Experience it in theaters.
Black Widow is a 2021 superhero film directed by Cate Shortland, written by Eric Pearson, produced by Marvel Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film is based off of various Black Widow comics by Marvel Comics. It stars Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh. It was not nominated for any Academy Awards. This is the twenty-fourth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although it is the sixteenth film in the Marvel canon. It acts as a technical sequel to Spider-Man: Far From Home, although canonically, it is a sequel to Captain America: Civil War. It was followed (canonically) by Avengers: Infinity War. In release order, it is followed by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but will be followed story-wise by Hawkeye.
"Family. Back together again." -Alexei Shostokav
After the Avengers split up, Natasha Romanoff is called back into action when she receives word that the Red Room is still active. She reunites with her original family; Yelena Belova, another trained Black Widow, Alexei Shostokav, the only Russian super soldier ever created, and Melina Vostokoff, the strategist for the Red Room. As the Red Room poses more of a threat, Natasha and her family decide to take it down once and for all.
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Darker Tone / Fitting Nat's Character / Action / Personal Story / Florence Pugh and David Harbour / Family Relationship / Comedy / Final Sequence / Post-Credits / CGI / Feeling Like a Sequel / Length / Taskmaster / Placement of Film Inside of MCU / Choppy Pacing
The MCU is back on the big screen!
After months and months of heart-breaking delays, Black Widow is finally here. We have about five and a half months left in 2021, and we get six more MCU projects: What If...?, Shang-Chi, Eternals, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, and, of course, No Way Home. But I'm not here to talk about the upcoming MCU movies. I'm here to talk Black Widow.
This film is definitely not afraid to go dark. The tone and overall vibe of the film is much more mature than most MCU movies. It definitely pushes the limits of a PG-13 rating. Before much was known about this film, a rumor surrounding an R-rating was circling around. And I now understand why. It has some heavy, heavy stuff, and I really think that that works well inside of the story that is told.
Along those same lines, the film feels very much like it fits Natasha's character. If the character of Natasha Romanoff was a movie, this would be it. The themes and tone and ideas present inside of the film all feel very much like the character of Black Widow herself. If you think about this aspect while watching the movie, you will understand what I'm saying.
And the action is great. Nat's always had a very complex fighting style that involved some very cool hand-to-hand combat. Since almost every character in this movie is a trained assassin that shares her fighting style, there's a lot of super quick fight scenes. The character of Taskmaster also mimics the fight pattern of his opponent, so that made for some cool action with him.
The story of Black Widow also feels very personal to Natasha and her family. I always like it when the story of a film is a more personal battle instead of a team of heroes saving the world because they are good guys. It makes the characters feel more passionate about what they are doing. And I also think it makes you root for them even more. The story itself is interesting. I like what they did with the idea of the Red Room and the Black Widow program. It's cool.
I'd say I liked all of the acting in the movie, but the standouts were easily Florence Pugh and David Harbour. Pugh has this irresistible charm to her, and it makes the character of Yelena Belova one of my favorites in the film. Harbour takes his acting chops soaring past Jim Hopper and into a much more naive and comedic role that he absolutely dominates.
The relationship between the family also made all of these characters pop. Natasha is our guide throughout the film, because we already know her. She slowly begins to trust her family again, and we begin to like her family...a lot. Yelena was easily my favorite character in the movie. I cannot wait to see more of her in the MCU. Alexei and Melina were also tons of fun to watch. The dynamic between these four was everything: it could be hilarious, it could be emotional, and it could be heartfelt.
The movie is also funny. Since it is one of the darker MCU movies, it doesn't bombard you with quips and one-liners. It uses comedy surprisingly well. It doesn't try to break tension with jokes, but it does have moments of levity with some hilarious moments every once in a while.
I also really liked the final sequence of the film. Every time you think some kind of cliché or usual thing is going to happen, the movie does something that you do not expect at all. It does a great job of subverting your expectations in a good way. There are definite moments of surprise mixed in with some good action, so it ended on a high note.
And stick around for the post-credits scene. There is only one, so don't be on the lookout for two. The one that we do have has a nice little twist and tie-in with another Marvel project. Obviously, I can't really say anything about it, but it teases an interesting plot point for the future.
Black Widow has the worst CGI in an MCU movie since The Incredible Hulk. I was shocked at how obvious some of the green screens and special effects were. The movie's budget was obviously spent on other things and maybe the countless delays affected the CG, but it was not good at all.
The movie also feels a lot like a sequel to a non-existent first Black Widow movie. There's a piece of the puzzle that's missing. The characters keep referencing Nat's time in the Red Room as though we know what they are talking about. It feels like we are missing an origin story that should've come before this.
It's also probably about twenty minutes too long. The opening scene feels like it goes on forever, and then there are a few scenes that overstay their welcome. It feels like they dragged it out as much as they possibly could and were able to get a runtime over two hours, when it really wasn't necessary.
The thing that disappointed me most about Black Widow was easily Taskmaster. If you don't know, Taskmaster is one of the more famous and creative Marvel villains, as well as the main antagonist of the Black Widow comics. He is her archenemy, and people have been waiting for a screen adaptation of the character for forever. And they absolutely fumbled the ball with him. I haven't seen Marvel screw up a character so bad since the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. It was seriously underwhelming.
I think the problem that most people will have with Black Widow is where it was released versus when it takes place. This film should've been released in 2017, between Civil War and Infinity War. The only thing that moves the plot of the entire MCU forward is the after-credits scene. Everything else in this film happens before Infinity War and Endgame. This makes the film frustrating, because it's a fun movie, but it doesn't justify its existence. It's telling a story that should've been told a while ago and is now being told way too late.
Lastly, the film's pace is very awkward. The beginning starts off relatively fast-paced. Near the end of the first act, there's like three or four non-stop action sequences in a row. Then, right after we are re-introduced to David Harbour, the film slows down to have a lot of character moments and exposition. It recovers during the third act, but I do not know what was going on in that middle section.
Analogy and Final Score
Let's say each movie in the MCU is an iPhone. Infinity War is the iPhone 8, Endgame is the iPhone 9, and WandaVision is the iPhone X. Black Widow is an iPhone 7. It's a good phone that still works just as well as it did when it was first released, but since we've gotten the iPhone 8, 9, and X, it feels out of place now. But it is still a good phone that we are happy to have.
I will give Black Widow a Savory. Age range is 9+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Directed by Cate Shortland
Rated PG-13 for superhero violence and action, language, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Released on July 9, 2021
2 hours and 13 minutes
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova/Black Widow
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff/Iron Maiden
Ray Winstone as Dreykov
Ever Anderson as Young Natasha
Violet McGraw as Young Yelena
O-T Fagbenle as Mason
Olga Kurylenko as Antonia Dreykov
William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross