Black Widow Summary
Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy, and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.
Black Widow is Directed by Cate Shortland, with Screenplay by Eric Pearson and story by Jac Shaeffer and Ned Benson. Black Widow stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour.
Black Widow Review
Black Widow for all intents and purposes should have come out years ago. I don’t think anyone would debate that no matter how emotional the end credits scene was. But it’s here now so we’re gonna look at it through the lens of a Phase 4 Marvel film.
Filling in only a tiny bit of the gap between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, BW gives us a short tale focused on Natasha’s (Scarlett Johansson) past and a family we didn’t know she had illuminating parts of her past that until now had remained a secret. Beginning first in Natasha’s past as a young girl living undercover in Ohio in the mid-90s as her “parents,” Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) attempt to steal secrets from S.H.I.E.L.D./HYDRA.
We’re also introduced to her “little sister,” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) who at the time is too young to understand that this whole operation is a ruse and for her this is her biological family.
I won’t breakdown the whole film but from there Black Widow deals heavily with human trafficking – except instead of sex trafficking the girls are all used as human soldiers – and broken family. Monsters who use girls and women for their own desires of power, and feeling abandoned and let down by those who you felt cared for you once upon a time. Something I’m sure many kids growing up can relate to when realizing their heroes, their parents, are just normal people too.
Thematically this film is for sure Marvel Studios’ darkest film with imagery upfront that is in your face about realities of the world that face young girls every day. This skews more towards the darkness the Netflix shows were once upon a time known for however there’s still many jokes throughout that reminds you this is a film meant for families.
Overall, I enjoyed this film! That’s a very strange thing to say after everything I just talked about but I enjoy that this film hits a lot of those subject matters head on without flinching. The humor landed basically every time for me. Yelena in particular has most of the funniest jokes. And I loved every member of Natasha’s family. From the quippy Yelena to the bumbling Alexei – or Red Guardian as I’ll refer to him from here on out. To the calculating Melina who wants to make up for her mistakes.
This is the most real I’ve felt a family has been shown to interact together within the MCU films so far. While the movie goes to great lengths to tell us Natasha has two families we never really got to see them act much like one throughout those movies. They always felt to me more like work friends. Every interaction Natasha had with any of the other characters it immediately felt like they shared a bond that comes from living together like a family for several years.
One thing I was impressed with in this film is for an action movie Black Widow perhaps might have the most slow beats in a Marvel film where the characters just sit around an talk airing out their grievances and catching up with one another. It allowed me to connect with each of them on a genuine human level and finally, a little too late I might add, made me a fan of Natasha herself.
The table scene for instance where all four of them are together is the linchpin of the film and does a great job at showing us how these four truly feel about one another. And it a lot of ways it’s like a family: They get really annoyed and angry with one another, but they also love each other on some level. It was very nice.
Of course this leads to all the action scenes being for the most part being beats that we had already seen in the trailers. Which is unfortunate, but that’s mostly do to the two years this film had to advertise to us. Taking that into account however so much of the action was pretty great! This is also for my money the most brutal Marvel film in terms of action, again skewing more towards that Netflix feel. There were several occasions where I audibly went “Oof!” as soon as someone was punched, thrown, or rammed by something.
I’ve also noticed many people say Florence Pugh steals the film from Scarlett but I would disagree with that as Scarlett gets many great scenes funny and emotional. Florence is a highlight and great addition to the film as a counterpart for Scarlett to play off of, but this definitely remains a Scarlett/Natasha-focused story through and through.
However, for all the gushing I can do about this film it’s not without its problems. For one I don’t feel it delves far enough into the spy genre. For being a super-spy Natasha doesn’t figure out a lot on her or does enough skulking around to actually gather information. She has much of the important information explained to her by other characters.
I also felt we didn’t focus enough on the actual Black Widows this film centers around. Sure there is a couple of fight scenes with several of them but the fact that they weren’t the primary foot soldiers for this film was a bit of a let down. We’ve just been introduced for a literal army of elite soldiers of women and maybe, at most, all we’ll get of them is a few scenes to show off what they can do? You can do better Marvel.
Taskmaster too was very underutilized as a villain. Borrowing heavily from the Winter Soldier school of brainwashing. They even make certain to tie the brain washing of Taskmaster and the Widows into the Winter Soldier which was a nice beat but I’d prefer if there had been more variety. Marvel now has two spy films and one of them borrows very heavily from the other. I personally don’t mind the changes made to Taskmaster for the film, I imagine next we see her we’ll find out her abilities of mimicry are in fact natural but were enhanced – or perhaps hampered – by the cybernetic implants that controlled her.
