Johansson proves that she's never needed an ensemble cast to carry a film
The post-credit scene's cool
Utterly forgettable villains
Weak effort for a character who deserved more
The post-credit scene feels kinda whatever... I know, I know--it was cool but still very whatever
Between Black Widow, Loki, and the Vision, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be getting its kicks off building content around dead characters. Unfortunately, unlike Loki or WandaVision, Black Widow’s entire plot seems to exist in an oddly placed vacuum of why even bother?
Not that the movie is bad by any means–the plot is interesting enough, the script is largely serviceable although the traditional MCU quips and jibes never quite feel as “in place” as other movies, and the core cast is amazing.
Unfortunately, much like Doctor Strange or Thor: Ragnarok, Black Widow’s purpose as a film seems less to do with any actual narrative impact, and more with just introducing a bunch of new characters.
Of course, a large portion of this could have been avoided if Disney had just done this movie somewhere between 2016 to 2018 (during the period the movie is actually set) as opposed to some retrospective regret piece meant to cover the fact that Black Widow’s the only original Avenger to not lead her own film or series.
Or, perhaps the movie would have been better held together if Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova had taken centre stage of the narrative itself, while Natasha functioned as a guiding tool—much like Wolverine in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. It doesn’t really help that Pugh’s character did carry much of the emotional weight while Natasha seemed to just be there because she’s a franchise icon.
Thankfully, the cast are no lightweights. Although Rachel Weisz feels a tad underused, and William Hurt’s Thunderbolt Ross seems to have had a bunch of screen time cut, both actors are easily able to anchor the scene any time they’re on camera.
David Harbour continues Marvel Studios’ legacy of giving actors of failed superhero franchises a far superior second chance. While Harbour’s Red Guardian deserves far more focus than he gets, he’s a delight to watch no matter when. It’ll be pretty awesome having him eventually meet his American counterpart… on the moon, of course.
And while the Black Widow character may still be underserved, any lesser actor than Scarlett Johansson may have entirely collapsed under the sheer density of the expectations of the movie. Although the screenplay clearly understands that the bulk of the character’s development has been covered, or revealed, by the seven movies she’s appeared in over a nine-year span (from Iron Man 2 to Avengers: Endgame), there still seems a dissonance with how the narrative is executed.
Ultimately, it ends feeling like the entire film was an anime-styled unabridged flashback experienced in the moments prior to the character’s death… spoiler alert?
The oddest aspect of the script seems to be how the movie’s a collection of tidbits or narrative points from the first two Avengers movies. From explaining Budapest to elaborating on “Dreykov’s daughter,” there is a sense of the script being held up on the legs of references and Easter eggs, like the typical DCEU flick… or the recent episodes of Loki.
Tragically, where the weak-ish script or the by-the-numbers plot could have been salvaged by the action, every sequence seems to drag a tad bit longer than it should, where the “big open” of the sequence almost always peters out into a repetitive cycle across the film.
That said, the final bit of climatic combat attempts to do more than any MCU film since the Ant-Man films, and that alone is more remarkable than most of the 20+ movies’ worth of climaxes.
While Black Widow’s certainly not the film many would expect to continue the MCU hype following the two-year absence of big-screen Marvel films, its Phase 1 inspired tone somewhat redeems it and allows it to work. Fans of the character would probably be especially pleased to spend time with Natasha without having her story diluted by the presence of the ensembles she is usually accompanied by.
Black Widow is out now in all theatres or can be watched via Disney+ Premier from 9 July.