Tuesday Review – Black Widow (2021)

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s been a long road getting to this Black Widow film. The character first appeared in the MCU way back in 2010 and has been sidelined ever since. Then the news finally hit that she was getting her chance in the spotlight. Of course, it wasn’t smooth sailing and Covid put the release date back by over a year. It’s fair to say that Natasha deserved a better deal but at least she’s finally the star of the show. Yes, it’s 4 years after Wonder Woman debuted and we’ve met Captain Marvel already. The fact is, Black Widow is here and we’ve got a lot to celebrate. For one thing, Scarlett Johansson is playing a character with an appropriate ethnic background. But this has always looked like a genuinely good film. The cast looked awesome ad there was plenty of potential to get to know the character from a different point of view.

I think the major thing that got me excited about a Black Widow film was the potential for a move away from the typical Marvel superhero fare. Natasha had the potential to bring something more thriller based to the MCU and, for the first half of Black Widow, it looks as though this is true. The film opens just after the events of Civil War and Nat is on the run from General Ross. She goes into hiding but finds herself drawn into some serious espionage. She gets her hand on some evidence that proves that an adversary she thought long dead was still alive. She spends a lot of her time running from gun fire, jumping out of windows and running along rooves. It’s like something out of James Bond or Mission Impossible.

The problem comes just over halfway through the film when it becomes apparent that Marvel haven’t learnt a damn thing. There is a moment when you can tell exactly how this thing is going to go down and there is absolutely no attempt to do something original. We’ve all heard the criticism that every Marvel superhero film ended with a big sky fight followed by something crashing to the ground. Apparently Marvel saw that as a challenge. Then there’s the underdeveloped villain. It’s not that I care that they changed Taskmaster from the comics but the character is never given the chance to be brilliant. Another wasted opportunity.

Do these elements make this a bad film? No. Does it make it a missed opportunity? Yes. We’ve waited 10 years to give this character her first major outing and it’s sad that it all just falls back into the familiar patterns. This was the first big Marvel release post-Endgame and it had the chance to do something to make itself standout. It was so close to getting there but, in the end, Marvel will always go safe. This could have been an MCU film that is really grounded in reality but, instead, we see insane stunts that and superhuman feats. Was it too much to ask to just see Scar Jo just kicking ass? Especially when the ass she is going to be kicking is Ray Winstone sporting one of the worst Russian accents I’ve ever heard. Seriously, that guy never even tries to hide his accent for a role. I love it.

I also wouldn’t say that we get to know much more about Nat than we did before. This isn’t really a film about her but about Yelena, played by Florence Pugh. It’s such a shame that Nat’s first film was actually just a cover for introducing a new character to the MCU. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Yelena and Florence Pugh. She was clearly the best thing about this whole thing. It’s just that she totally takes the limelight away from the person we should have been focusing on. Yelena is allowed to have fun and emotional depth. Nat looks wistful and stays quiet. It’s clear who Marvel are pushing as the real star of this film and, though the film is enjoyable, it kinda sucks. Natasha deserved her moment of glory. She’s on fine form here but it could have been great.

This is the problem that Marvel currently has with everything. The plan is too big and they’re looking too far into the future. Everything is now set up for something else. You can tell from the post-credits film that, far from being Scarlett Johansson’s swan-song, Black Widow is laying the groundwork for things that are coming. It’s why it ends up not feeling like a justified film with a slightly underwhelming story. Each new film has certain beats to hit and certain references to fit in. This means they are manipulated too much and lose that organic feel that made early Marvel films shine. There are so many plot holes here. Some things just don’t make sense. Black Widow is a good film and very nearly a great film. I just wish it hadn’t been so bogged down with ticking all the boxes Marvel needed it to tick.

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