“Natasha Romanoff confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises.”

Director: Cate Shortland
Writer: Eric Pearson, Jac Schaeffer, Ned Benson
Staring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, Ray Winstone
Streaming: Disney+
Release Date: July 9, 2021

So this is what we were all waiting for? This is the almighty kickoff to phase four of Marvel Cinematic Universe? You give me a story that is set in the past for a character we already know is dead? After an extended break, COVID and constant delays, Disney and Marvel give us a story with no stakes and seemingly no other purposes other than to appease a female super hero movie and ensure that Florence Pugh is lassoed into some sort of hero role?

As you can tell, I am not a fan of Black Widow (2021).

Black Widow takes place in 2016 after Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has betrayed “Team Iron Man” and helps Captain America (Chris Evans) and his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) at the end of Captain America: Civil War (2016). With seemingly no one to turn to, Natasha finds herself having to revisit her past and made-up family of Russian/Soviet Union spies in an attempt to save the world. Together she teams up with her parents by proxy, Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz), and her younger sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to help take down a man hungry for power and control.

It is a standard run of the mill story that is self contained, which for the record, is good. However, it is very difficult to care about the plot of Black Widow when we know that Natasha dies in Avengers: Endgame (2019) and all but one of the characters in this story are irrelevant in the grander scheme of things. The writing crew attempted to create emotional stakes with the relationships between the estranged family, but only one has enough traction to warrant attention.

Florence Pugh as Yelena blows everyone else off the screen. She is treated like the up and coming star of the movie. Pugh gets the best lines, the best scenes and the end credits scene. She gets to poke fun at the hero genre and at Natasha. Pugh is wonderful, and she is by far the best part of Black Widow.

The worst part of Black Widow…is, dare I say it…Scarlett Johansson? It looks like she is disinterested in Black Widow. Her acting is not nearly as fun and exciting as her counterparts. Part of this is on the screenplay not giving her as many fun parts as Alexei or Yelena.

Another sub-par aspect of Black Widow is the fact it doesn’t really have a bad guy. The big-bad of the movie may be the idea of mother Russia and a crazy Russian wanting to take the world over, but that isn’t flushed out well till the third act when Dreykov (Ray Winstone) explains his entire plot like a classic early-era bond villain. Black Widow tries to flush out the character of Natasha and how she became the way she did with her unique upbringing, but nothing that happens leaves an impact or shines any new light on the deceased character of Natasha.

With all the action that is infused into the story, it is easy to compare Black Widow to a Mission Impossible movie. There is espionage and potential world danger and only through an impossible mission can it be achieved. The movie literally had a decoy mask unveiling just like classic Mission Impossible. Looking through Black Widow in that type of prism, the movie is a bit more salvageable. Speaking for me, myself and I, I could not get into that mindset because of the constant reminders and references to the Avengers and greater cinematic universe. I couldn’t look at Black Widow as an inlet when there is a giant ocean of Marvel properties that are intertwined.

Marvel and Disney screwed up making Black Widow years after they originally should have. They compounded it by making a movie that falls short of numerous marks.

Before exiting, I will shine some light on some areas of Black Widow that I did enjoy.

  • When Natasha broke her nose to break and threw verbal daggers at Deykov in the films climax…I mean that was very cool and badass.
  • The opening car chase and action set piece may have been the best in the movie?
  • Also, I have to say that Florence Pugh was wonderful. I am a fan and am buying all of her stock. However, will I be turning into Hawkeye on Disney+? Probably not.

STANKO RATING: D+ (2.0/5 Stars)


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