Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Black Widow (2021)

A review on American Superhero film, Black Widow (2021). The film is the first of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four films and is directed by Cate Shortland. Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Black Widow and the list of cast includes Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz and Ray Winstone. The film is a continuation of the saga from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is now in cinemas and Disney Plus streaming service.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Cate Shortland
  • Screenplay by Eric Pearson
  • Story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson
  • Cinematography by Gabriel Beristain
  • Music by Lorne Balfe
  • Edited by Leigh Folsom Boyd and Matthew Schmidt
  • Production by Marvel Studios
  • Distributed by Walt Disney Studios and Motion Pictures 

+ Note

The character of Black Widow as the ex-Russian spy first made her appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Iron Man 2 (2009). Since then, she had made dozens of appearances all across the three phases of the MCU and in turn, grew in popularity amongst the fans. A standalone Black Widow film was always on the cards for Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios President) but due to big event shattering films like Avenger: Infinity War (2018) and Endgame (2019), the filming got delayed till the end of the Phase Three. 

After hinting at it through numerous films, Black Widow was set to reveal the origin story of the character and how she became a super spy, entangled in the world of espionage. The main list of characters included Natasha Romanoff’s estranged family of misfits. Black Widow was to be released in the Summer of 2020 but due to the pandemic, the film kept getting delayed till it was finally released in the summer of 2021. As of July 23, 2021, Black Widow has grossed $146.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $132 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $278.7 million.

+ Main Cast

  1. Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  2. Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova / Black Widow
  3. David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian
  4. O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason
  5. Olga Kurylenko as Antonia Dreykov / Taskmaster
  6. William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross
  7. Ray Winstone as Dreykov
  8. Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff / Black Widow

+ Plot

The events of Black Widow take place after Captain America: Civil War (2016) where she serves as a fugitive from the Sokovia Accords. Due to political conspiracy and espionage, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) ends up confronting her dark past as a spy and mending broken relationships with her “parents” and sister. In the quest of searching for the truth, Natasha comes across a mysterious “Red Room” and the potential mastermind behind the Superspy program.

+ High Points

i – The main cast of characters of Black Widow have great chemistry with one another. The exposition/ quieter moments of the film reveal the depth of personality each of the characters pertain within themselves. The screenplay gives vital time develop each of the estranged relationship in the dysfunctional “Romanoff” family and by the far the best thing going about the film.

ii – Speaking of estranged relationships, Florence Pugh as Natasha’s Superspy sister is wonderful casting and an assent to the Black Widow saga. The banter with Scarlett Johansson and her performance walks the fine line of cynicism and comedy with rewarding results. Pugh’s dialogue delivery and subtle gestures play a key role in cementing her as one of the quintessential non-superhero characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.   

iii – And of course, a shoutout also goes to David Harbour as the bumbling “Red Guardian” who’s tall tales of fighting Captain America never cease to amaze his listeners. If not written correctly, the character could’ve ended up being a liability to the film but it is Harbour’s comedic timing and emotions that make him hilarious but loveable at the same time. 

iv – The dark opening sequence of the film was admittedly fantastic and unique from the rest of the Marvel films. It was unapologetically tragic and disturbing to say the least but unfortunately for the film, the originality ended right after the opening scene and the film devolved back into pointless action sequences.

+ Low Points

i – So I guess we should address the elephant in the room; why now? Why did Kevin Feige feel that the audience needs a Black Widow film when she already died in the previous Avengers film? Black Widow is admittedly a competent Superhero film but what purpose does it serve in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The film feels 3 or 4 years too late and it shows. The biggest issue with Black Widow is that regardless if you love the film or not, it is inconsequential and therefore, lacks the stakes of engaging its audience. 

ii – Like Captain Marvel (2019), Black Widow feels dull and a mediocre product of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The plot and action sequences seem like nothing that we already haven’t seen time and time again. The big baddy Dreykov kidnapping and brainwashing solely female subjects is never justified. There seems to be a clear distinction between the dialogue heavy scenes to the mind numbing action sequences. Apparently, the film’s creative team was already working on the action scenes of the film long before they even approached the director of the film! And the results are clear as day. Black Widow doesn’t feel like a coherent film or a vision of a sole filmmaker but rather just some interesting character developing moments, followed by bland CGI explosions. 

iii –  While watching the film, the question that always popped in my head was; is Black Widow invulnerable to pain? As far as I know, Natasha was never injected with the Super serum, how (for the love of God) can she jump 100 feet down on the ground, take a massive beating to the face and still walk away scratchless? I understand that suspension of disbelief is a common trait one must have while watching a superhero film but this was just plain ridiculous and numerous times took me out of the film.

iv – Normally, I do not compare the source material to the film adaptation but Taskmaster was such a major disappointment in the film. The cunning copycat of the comics has so much devious personality that could have served the cinematic counterpart quite well but unfortunately, Taskmaster in MCU is just another bland, generic villain in the film that Black Widow must overcome. I cannot talk much about the character due to spoilers but whatever emotions the film was trying to bring to its audiences, it sadly did not work.

v – Ray Winstone as the big baddy also never lived up to its true evil potential. He was evil for the sake of being evil. No real motivations or character development, Dreykov had the depth of a James Bond villain from the 1960s.

vi – There was a cute subplot with the Red Guardian who claimed to have fought Captain America and then… nothing. There was no pay off to the story. Again, so much potential but none of the creativeness to bring it all together with the main plot of the film.

vii – Even though the family interaction scenes were the best part of the film, the third act of the film was entirely forgettable, CGI nonsense that betrayed the very core of an espionage film. Instead of constructing something unique, the creative team opted for yet another “world threatening, ships in the sky exploding” conclusion that will challenge to keep the audience’s attention span till the end of the film.

+ Overall

Black Widow is a perfectly serviceable but bland Marvel film that never lived up to the character’s potential. MCU needs to be a lot more creative if they don’t want to lose their core audience with the upcoming phase four films.

Rate : 2.0 out of 5 stars

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