Image taken from rogerebert.com
So, what can we say about a film that should be irrelevant? After all, this is a story about a character who is, at least in viewer chronology, already dead, right? And yet, it isn’t quite the prequel either. Rather, it’s separate story, albeit one that fills in a crucial gap in the narrative between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Also, it stars a character that many though received a bum deal in Avengers, with her death seemingly glossed over because, well, Iron Man.
Black Widow is set right after Civil War, and the various anti-Sokovia Accords characters are on the run. It’s refreshing to see Natasha exercise her spy skills (a liiitle bit) for once and the beginning of the film has a feeling similar to espionage films like The Bourne Identity. That, of course, doesn’t last but, refreshingly so, the action sequences are rather well paced and well spaced; the movie feels dynamic, but it isn’t the exhausting roller coaster ride (um F&F) that some movies are. Also, it was an intersting idea to create a different dynamic for Natasha to interact in. The dysfunctional family she and her sister Yelena (played excellently by Florence Pugh) plays to Natasha’s established personality. The sarcasm, the dry wit that Black Widow featured in the first Avengers movie gets to surface again, this time in the form of a “family.” Rachel Weiss and David Harbour are perfect as the “parents,” particularly Harbour, whose presence is a pleasant comedic foil to all the cloak and dagger. If anything, though, these sequences could have benefitted from slightly punchier dialogue as some lines felt flat.
As with most superhero movies, the plot isn’t the greatest. But, as plots go, at least this was simple enough to keep control of. Natasha and Yelena are driven with a clear motivation, though, as villains go, General Dreykov was just ok. More irritating than intimidating, really. I did appreciate the pathos they attached to Taskmaster, who is, in the comics, just a smart-talking mercenary with a knack for mimicry. But, as is with nearly all the Marvel films, the action is fast and exciting, the visuals wonderful to see. The acting? Well, it’s ok. But hey, it’s a Marvel film.
As a side note, Natasha seems to have gotten some sort of durability buff since she started in the MCU, huh? Given how many (supposedly fatal) crashes she gets in this film, there is the speculation of her being a kind of super soldier herself, something that was kind of alluded to in the opening credits (not really much of a spoiler folks, I’m just guessing here.) It does get a little silly visually, though.
Black Widow is also not about Natasha. There is a passing of the torch here, something that was inevitable since, after all, Natasha is dead in the current MCU. Also, there is the idea of moving on with the cast of the films. With Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. retired and with Chadwick Boseman sadly gone, there is a need to start thinking about where to move these stories going forward. The idea of a Black Widow present in the MCU is appealing, even if Scarlett Johansson is no longer the cast member playing it.
I must say, Marvel is still on their game with Black Widow and with their television shows. It’s intriguing where this next phase of films will go, since there’s still a lot of setting up to do, but at least with the first releases, they’re holding our attention. If there’s a gripe I’d have, it’s that this film should have been made earlier, where it would fit better in the whole MCU narrative arc. But, in all, it’s a fun film that’s worth the two hours.