It’s just Marvel Studios’ penchant for less than impressive b-plot villains continues here and it’s genuinely heartbreaking cause there was so much that could’ve been done with this character in their first outing. At least she ended up surviving the film because then it truly would have been a waste. Marvel loves killing off their more interesting villains and I just don’t understand it. Let them come back to plague our heroes again. It’s part of the fun of the comics.
There’s also a moment towards the end of the film where Yelena attempts to giver her life in order to take that of Dreykov’s and when she’s blown away by the explosion and subsequently he’s engulfed in flames that whole moment plays out like it was given a b-movie budget. Oddly enough it looked better to me on my TV than it did on the big screen when I first saw it, but come on Marvel you had a whole extra year to watch this back and re-edit that why didn’t you?
Regardless, for all its faults – all of which I didn’t even go over – I still enjoyed this film. Red Guardian was an absolute highlight, I hope we get more of him eventually. Dreykov I felt was a villain this film needed. An ordinary man who has accumulated too much power and gives no care to the women he uses for his own ends. It felt very poetic.
And the end credits scene which ties into both The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the upcoming Hawkeye series was surprisingly emotional as we jump ahead several years to after Natasha has died. While Yelena visits her grave, Contessa from TFATWS returns to to give Yelena an assignment. Clearly a lot has happened in nearly in the 6-7 between the film in this scene as Yelena had vowed to make her own choices in life but at some point has fallen back into the life of a soldier.
That target by the way ends up being Hawkeye, Clint Barton himself, setting up a conflict between him and Yelena in his upcoming show later this year. This is the first time a Marvel film has expressly set up a TV show story. With many of the TV shows for years setting up or tying in to whatever happens in the movies, with everything under a single banner now Marvel Studios is wasting no time in proving this new era will see the films and shows as tightly interwoven.
Overall Black Widow Feelings
There was so much more this movie could have done if it hadn’t tried to make sure there was a ton of action on top of the slow moments, but the action was at least fun nonetheless and the slow moments were for me the icing on the cake of a solid Marvel film. We got a really good story for Natasha after a long time coming and I’m excited for what Yelena and the others bring to the future of the MCU.
It is regrettable that after all this time Marvel finally made me care about Natasha and now we won’t be getting any more stories with her – at least set within the Sacred Timeline of the MCU. But for what we do have it’s a movie that I can find myself watching again which is a delightful surprise.
Observations of the Sacred Timeline
- I enjoyed the Crimson Dynamo reference from Yelena. There weren’t a ton of Marvel Easter eggs in this movie but that was a good obvious one.
- As well as the mention of the North Institute another Marvel facility that’s been used in conjecture with Natasha-related stories.
- I did enjoy that while all the brain-washing was a blatant retread of the Winter Soldier program from Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War, as well as the idea that these elite soldiers can take down entire governments at the behest of Dreykov, at least the script goes out its way to make that connection obvious when Melina discusses their research in Ohio. At the very least everyone involved in making this movie was aware of it.
- Someone online put forth the idea that perhaps the Captain America that Red Guardian claims to have fought in the early 80s was Isaiah Bradley ( TFATWS). It’d be very interesting if that were the case!
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made really interesting use out of the spy masks that changes ones face, bone structure, and voice completely as long as they have a wig attached to it, but the films have kept in play sparingly as a deus ex machina in their spy thriller stories. Either change it up a bit or do away with them. They’re a crutch at this point.
- I’m enjoying this new era of Marvel where at some point the Disney gave them permission to say “shit” and “bitch” as much as they want and they are GOING for it. The TV shows too have seen an uptick in the usage of these two words and I think it’s funny every time.
- These shows and films have to be building up to the Thunderbolts, right? That has to be what Contessa is doing recruiting all these super characters? Or maybe a Dark Avengers?
- We now have Yelena, the Black Widow of the group. U.S.Agent the Captain America. And it’s being highly speculated that Abomination, seen in the Shang-Chi trailer, might be on the team. He’d be the Hulk equivalent of course. That has to be what’s going on, right?
- Wish we’d gotten more of the Red Room. We’ve only gotten snippets here and there between Avengers: Age of Ultron and Agent Carter, and it seems here in a film designed to really show it off, they opted to continue that trend. Which kind of sucks.
- Fireflies were referred to as Forest Stars in this film. I love it. I’m gonna start calling them that now.
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