Black Widow Review (with Spoilers)
My son and I went out with a couple of friends last weekend to see Black Widow. First movie in a theater in well over a year.
The short review: I liked it. Fun, fast-paced, with lots of action and some humor. And it’s well past time Black Widow got her own movie.
This felt a little smaller than some of the recent Marvel movies. There are no universe-threatening villains, no collapsing timelines, no magic or spaceships. And that works. It was almost refreshing, to be honest. It’s nice to not feel like we’re constantly trying to top the last spectacle.
We finally get to see more of Black Widow’s past, starting with a deep cover assignment when she was just a kid with her family, living in Ohio. The family dynamics were my favorite part of the movie. I loved that they all have some level of the same “real vs. fake” struggle we’ve seen with Natasha all along, and the actors do a wonderful job with it.
I particularly loved David Harbour’s take on Red Guardian, aka Natasha’s fake father. He dove into his character, growling and chewing scenery and being a clueless super soldier dad. The best parts were when the whole family came together, whether it was over a meal or working to take down (literally) the Red Room.
Then there’s Yelena, the younger sister. She was the most invested in their family, insisting it was real for her even as the others deny it. So it’s fitting that she’s the one who started the whole reunion into motion. And I loved watching her banter with her sister and call out Black Widow’s habit of posing.
Melina didn’t work quite as well for me. I think in part it’s because we didn’t see as much of her. Unlike Red Guardian, who’d been stuck in jail, Melina spent many years doing some Pretty Evil Crap. Despite her redemption bit at the end, it didn’t feel as believable or as earned.
The movie’s set after the events of Civil War, and I wish it had come out back then. The stakes didn’t feel as high, because we knew nothing would really change in the larger Marvel universe. Except maybe for that credits scene, where Yelena and her dog visit Natasha’s grave (which was beautiful), and we discover Yelena has been working for the Countess, who assigns her to go kill Hawkeye.
I know we’re setting up the Hawkeye series with this, but it felt…off. After all the good Yelena’s done, how does she end up working for a villain? And why would she accept an assignment to go after Natasha’s best friend without even asking any questions? Maybe the Hawkeye series will explain that better.
Thematically, I really liked the ending, and having all of the Widows come together to take care of each other–even Taskmaster–and to go after the deep-cover Widows that are still out there.
I know there have been complaints about Taskmaster’s character being 1) untrue to the comics and 2) a woman, but I thought it fit really well into the movie.
All in all, a fun movie. Some fun lines, entertaining (if a bit over-the-top) action, and good characters. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing more of Red Guardian and Yelena.
What did the rest of you think?
July 19, 2021 @ 4:51 pm
I agree with most of what you said. The family banter really worked for me and it felt like they quickly fell back into old roles. The end credits scene really annoyed me. In Avengers: Endgame, both Tony and Natasha died. We had a huge amount of time spent mourning Tony. Natasha basically got nothing. To have her sister go to her grave felt too-little-too-late, but at least it was something. But then to have the Countess show up, sneezing, and turn it into a a setup for something else. Natasha deserved better.
July 19, 2021 @ 5:21 pm
I loved that it was about the wimmin and that sisters were doing it for themselves.
I am part of “the other” so anytime a film is not about the white male heteronormal majority I rejoice and book multiple sittings at the cinema.
Even so, it was a good movie. I would be this positive even if it didn’t fit my stereotypical categories
July 19, 2021 @ 7:38 pm
I’m not a comics fan and not up on the ins and outs of the Marvel Universe, so I wouldn’t normally have bothered. I went to see it because I’d seen an article by a blogger I trusted that said it was good — that is, that there was more to than the usual cartoon violence. Also the fact that women were central to the plot.
I liked the way they had some family dynamic. I loved the way the “happy family” situation at the beginning is then dismantled and then gradually reassembled in a very different way in the course of the story. And I enjoyed the fact that the women are central to the plot (Red Guardian was just a clown)– it even passes the Bechdel Test. FWIW, my ex came along and noticed when the credits rolled that there were a lot of women in the production crews; usually the only women in a crew are in front of the camera.
On the down side, I thought the action sequences were much too long and repetitious. Although they usually are a part of the plot, the plot point gets made very early in the sequence and the rest is just more crashes/leaps/explosions/etc. in the same vein. I usually just looked at my phone a little while after each one started. I’m guessing that a True Marvel Fan would hang on to every shot and explosion and death-defying leap and that’s why they do it. I even got the impression that in some places they used the same exact clip multiple times, like when the Red Room floating complex is breaking up.
Another issue is that the movie assumes that you know all the characters and backstories from the other movies and the comics. Fortunately, I was with my son who does know it, and I frequently had to ask him during the movie who was what and why, just so I could make sense of things.
I couldn’t help noticing that right after the heroes have basically gone through a bunch of explosions and fallen from several miles of altitude, Natasha appears with perfect, unsmudged lipstick. Amusing, but maybe also reflective of the way women are expected to always look perfect, no matter what happens. Patriarchy is everywhere.
Jim C. Hines
July 19, 2021 @ 7:59 pm
Allison – I think that’s an ongoing and growing problem with the Marvelverse. It keeps getting bigger and more complex. On the one hand, that’s a pretty cool storytelling feat, and it can be rewarding for people who are caught up on everything. But it’s going to make it harder and harder for new viewers to jump in and understand what’s going on and why they should care.
July 20, 2021 @ 1:08 pm
I was not as troubled by Yelena working for the Countess… because I get the feeling that (not having gone through everything we saw Natasha go through (and very likely having been disappeared in the Blip) she may not know what we do about the Countess–who can present a very plausible face, as we’ve seen elsewhere.
Yes, it’s a smaller movie, and it’s a little bit hard to know where they could have put it during the Phase 3 releases–but the fact that we know all these things about her future (in the same way that we see the impact of Loki learning about his future on LOKI) adds an extra emotional wallop. For me, at least.
July 20, 2021 @ 3:52 pm
It was my first theatre movie since pre-pandemic too, took the kids and a couple of niblings. I liked it quite a bit, cast was great and while Taskmaster was very different than the comic, I thought it worked fine. [I am a casual comics reader so I caught some but not all of the references, the Crimson Dynamo line was amusing.] The main villain himself was fairly blah, and also I didn’t see the twist coming until the reveal which was fun.
July 28, 2021 @ 8:26 am
My main issue was that as I haven’t seen more than a few episodes of Stranger Things, I’m not very familiar with David Harbor. It took way too long for me to make the connection that the bearded Red Guardian in the prison was the same person as the clean-shaven dad figure from the opening sequence. Like, I was prompted by the comment about how he was stuck in Ohio for 3 years.
Probably a me-problem.