming Tower. So this isn’t a situation where the actor was speaking one language, and then an English-speaking actor came in and dubbed dialogue over the, say, Spanish dialogue or anything.

Those lines you hear in the movie are Tahar Rahim voicing them. That includes Ezekiel when he’s in his “I’m a barefoot businessman” suit. And that includes when he’s in his evil Spider-Man suit based on the Arañas tribe in Peru. There’s no point when another actor came in and dubbed Ezekiel’s dialogue, as far as we’re aware.

So What Is ADR? And What Does It Have To Do With Dubbing?

tahar rahim madame web

As that sub-headline says, what is going on then? While there’s been no direct reporting about this, because “why was your dialogue bad” is not the sort of thing you ask an actor during a junket, though it should be, there’s a pretty clear reason: some poorly done ADR.

ADR, if you’re wondering, is “Awful Dialogue Replacement.” Just kidding, it’s actually Automated Dialogue Replacement, but in this case those two definitions are interchangeable.

ADR is used all the time in filmmaking and TV, and is part and parcel with the process. Basically, imagine you’re filming a key scene of the movie and when you watch it back later you can hear the faint sound of a plane overhead. Or someone on set nudged a piece of equipment and there’s a slight scraping sound. That’s something you want to correct, so what you do is get the actor — or actors — into a sound booth, and have them rerecord the dialogue. There’s a lot more that goes into it because then you need to not only match the new dialogue to the actor’s mouths the way they said it on the day, but in terms of the sound mix make sure it sounds like it was in that room, coming from that direction; versus in a sound booth weeks or months later.

Can ADR Be Used To Completely Change Dialogue And Plot?

That’s the basic use of ADR, but it can also be used to change words or whole chunks of dialogue. Beyond little sound issues, it’s a tool that can be used to help punch up jokes, fix flubs, and sometimes to lay in plot points that may not be entirely clear. Normally what you do in those cases is come up with a word that, when rerecorded, looks like the actor still said it. That’s sort of what the “Bad Lip Reading” series is based on because at a certain level, you’re going to believe what you hear that actor saying is what’s coming out of their mouths; your brain tricks you.

The other commonly used technique is to use ADR when an actor is facing away from the camera, so you don’t see their mouth at all. The challenge here is that the other actor (or actors) they’re talking to are reacting to something else they said on the day, so you want to make the new line relatively similar.

Basically, the point of ADR is that you don’t want to notice it. That’s not what happened with Madame Web.

So What’s Wrong With Ezekiel Sims’ Dialogue? Why Does It Seem Like He’s Dubbed?

I mean first and foremost, it’s a bad sound mix. Sorry to the sound editor who — like everyone else — was probably doing their best, but several of Ezekiel’s lines sound like they were recorded in his car while he was driving to set. I don’t know what happened there specifically, but at a certain point you have to go with the tools at your disposal. If all you have is a line Rahim recorded in his agent’s office over a speaker-phone, that’s what you’ve got.

But the far more egregious use of ADR is that they didn’t even bother to match the dialogue to what Rahim was saying on the day. And occasionally he’s not saying anything, yet dialogue is happening, like he thought it really hard and words popped out of thin air. That’s something you can potentially get away with when you’re in a full-body suit like the evil Spider-Man suit. You can’t do that with a real person.

It’s pretty clear that whatever was happening with Ezekiel, it wasn’t working for the plot. Or, plot points changed through reshoots and editing, and in an attempt to smooth over those changes, they changed his dialogue — but were not able to reshoot his scenes. Again, often these things come down to “you go with what you’ve got” but that’s not a level of production we’re used to from a big-budget studio superhero movie.

So there you go! Not technically dubbed, but ADR. Whatever you call it, though: it’s bad. And Rahim, who is a good actor, deserved better.

Listen to MarvelVision:

Want more deep dives into Marvel Studios’ TV shows and movies? Plus, semi-regular news updates on everything going on at Marvel? Then check out our podcast.


8 thoughts on “Was Madame Web’s Ezekiel Voice Dubbed?

  1. It was jarring distracting. The movie gave “significant reshoots and script re-writes,” meaning to change characters’ motivations to dramatically switch both the tone and overall storyline of the picture. Why even bother with a Madame Web film in the first place? Especially when it’s Madame Web in name only. They’d have done better to just make a movie about Jessica Drew or Julia Carpenter.

    1. First of all, I love your photos in the Daily Bugle. Second, changes and reshoots happen all the time for the reasons you mentioned – you just usually don’t see the seams so clearly. That points to a lot of different cooks behind the scenes, versus just the screenwriters. And I think they could have made a Madame Web movie work despite all the odds if they had just decided on doing one thing instead of all the things.

  2. I just watched the first half of this movie yesterday and came searching for this answer. The audio on his voice specifically is irritating and absolutely sounds like it was dubbed! Appreciate the explanation. It was impossible to ignore.

Leave a Reply