With Marvel shows getting to carry the weight of the MCU on Disney+, a big theatrical release was an important litmus test. Black Widow is exactly the action movie spectacle Marvel fans have been waiting for and it digs much deeper into the complex family dynamic of its primary characters in a way we haven’t seen before in the MCU.
Bringing in Australian director Cate Shortland to helm the movie that was supposed to kick off the next phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a risky endeavor but she did a fantastic job with this movie. Her ability to balance the many different aspects of the characters’ family dynamic with high-octane action was impressive. The MCU films always have a sense of humor but Eric Pearson’s script had to earn more than most of the other films in the franchise. This is the most ‘adult” story in the MCU and was not too far removed from being R-rated, but Pearson used intelligent humor to soften the sharper edges of the characters’ pasts and Shortland gave her actors room to explore the emotional highs and lows of the material.
This movie was sorta owed to Scarlett Johansson for her tenure as Natasha Romanoff and it’s a good solo film for the character, but it wasn’t an origin story like I was expecting and it was a step back from the place we last left her character, emotionally, at the end of Endgame. Johansson still gets to have fun with the role and gives us what we would want out of the opportunity but part of the function of the film was to pass the torch.
On that note, it was a coming-out party for Florence Pugh as the heir to the ‘Black Widow’ mantle. Pugh has been doing a lot of interesting work over the years and I had named her as my breakthrough performer for her performance in Lady MacBeth (2016), so it’s cool to see her in this position and she steals the show as Natasha’s younger sister, Yelena. Funny, confident, and fully aware of her position as a killer, Pugh handles the emotional complexities of the character with finesse.
David Harbour and Ray Winstone were both strong in their roles as different ends of the Russian special ops, but I would have liked more from Rachel Weisz. I like what they did with the character design but she’s too good an actress to waste. Overall, no complaints with the cast.
I had read a lot of underwhelming opinions on the portrayal before I had even seen the movie but I liked it, especially through the first 2/3 of the film. There’s a very strong Terminator vibe and works great in conjunction with the Bourne-Esque action-spy stuff with a Europen backdrop. However, once the curtain gets pulled back, it just changes your perception of the character. It’s intended that way and it works with the plot, but it shifts the style of movie you’re watching and pulls away from a harder landing.
The visual elements are as strong and crazy as you would expect for an MCU film and seeing the army of people involved in the VFX during the end credits roll really puts into perspective how many people are employed by films such as this.
After consuming the Marvel shows on Disney+, I was curious to see what this film was going to bring to the table. That said, it brought back the spectacle that makes the MCU films worthwhile and was a good passing-the-baton moment for everyone involved.
Recommendation: This was a strong addition to the MCU and a worth seeing in theaters. However, making the trip to the theater still isn’t the best choice for everyone and $30 isn’t a bad streaming price if you have a lot of heads to account for. You should be able to have fun and enjoy it either way.
As usual, if you like what I’m doing, please like, subscribe, and share. Be well, and have fun at the movies!