Black Widow stings a bit, yet its a fitting swan song. (Review)
Ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe was cranking out films left and right, I was one of the few who asked "where's the Black Widow " movie? Her introduction along with War Machine, was one of the many highlights i liked about the unjustly maligned Iron Man 2.
Well of course, you cannot have an Avengers movie without introducing the "Big Three" Iron Man, Thor and Captain America but what happened to female representation? This was another missed opportunity back then but over ten years later, here we are. Despite a few setbacks, and being in development hell since 2004, Black Widow has finally arrived! And was it worth the wait...well, let's get to it!
Taking place between Captain America Civil War, and Avengers Endgame, Scarlet Johansen once again, assumes her role as Marvel’s Superspy, Black Widow who is now a fugitive on the run after violating the Sokovia Accords and assaulting the "King of Wakanda." She runs afoul with another "Black Widow " who releases this antidote called "Red dust” and knowing that it can remove the other female assassins under main antagonist Dreyov's command, Romanoff sets off to reunite with her dysfunctional "family " rescue the Red Room regiments and stop Dreykov permanently. So, there you have the basic synopsis.
During the beginning of the story, we're treated with a flashback scene taking place in 90's Ohio where Natasha Romanoff, her sister Yelana and parents Alexi and Melina who are Spies for the Russian Government are forced to leave their home after having their cover blown. What's funny is how on the pursuing vehicles have the "SHIELD" logo emblazoned but the organization wasn't officially named until after the events of Iron Man 2, not the nineties!
Afterwards, there is a lackluster intro accompanied by a "Smells like Teen Spirit" cover. While Nirvana is not one of my favorite bands, bias aside, I would not use it for this type of film. There should have at least been a 007-esque intro to associate with the titular character's espionage background. If it worked for Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater, why not Black Widow?
Black Widow's plot is your basic conspiracy thriller rife with over-the-top action aesthetics with a handful of bloated tropes. Any espionage scenes have been traded in exchange for action and comedy breaks, the latter being the strongest asset thanks to David Harbour (Stranger Things) and especially breakout star Florence Pugh who has practically the best dialogue especially when its self-referential i.e., the infamous "three-point landing" reference.
While Ray Winestone's Dreykov is the evil mastermind behind Romanoff's troubles, it’s the Supervillain Taskmaster that was one of the main draws of this one off project and suffice to say, I was left disappointed. Instead of this badass mercenary and brash combat instructor, here we have is this mute pursuer who comes off as Winter Soldier knockoff, chasing Romanoff!
What is predictable about Taskmaster is the character's reveal and tragic villain backstory. I called it as soon as I watched the flashback with Natasha attempting to assassinate Dreykov. Taskmaster was known for his bravado and capabilities to adapt the fighting moves of several combatants; this live action adaptation was more of a Darth Vader archetype than a the Comicbook antagonist.
One other flaw is how Dreykov was displayed as some generic misogynist foil controlling a network of female operatives while Widow is the symbol of female empowerment against the male oppressor. This critique is not aimed at identity politics, but it's "been there, done that". Just look at Captain Marvel for example. In my opinion, it was plain lazy writing.
Cate Shorthand's film shamelessly borrows concepts from Amazon’s Hanna series, FX’s The Americans and videogame mechanics from 2010's WET where the heroine skydives navigating through falling debris.
The third act throws in all the bells, and whistles which is probably where most of the production budget probably went towards, via CGI, set pieces and choreographed fight scenes. Although the finale was a bit abrupt, it’s the sobering post-credits scene that closes Natasha's chapter and begins Yelena's journey as an MCU mainstay as the baton has been passed.
Overall, I did not have high expectations for this movie especially after watching the trailers that gave away certain plot points overall, it’s a watchable offering from the "House of Mouse" and a apt way to close out for the first female Avenger of cinema.
Black Widow is now playing in Theaters (Believe it or not!) and available through Disney Plus' Premier streaming services.