Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Movie Review: Black Widow


The family reentered movie theaters this past week to celebrate the newest edition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe--the long delayed and long awaited Black Widow backstory for Scarlett Johansson's Avenger.

The TL;DR review of the movie? 

I really enjoyed it. I thought it was equally fun, engaging, funny, and spectacle. 

It is perhaps not surprising to you to learn that the MCU is expert at generating this stuff after a decade + of cranking out these films. And so I was not objective and I fully expected to enjoy myself. And well, I did.

As usual, we ranked the film according to our basic criteria that Grace and I created to evaluate each MCU entry: 1 point each for Plot, Hero, Villain, Music, Cinematography, and End Scene. The only areas that got less than a point were villain and music. 

Those results were of no particular surprise, because the MCU has a long history of not knowing how to handle villains well. And the music for Black Widow was only standard MCU symphonic fair (with the exception of the weird cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that was included just to remind you that this movie scrambled the chronology of the films. 

I think you can see that our highest ranked movies benefit from having a strong villain character and having strong music. That is a reason that the Spiderman movies do so well in our rankings. (Along side the undeniable fact that I am an unrepentant Spiderman fanboy.) 

Slight aside #1--Apparently, based on some post watch reviews that I've listened to, the MCU version of Taskmaster is quite different in Black Widow than is true in the comics canon. But as I have no frame of reference for that, I'll only say that everything about the Taskmaster--with the slight exception of the reveal of who is under the helmet--gave off strong Winter Soldier vibes. And I will ALSO say that every time someone threw around that circular shield, I felt a pang of sadness inside.

(I miss you Steve. I celebrate Sam Wilson and his role as new Cap. But, I miss Steve Rogers. Or maybe I miss Chris Evans? Or maybe the recent July 4th holiday has me thinking about America's Ass again?)

Slight aside #2--My kids recently got me interested in the British show "Taskmaster." It is a reality type of game show where celebrities and comedians in the UK compete in bizarre tasks and get points for how inventively and how creatively and how successfully they accomplish the tasks. It is a fun show that contrasts the different approaches of the different contestants. 

Having watched it, I struggled to keep the correct frame of reference for this MCU villain.

Back to the review--I very much enjoyed David Harbour's character. But I also would have appreciated more space to learn about the Red Guardian. Harbour also gave off strong Hopper vibes from "Stranger Things" in the fact that he was playing patriarch to a found family of wayward ladies. 

(I'd like to know how Eleven might mix it up with Natasha and Yelena in a family reunion. Since Hopper was last ween in Russia during the end scene of Stranger Things season 3, don't rule anything out just yet.)

Florence Pugh was great as Yelena Belova. I haven't seen much other acting work by her. But my kids were big fans of Midsommer and they also liked the recent remake of Little Women. And Pugh is currently dating Zach Braff--who I have liked in past work. No complaints from me. She had a believable little sister vibe. And I too like a versatile vest with pockets.

I was also very pleased to learn that the "Romanoffs" were from Ohio. I now imagine that Black Widow unwound on the weekend by catching up on DVR'ed Buckeye football games. (I'll see if I can work this into my next season's Football Counter-Programming thought process.) And while I agree with reviewers who say that Natasha deserved a national monument for saving the universe, a nondescript grave in somewhere Ohio is a nice choice. 

My thoughts on the End Scene? How dare you slander Hawkeye? The Countess is definitely not showing herself to be a good guy--despite the charming ways of Julia Louis Dreyfuss. I am curious about the cut-rate Avengers team that  the Countess is trying to assemble.

Slight aside #3--Was this movie conceived only to pay off all of the Hawkeye/Black Widow references of who remembers Budapest better?

Slight aside #4--Research tells me that there is something called the Thunderbolts . . . or maybe the Dark Avengers. (Seriously!) This could represent what the Countess is doing with John Walker, aka U.S. Agent and Yelena Belova. But I only know that from reading the Internet. Will this be another Disney+ show in a few years?

In the end, I think this was a good showcase for Scarlett Johansson--even if the nature of her character turned her into Florence Pugh and David Harbour's straight (wo)man. It might have been different if a Black Widow movie had been made five or six years ago. And it probably would only have diminished something mostly non-essential like Ant Man and the Wasp. Johansson should have received more prominence in the MCU. And it should have come before Captain Marvel.

But as we have learned during this summer of Disney+, time is malleable and choices matter. There are infinite possibilities in the multiverse. And even the greatest Avengers can be replaced when a suitable candidate comes along.

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