‘Black Widow’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Black Widow is a superhero spy film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It’s the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the first film in their Phase Four slate. The film is directed by Cate Shortland and stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz. A prequel set in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, the film follows Natasha Romanoff while she is on the run from Thaddeus Ross after breaking the Sokovia Accords. Soon after reuniting with her “sister” Yelena, Natasha is forced to confront her past and join forces with her “family” to take down the believed to be dismantled Red Room and its villainous mercenary Taskmaster.

The best thing about this film is the family aspect. It works surprisingly well and feels real. Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz have great chemistry. When any of them are on screen together it is comedy gold. The jokes range from menstruation to the Avengers being killers to parental coitus to body weight and they all land. This is helped by the backstory we are given for them, which is akin to The Americans. They are shown to be on an undercover mission in Ohio posing as a family with only Yelena not knowing the truth. They seem to really enjoy living the American Dream, but know it cannot last as Alexei/Red Guardian has stolen some valuable data from S.H.I.E.L.D. (secretly HYDRA) and they must return to Russia before they are caught. This information comes into play later as she deeply resents the best part of her life being fake. This along and her feeling of abandonment by her “family” once she was selected for the Black Widow program makes her the most interesting character in the film. Also, as the deuteragonist and considering what we know about Natasha’s fate in Avengers: Endgame, the story does feel like a jumping-off point for Yelena to become the main Black Widow moving forward.

The film is very quickly paced, moving from one action set-piece to the next barely slowing down until midway through the film. The works well in conjunction with the plot as Natasha and Yelena are supposed to be avoiding their enemies at all costs so that they can complete their plan. The story feels grounded and personal with low stakes compared to other films in the MCU. While there are connections to the greater world everything is contained similar to Ant-Man or Spider-Man: Homecoming. The fight scenes are well choreographed and in line with how we’ve seen the Black Widow character fight throughout her appearances in the MCU. It is very similar to Captain America: The Winter Soldier in terms of tone albeit without the powerhouse villain duo of Alexander Pierce and a mind-controlled Bucky Barnes.

The villains are probably my least favorite aspect of the film. Taskmaster is a legendary character from the source material yet the film underutilizes them when it comes to the action scenes and plot. Yes, the mimicking skills are still shown and alluded to be capable due to a computer chip linked directly to the brain. The character does not speak a word throughout the film and is basically treated as a robot mercenary. They are very similar to Jason Stryker in X2: X-Men United. Taskmaster is revealed to have some history with Natasha that would have made for a brilliant villain especially once Natasha finds out who they are under the mask. I understand keeping them mute helped hide the reveal, but adding a voice modulator could have easily fixed that. Then there’s the leader of the Red Room, Dreykov. Other than running said Red Room we don’t get much other info about this character or his role within the Russian government or the KGB. Knowing so little about his personality makes him very forgettable.

Overall Black Widow is heartfelt and hilarious with enough action to please any Marvel fan. I love all the new characters this film added to the universe. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a trilogy because it’d be great to see another prequel exclusively about the mission with Clint in Budapest. I give Black Widow a Decent 8/10. I still feel that this would have been better as a multi-season show on Disney+, and who knows, maybe that’s the plan for some of these new characters.

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