Sunday, July 11, 2021

Stubs - Black Widow

Note: This review contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

Black Widow (2021) Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz. Directed by Cate Shortland. Screenplay by Eric Pearson. Based on Marvel Comics. Produced by Kevin Feige. Color. USA Runtime: 134 minutes. Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Superhero, MCU.

MCU Phase 4 is upon us and it starts with an interquel about Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). While it is good to see her finally get a backstory film of her own, the film feels a little out of place. Why start a new Phase with a look back at a character that, spoiler alert, has died. It’s sort of like ending Phase 3 with a film after Avengers: Endgame; oh yeah, they did just that.

The film takes place sometime between Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). It’s okay if you don’t remember what happens in those films, as it doesn’t really matter with this story. Those films are merely bookends and don’t really have anything to do with Black Widow.

Natasha Romanoff /Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson).

When the film opens, Black Widow is on the run from the events of Civil War and this leads to her re-examining her origin story, which turns out to be a story itself and her family a fake. The “daughter” of Russian spies, Natasha Romanoff is turned into a Black Widow, with the emphasis on the A. Turns out there are literally hundreds of Black Widows all over the world, created by General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) as part of his plan to rule the world.

An uneasy family reunion between Natasha, her "father"  Alexie
Shostakov (David Harbour) and her "sister"  Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh).

Natasha reconnects with her “sister” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), also a Black Widow, her “mother” Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), also a Black Widow and her “father”, Alexie Shostakov (David Harbour), who also happens to be Red Guardian, the Soviet equivalent of Captain America. This “family” reunion is anything but normal and is an action-packed revenge adventure. If you like summer action films, you will not be disappointed. The special effects are on par with those with the other Marvel films which means they are really big and very well done.

You probably won’t go to see the film for the acting, but there are no complaints there. Johansson is very comfortable in the role, which she has played in nine films. Harbour and Weisz also give strong performances, as you would expect nothing less from either. But you get the idea that the film is there to introduce Yelena Belova, who will be returning in the Hawkeye mini-series that will appear later this year on Disney+.

Delayed because of Covid, Black Widow was supposed to have come out May 1, 2020, which slightly throws off the inter-related MCU Phase 4 lifestyle, with its planned 11 films and 13 TV series. If you watched the TV series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, you were already introduced to a character that was supposed to have been introduced in this film, and like the billing block, I won’t give away who.

Avengers villain Taskmaster gets repurposed in Black Widow.

While I am not a Marvel comics expert, I have to imagine that the Black Widow universe isn’t as complete as others, as they have to repurpose an Avengers villain, Taskmaster, to fill out the story. Much like Spider-Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has mechanized villains as well as heroes, with Taskmaster’s fighting abilities being more because of tech rather than photographic reflexes, as in the comic book.

I wanted to see this film, though not bad enough to risk the Delta variant to see it in a theater. I did, however, plop down the $30 for Disney+’s Premier Access, something I hadn’t been willing to before for any other Disney film. Seeing Black Widow when it was released was worth it, though I’m still not sure how much time and money I want to invest in Phase 4. If nothing else, Black Widow felt like a somewhat delayed coda to the decade-plus-long Infinity Saga.

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