Marvel: Black Widow Review

Screenshot of Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in ‘Black Widow’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios

Hi! It’s Annie!

I talked about this a little in my last post, but I actually got around to watching ‘Black Widow’! I know, it took me long enough. But in my defense it took Marvel far too long to make and release this movie in the first place, so I feel like the postponed review is earned. Natasha Romanoff started out as the first female Avenger and while most of her male counterparts got their own movies, Natasha got virtually nothing to herself. Until now. After Marvel was sure that they could get money off of this idea after the previous successes of DC. Really makes you respect this movie, huh? Anyways, this film follows Natasha as she’s confronted with her past regarding the Red Room and is forced to team up with her former family to stop someone she thought was dead. I’m sure this is unneeded at this point, but MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Though I’m sure if you wanted to watch this movie you probably already watched it and if you haven’t you’re probably like me and didn’t really care.

The Good:

Yelena Belova- I am not kidding when I tell you that she is the highlight of this movie. Definitely one of those characters that I’m excited to see moving forwards and I hope that she’s given a lot of screen time in the future. I already love Florence Pugh as an actress, if you’ve read my post regarding the 2019 adaptation of ‘Little Women’ you already know this. Florence Pugh is one of my favorite actresses out there right now. (Though you would never be able to get me to watch ‘Misommar’ or any other horror film for that matter.) She has excellent dramatic acting skills as well as uncanny comedic timing. And I feel like her performance in this movie is just as up to par as you would expect from her. The writers really did work to give Yelena a lot of time; actually more time than you might think. Yelena felt as if she was almost as much of a main character as Natasha. Which, if that’s a good thing or not is up for debate. But it gave her a solid jumping off point into being our next ‘Black Widow’ in the MCU. Here’s to hoping that she won’t be overshadowed as much as her sister was. And with so many new characters being introduced into the MCU, I am a little worried about that being a possibility.

Natasha- I actually really liked Natasha in this movie. Despite the fact that Natasha has been in several Marvel films, the only film before this point to actually give her a personality was ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’. Before that Natasha was written to be mysterious and desirable and not much else. And I think we can all agree that ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ did her nothing but disservices by reducing her to a stereotypical love interest. Finally, we see the Natasha that we always glimpsed but didn’t get fully except for in ‘Winter Soldier’. One of my favorite scenes in the entire movie was when Natasha was talking to Dreykov in his office at the end of the movie. Not only was the scene sarcastic and so much fun to watch but it also incorporated Natasha’s “thank you for your cooperation” line from ‘Avengers’ into it. It gave new life to that line and it showed how adept Natasha is at getting information without it having to be over-sexualized. In a way, this movie felt like a reclaiming of this character. Where ‘Endgame’ didn’t get me to fully care about Natasha’s death, this movie made me care about it. And it also made me even more angry that they fridged her before doing any real services to her character. I am still so angry over the way Marvel has treated this character and the sheer potential for her in this movie only made me more angry.

Cate Shortland- I have to give so much credit to her as a director. She saved that scene with the period joke in it single-handedly. (If you’re curious about that story I covered it in detail in my last post.) I highly doubt Yelena would have started off as strong as she did or Natasha would have been able to break through the mounds of stereotyping if a talented female director wasn’t on this project. She deserves so much praise for this film, even if the writing was flubbed at parts.

Hawkeye- He does not appear in this movie, but he’s mentioned. It is clear through the way Natasha talks about him that he’s her best friend. His presence is still felt in this movie (Including a funny scene where it was revealed that he and Natasha played tic-tac-toe to pass time in a bunker). And with how much this character means to Natasha, I’m glad they found a way to bring him up in a substantial way without making things too much about him.

The Bad:

Alexei and Melina- For what I was expecting, neither of them got nearly enough time in this film. They were Natasha’s past parents. But they were just kind of… there, and I wondered how much they were needed in the story at all. I would have been perfectly happy if the movie remained a buddy cop style film with just Natasha and Yelena. Melina got absolutely no time at all. I wondered why her character was there. There was a plot twist in this movie where you’re supposed to think that she betrayed everyone else and then it reveals that she was actually a good guy the entire time. But it didn’t work because she wasn’t given enough time for the audience to get to know her. So whether or not she defected didn’t seem to matter because we didn’t really know her or trust her as an audience. Alexei, besides the period joke, was actually fun to watch. I love David Harbour and he brought a nice lightness to the film. But his lines were all comedy and no character. He also did almost nothing for the over-all plot and anything that bordered on a character moment was abruptly interrupted with something comedic. Which brings me to my next point…

Comedic Interruptions- Marvel has been accused of doing this more and more. And it’s because they are doing it more. Comedy goes over well with audiences so it seems like when the writers don’t know what to do with a scene, they defect to it. There’s the start of a wonderful scene in this film with Yelena and Alexei. Yelena is heartbroken to hear that her family treats her happy childhood as if it was fake and leaves upset, which prompts Alexei to go after her. Alexei starts out the scene with a pretty funny comedic bit that goes on a little too long and then he starts singing Yelena her favorite song from when she was little. And Yelena laughs and starts singing it along with him through tears, surprised that he even remembered it. And then the entire scene is interrupted by a sudden attack and a comedic moment with Alexei where he gets knocked out. They didn’t get to talk anything out or acknowledge anything. And by the end of the movie, they still haven’t. It was an emotional scene that could have been so integral to the story. Alexei could have gotten a needed character moment and Yelena’s storyline about wondering if her past was fake would have been resolved. And they cast all that aside for a joke. It frustrated me so much.

The Villains- We’ve heard about Dreykov for too long in connection with Natasha for him to be this disappointing. He didn’t really come off as intelligent, though many characters in the film insisted to the audience that he was several times. And for him having gotten the unwavering loyalty of so many people, he really wasn’t all that charming. Dreykov didn’t make any sense, and Dreykov’s daughter being Taskmaster only added insult to injury. Taskmaster is a very different character in the comics that many people were very excited to see. Changing this character so throughly didn’t make any sense. At that point just make a new villain; don’t use the name of Taskmaster. Marvel should have learned this from the Mandarin fiasco from ‘Iron Man 3’. In fact, they are currently attempting to correct that exact mistake with ‘Shang-Chi’. Why they would risk that again is beyond me.

This is definitely not the best Marvel movie you’ll ever watch. But it definitely wasn’t bad! I enjoyed many parts of this movie, but I still stand by the fact that this should have come out a long time ago. And the placement of this movie after ‘Endgame’ only made this entire situation more frustrating to me. Natasha should have been able to tell her own story before they decided to kill off the only original female Avenger. And it shouldn’t have taken DC proving that you can find success with a female-led superhero film for this movie to be made at all. This movie is good and I recommend it, but if you don’t come out of this movie angry at what Marvel had done to Natasha before this movie came out, I would be very surprised.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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