Black Widow (2021)


“Where are we going?”

Mid-tier Marvel with a pronounced highlight on the power of makeshift family, Black Widow is both a semi-salutary sendoff to a character whose obituary has already been written as well as a segue into the next foot forward for the MCU to come. It’s the latter more than the former, and while it’s great to see a female driven blockbuster in this expansive web of male dominated action features, the end product doesn’t quite do Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) justice either. I’m still not sure why Marvel didn’t make this movie 4-5 years ago. Unfortunately, Black Widow seems to care way too much more about future profits than it does one of the original Avengers.

In line with Marvel’s attempts at espionage driven storylines, Black Widow plays out a bit too convoluted for its own good, and yet still seems to be lacking crucial details and development. The new additions to the MCU – the pummeling Red Guardian (David Harbour with some great comedy relief), the fellow Black Widow and motherly Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), and the sisterly Yelena Belova (a perfectly cast and scene stealing Florence Pugh) – all give the film heart when it’s lacking originality in the poorly shot fight sequences. Add in the baddie Dreykov (Ray Winstone), who’s basically if the cartoonish antagonist Fegan Floop from Spy Kids was played by the groveling and gross Harvey Weinstein, and you get a film that’s tonally dissonant through and through. The characters are great and the story is subpar.

An antagonist with more power than he should ever have. A subordinate of his called The Taskmasker (Olga Kurylenko) who’s more powerful than she’s ever portrayed. Hurried and sloppily edited action sequences that were put together by a director in Cate Shortland who seems obviously unfamiliar with this kind of blockbuster filmmaking. Black Widow really only works when it’s intimate, when Johansson passes the baton to the incredibly charming Pugh, and when the movie focuses on personal revelations over globetrotting journeys. Black Widow is a film about reconciling the wrongs of shared pasts, and it’s a shame that the penance spreads out in so many tangents in the final act. My gut tells me it would’ve hit harder had it dared to be more vulnerable and more personal, that it would have been better as an inviting next chapter than this stagnant yet whiplashed entry could ever be. It’s stale yet salty enough to suck you in.

Black Widow should have been released hot off the heels of the slightly invigorating Captain America: Civil War. We know for certain that Natasha Romanoff died in the heart wrenching Avengers: Endgame, that the world is separated between altering “snaps,” and that the remaining superheroes have moved on. Black Widow is built to give Romanoff the backstory and the screen time she never received in those massive ensemble pieces, and had it been a better movie, it might have even added color and insight into the films we’ve already seen. I honestly don’t understand the timing of this origin story or the point of the movie in the first place. The only real justification for this picture is to show us what’s to come in the MCU. At least it looks more appetizing than this buffet line offering.

“Your pain only makes you stronger.”

Rating: 3 out of 5

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