“I doubt the god from space has to take ibuprofen after a fight”Florence Pugh, Black Widow
Release Date: July 9th, 2021 | Director: Cate Shortland
Black Widow takes place in between Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War and follows Natasha Romanoff as she comes to terms with her past. An effective origin story for Natasha Romanoff, the audience learns about her past with the intriguing Yelena Belova as well as her former family including the Red Guardian and Melina Vostokoff. After going into hiding after the events of Civil War, Natasha gets a message from someone from her past and is forced back into the world that she left behind. While coming to terms with what she was trained to be versus how she identifies herself, Natasha attempts to stop a dangerous plot while rekindling relationships that she had buried deep in her past.
This movie was beautifully promoted and the advertising was stunning. I don’t think that I was able to go anywhere without seeing an exciting trailer or a well-designed poster. Yet, this movie didn’t hold up. I don’t say this because of the fact that it’s Marvel’s first female lead, a female director or because of the concept of the movie. As The Americans is one of my favorite shows, I was extremely excited by the introduction of this movie and the confirmation that Natasha was, in fact, one of the sleeper agents that infiltrated the United States government. However, I was less excited about what happened afterwards. The promotion of the movie promised that this would essentially be an origin story for Black Widow, yet I was saddened to see that the most intriguing parts of the movie were glossed over and we were filled in with flashbacks and gaudy montages that left much to be desired. The plot of the movie was hopeful, yet there were so many passive moments that detracted from the overall excitement of what this movie could have been.
As far as the acting goes, I do believe that the heart and soul of this movie was Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova. She goes from this scared little girl begging her family to stay with her to this top of the line killer that ultimately saved the day. Pugh’s performance greatly overshadowed Scarlett Johansson’s performance as Black Widow. While I’m not usually a huge fan of Johansson’s, I do find that Black Widow is her best role. I’ve often been under the impression that this is because Johansson has often been casted in roles that adhere to the male gaze. This movie was no different. There were too many objectifying shots that made me feel as though this movie was not meant to provide an inspiration to young girls who want to be a hero like Natasha Romanoff but rather a sight for the millions of men who the MCU often caters to. David Harbour’s portrayal of Red Guardian was downright hilarious but was too often used for comedic relief and left much in question about the abilities of this formidable super soldier. Rachel Wiesz’s portrayal of Melina towed the line between caring mother and trained spy in a way that was as nuanced as Pugh’s portrayal of Belova. As she was not in the movie as much as Pugh, she didn’t steal the show as effectively as Pugh did.
Ultimately, my biggest issue with the movie was the timing of the release. This movie would have been better off if it had been released five years ago right after Civil War. The movie would have been well placed in the MCU and would have made much more sense than the delayed release of 2021. Maybe Marvel was too concerned that at that time the box office would not have brought in enough money or maybe they just didn’t care enough about Black Widow’s lack of characterization in the other Avengers movies and didn’t find it important that the character had some depth. If this movie had come out before Endgame, Natasha’s death in that movie would have been more impactful than it was. Her death ultimately made me feel nothing and not shedding a tear over one of the most prominent characters in the Avengers franchise (not to mention, the only female warrior until Gamora and the more current MCU) is a mistake on Marvel’s part. Everyone cried over Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, Natasha didn’t even get a funeral or a happy ending. While it can be argued that this was her happy ending because she got to die for her family. However, the fact that it was never mentioned that Natasha had another family who would mourn her and who knew her on a deeper scale than it was implied the Avengers knew her would have been a more devastating and compelling storyline than she got.
Overall, this movie was a disappointment. This is not to say anything about the content or the acting but rather the obvious lack of care that Marvel took with Black Widow’s character as a whole. She deserved more than she got and I ultimately feel for Scarlett Johansson that she was so severely underwritten. She had the potential to play an extremely badass character that, knowing Johansson’s potential as an actress, could have won her an award. This movie was a lost cause from the start because Marvel clearly does not care for its female characters and they are too often fridged or thrown together for a convenient “girl power” shot. I commend the acting and I believe that these characters could all have extreme potential for bring the MCU into a new and hopefully golden age.