Have you seen Black Widow yet? If you are anything like me, the little kid in you has been having withdrawals over the last two years. Yes, it’s been two years since we’ve had any Marvel movies, and that just kind of sucks. Because of the pandemic, all the Marvel movies that were in various stages of production were postponed. I am glad to see them back in production and in theaters.
But Marvel’s latest film was finally released on July 9 and our inner children can have something to cheer about.
Warning: No Spoilers Ahead
Black Widow continues the storylines we have come to know and love over many years. The movie takes place in between the events of Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity War. I won’t give away any spoilers, but at this point, if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame, there’s not much I can do for you.
Black Widow, or Natasha Romanoff as is her name, is a former Russian assassin who, at some point in the past, underwent a superhero-sized change of heart, became one of the good guys, and joined the Avengers. While she dies making the ultimate sacrifice in Endgame, she is obviously very much alive in this movie. So Black Widow is kind of a standalone prequel, of sorts.
But this is the solo movie this character has deserved for a long time. It provides the storyline fans had wanted to know more about, and offers a deeper dive into a character, who, until this movie, had an important but supporting role.
We finally learn what the significance of Natasha Romanoff’s past is, how she connects to the network she once belonged to, how she found her way to the U.S., and ultimately, joined the Avengers. It does, however, still feel like something is missing.
I Was Hoping for Jason Bourne… Meets… Well, Marvel
The set-up was perfect: Former Russian spy, trained as a gorgeous, highly skilled assassin who takes down — and takes out — other highly trained and skilled men twice her size, in the backdrop of post-Soviet Europe. And then the aliens and superheroes come along…
Or so I had hoped.
There are pieces of that woven within the movie, but unfortunately, not as much as I had wanted. Nevertheless, the Hungarian city of Budapest features a lot because it’s significant to Black Widow’s past.
While this movie is fun and does have some of the Robert Ludlum old-school European espionage feels, it does get a little lost. It would have been a better movie had it not tried quite so hard to be a special effects-laden Marvel superhero flick. Since Black Widow has no superpowers, just her all-around badassery and skills, the writers tried too hard to make up for it. Unfortunately, they missed the mark on that one.
A Troubled Past
All we know up to now is that Natasha Romanoff is an orphan. One of the main reasons she takes the events of Civil War and Endgame so hard is because, for her, the Avengers had become her family. That was what allowed her to repay the huge debt of all the bad deeds she had done as an assassin before she was able to start her path to redemption.
People from her past do emerge in interesting ways in Black Widow. One of them steals a bit of Black Widow’s thunder and takes away from her screen and storytime. Rumor has it, that one of those characters is being set up to re-appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I think the movie misses the mark a bit on another aspect, as well. Natasha’s past is what makes her who she is. It’s also how her complicated character is able to make good, albeit very complicated, decisions. The constant moral dilemma that drives every bit of her decision-making and motivates her in all her actions is the product of a brainwashed and awful past. The writers could have spent a few more minutes diving into a truly interesting character and fewer minutes on action sequences.
Black Widow and Female Superhero Stereotypes
A lot has been said recently and over the years about Black Widow and sexist or female superhero stereotypes. I think those sentiments and criticisms have been over-hyped and blown just a bit out of proportion. Now, of course, I also recognize I am seeing these things from a male point of view. With that said, I think it’s a case of much ado about nothing. Marvel superheroines are just as capable and competent as their male counterparts. Actually, in many cases, they are the ones who keep the plot moving, have the most superpowers (i.e. Captain Marvel), and are shown as, yes, beautiful, and also, capable.
There is a sentiment that at times Black Widow was made to be “too sexy” and her character’s treatment too sexist. Yet, the movie even takes jabs at some of that and makes fun of itself a bit. This is a good thing. It shows that the character’s mythology can evolve and not take itself too seriously, while also trying at least, to acknowledge a little bit of those negative feelings that some have towards it. Perhaps it’s an example of trying to turn entertainment into politics and create something for the cancel culture to go after. On the other hand, perhaps there really isn’t much to it.
I see these female characters as showing women and little girls that they, too, can be tough, capable, competent, and beautiful. I think we need a bit more of that in the world.
Black Widow: Three out of Four Stars
One of the biggest strengths this movie has is that it’s a stand-alone film within the Marvel universe. Some of the other Marvel movies are not able to be quite as self-sustaining.
Black Widow is fun to watch. It feels like a Marvel movie, moves like a Marvel movie, and fits into the overall Marvel universe. And as always, Scarlett Johansson does an amazing job as Black Widow.
In spite of its few shortcomings, if you have not yet watched it, add it to your list. If you do not feel comfortable going to a theater yet, you can rent it on-demand, from Disney+.
And your inner little kid, who still secretly wants to be a superhero, will get his or her fix until the next Marvel movie comes our way in a few months.
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