Finally, it is about time Marvel Studios handed a solo feature to one of its most prominent superheroes in the form of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow character. If this is her final victory lap, it stands as an acceptable way to end her journey and simultaneously pass the torch. Marvel Studios and their streak continue to grow to 24-0 for noteworthy (and satisfactory) films.
In Johansson’s appearances in the MCU, she has gone to kick major ass in a sleek leather outfit with notable signature moves (such as her vintage head scissors or tasering with her wrist bands). She has proven to be a significant asset to the Avengers team, even if she is the one not wielding a vibranium shield or a magic lightning hammer. And the touches of darkness that come to surround her character at times have become equally fascinating and ambiguous. The audiences will get more insight into her troubled past and origins in her solo Black Widow film. The film opens with a ten-minute prologue in Ohio about young Natasha and her family, who escape the authorities on a plane to Cuba. She and her sister become taken away, and the film jumps twenty-one years later. The timeline, nested between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, finds Natasha on the run from the government and her slowly reconnecting with her family and rediscovering the criminal program, Red Room, that controls other “widows.” Along with her sister Yelena (Florence Pugh), she must stop the Red Room and take out its heinous boss Dreykov (Ray Winstone). You know, the same program that trained both Natasha and Yelena to become “killers.”
Like almost every other superhero film nowadays, Black Widow tries too hard during the third act. Some crazy twist unfolds, followed by chaotic CGI battles or exhilarating action that bombards the screen. At this point, many would be surprised to see something else. Director Cate Shortland, though, does give a lot of time to Natasha and her misaligned family. She got inspiration from the James Bond and Jason Bourne screenings when giving Johansson her headlining story.
Johansson is a movie star, showcasing her acting techniques (like with her masterful performances in Jojo Rabbit, Under The Skin, and Marriage Story). She fuels the drama, while Florence Pugh steals the movie itself with her thickly accented lines and great action sequences. David Harbour as Red Guardian and Rachel Weisz as Melina are also great additions, with the former amusingly exaggerating his earlier days as some Soviet Union hero. Together, the four work to balance mistrusts, resentment, and quips to produce memorable scenes (especially where they reunite and eat together at the dining table in the 2nd act).
Some moments produce an aesthetic not many are accustomed to after witnessing so many MCU films (minus Captain America: The Winter Soldier). It is a tonally different movie at times, exchanging between the Marvel convention (with entertaining action and quippy dialogue) and provoking themes (regarding the portrayal and subjugation of women). Unfortunately, the latter end up getting drowned in by all the action and characters that they probably would have been better off not becoming touched on in the first place.
At some times, it appears as if the film is way more concerned with talking about the Avengers’ aftermath or the inevitable tie-ins to future projects. Constantly reminding the audience that Natasha is an Avenger does not precisely sound exciting every five minutes. If anything, it should have added one in as a bonus (if Ant-Man has time to throw in Falcon for a few minutes, they can surely do it here). It is lazy and immensely filler.
Also, as mentioned in my previous document on the wait time for this feature, Black Widow truly feels like a Marvel film that came way too late. This movie could have come out several years ago, after the phenomenal success of the first Avengers. Gal Gadot and Brie Larson’s superhero solo features demonstrated that people would pay money. Why did it take twenty-four films for Scarlett Johansson to get her first solo outing? Why couldn’t this character get the proper sendoff after her character’s sad death in Avengers: Endgame? I am sure we’ll get a justification in the next ten years, but it might be moot by then.
Black Widow checks off everything a Marvel film is: funny, action-packed, and leaving the door open for a sequel. Maybe it would not be so frustrating if it were released back in 2013, but many will settle on the product we finally received. It does not come close with Endgame, Black Panther, or Thor Ragnarök, but Black Widow is a good time.