Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson stars in “Black Widow”. Walt Disney Studios Cinema

  • Disclaimer: There are minor spoilers ahead for “Black Widow”.

  • While this is a good watch, it’s probably not a watch you’ll revisit due to its darker subject matter.

  • Florence Pugh and David Harbor manage to outdo Black Widow in their own film.

  • Visit the Insider home page for more stories.

“Black Widow” is a decent standalone action movie, but it would have landed better if Disney and Marvel had had the guts to release it ten, if not five, years ago.

Scarlett Johansson and her Natasha Romanoff character have been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since “Iron Man 2” in 2010. Yet it wasn’t until 2017 that work on a solo film finally began.

The new film, which serves both as an origin story exploring Romanoff’s dark past and as an explanation of what she was doing between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War”, was due to l ‘Originally directing May 2020 as the first big summer release. Of course, even if he had debuted on schedule, Black Widow still wouldn’t have been the first Marvel heroine to have her own movie. (It was the “Captain Marvel” of 2019.)

But because of the pandemic, not only does “Widow” have to follow in Universal’s “Fast 9” success story, it’s also relegated to a movie that you can unlock on Disney + for an extra $ 29.99 – a strategy Marvel release would never have gone with for an Iron Man movie, or frankly any of its male vehicles.

Herein lies part of the problem with launching a “Black Widow” movie in 2021, 11 years after the character’s debut in the MCU.

While I enjoyed what I watched, and I think other Marvel fans will love it too, I have wondered so often why I should care about this movie more than two years after Marvel killed the Johansson’s Black Widow character in “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019. “

What’s the point? Will people be interested in a movie about a dead Marvel character, or will they see it as a deceptive cash grab?

Maybe Disney has considered the same question and that’s why, in part, it’s heading to Disney + in addition to its theatrical release. While that’s not a problem for most fans, I predict the casual Marvel viewer will be confused trying to figure out when in the Marvel timeline this movie takes place.

“Black Widow” should have been released 4 or 5 years ago

Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow

You shouldn’t need an instruction manual to find out when “Black Widow” happens, but here’s where we are. Marvel studios

As Johansson confirmed in 2019, “Black Widow” takes place between the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” and 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War”. But that’s not clear to casual fans of Marvel in the movie.

While the MCU has never been indebted to any timeline releases, this film really should have been released in 2016 or 2017 as it stars as the direct sequel to “Civil War” with General Ross (William Hurt) on the run after Nat. to have turned his back on him. on Tony Stark to help Captain America escape on the Quinjet.

With nowhere to go, Nat finds himself face to face with his young “adopted sister”, Yelena (an excellent Florence Pugh).

Together, they decide to destroy the Red Room, the place that turned them into widows, once and for all after Nat learns that it is still operational. They just need to find it first.

The other obstacle is a soldier named Taskmaster, a new antagonist who can mimic the fighting skills of anyone he meets.

black widow mission leader

Taskmaster is one of the villains of “Black Widow”. Marvel studios

The trailers made this mysterious character the main villain. Tyrant is the villain, to a degree, but there’s another big issue that I won’t reveal here, which is a pretty silly and important character and feels like it’s part of a first Marvel movie.

The moment when viewers finally learn who is behind the supposedly shocking and emotional Taskmaster mask falls a bit flat. Most fans will probably say, “Oh. Is that it?” I doubt you even guess because the reveal just isn’t as interesting as the movie thinks it is.

Johansson isn’t even the highlight of his own movie

Black Widow Florence Pugh Scarlett Johansson 2

ScarJo has been patiently awaiting his own Marvel movie, and he serves primarily as a passing hand in addition to a kind of half-hearted dive into Nat’s past. This is a Yelena origin story disguised as a “Black Widow” movie. Walt Disney Studios Cinema

Perhaps the craziest thing about “Black Widow” is that the main character isn’t even the main hero of his own story most of the time.

The film is truly a vehicle to pass the baton to a young leader as we move into what Marvel calls “phase 4” of its cinematic universe. This film serves more as an origin story for Pugh’s Yelena instead of a singular deep dive into Nat’s story.

Pugh and David Harbor almost eclipse Johansson, sometimes passing her off as a sidekick in her own movie.

Red Guardian leaning against a door

David Harbor as Red Guardian in “Black Widow”. Disney / Marvel Studios

Harbor here plays Alexei Shostakov / The Red Guardian, aka Russia’s arrogant Captain America. It’s a good choice to have his own Disney + spinoff series to explore his origin story, and Harbor is definitely interested in reprising the character – he’s already told Insider he’s ready for a Red Guardian movie where he seeks to “avenge” the death of Nat.

If you are not already a fan of Pugh, you will be at the end of “Black Widow”. Yelena is a firecracker with great lines and kicks at her “older sister”.

florence pugh scarlett johansson black widow

Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in “Black Widow”. Marvel studios

One of the best jokes in the movie comes from Yelena and pokes fun at how Black Widow’s fighting poses have been supersexualized and accentuated over the years in the MCU.

I have to imagine that this is partly because Johansson is the producer of the film. The actress told HelloBeautiful during a visit for the film that she felt like she was treated like a possession from the start when she joined “Iron Man 2.”

Black Widow’s “family” is rounded out by Rachel Weisz’s Melina, who has great chemistry with Harbor and an intriguing character arc that is best experienced on your own.

Ultimately, ‘Black Widow’ is an aspiring ‘The Americans’ knock-off who plays too cautiously

Florence Pugh Black Widow

Marvel studios

As others have said in overzealous early reaction tweets, “Black Widow” makes a “Bourne” movie seem like “The Americans.”

While true, it’s a hollow version of the FX series at that.

Despite one of Marvel’s strongest and most haunting overtures, “Black Widow” tiptoes around the KGB to give us the Disneyfied version of the Russian spies infiltrating America in the 80s in a brief montage by simply explaining that random major events in history all orchestrated by the Black Widow program.

We’ve heard so much about this Red Room and its psychological and physical torture through over 20 Marvel movies. But after a 134-minute movie, part of it still feels like a mystery. The basics are there, and any smart viewer can fill in the gaps, but you still never feel like you fully understand Natasha and Yelena’s trauma.

black widow yelena natasha

Florence Pugh and Scarlett Johansson in “Black Widow”. Marvel / disney

Every other Marvel movie has done a better job of making you empathize with Natasha’s character.

Disney had the opportunity to go all-in on this movie, but they kept the dial facing down to make it more kid-friendly – and they don’t even quite get it.

I do not recommend that parents with children consider letting them at least pass portions of “Black Widow”. It is one of the darkest, grainy films in Marvel. Some more spooky images of girls gathered at the start of the film and the discussion of the weakest killed can stick with young children after the film ends. You never see child deaths onscreen, but the footage can be a bit haunting nonetheless.

Later in the movie, Yelena makes the widow’s sterilization process what I imagine to be an uncomfortably long joke for men and for parents who will have to explain the fallopian tubes and how the reproductive system works in women to everyone. young viewers.

Overall, “Black Widow” is a decent action vehicle and spy thriller, although it does seem a bit painted by numbers and years behind the screen.

At the very least, fans will be happy that after 24 films, Marvel finally explains what happened in Budapest.

And always, be sure to stick around until the very end of the movie for an extra scene after the credits roll.

“Black Widow” is in theaters and streaming on Disney + for an additional $ 29.99 on July 9. It will be free for all Disney + users on October 6.

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