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Black Widow (A Movie Review)


Black Widow

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Ever Anderson, Violet McGraw, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Liani Samuel, Michelle Lee, Lewis Young, CC Smiff, Nanna Blondell, Olivier Richters, Simona Zivkovska, Erin Jameson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the voice of Jeremy Renner.

Screenplay by Eric Pearson.

Directed by Cate Shortland.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 134 minutes. Rated PG-13.

There is a certain amount of heavy baggage on Black Widow as the first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to come out since well before the pandemic. (The last entry was Spider-Man: Far from Home, which came out two years ago last week.) Of course, Black Widow has been done and ready to go for a while now, but the release date was pushed back until movie theaters were back in action.

There is the added burden of the fact that Black Widow is one of the lesser known of the Marvel heroes, and while she is one of the Avengers and has appeared (played by Scarlett Johansson) as a supporting character in several in several other Marvel films, this is her first time as the main focus of a story. Even her sister teases her in this new film that it is always assumed that The Avengers will send in the real heroes to cover her ass.

Plus, there is the awkward fact that the character was killed off a few years ago in Avengers: Endgame. This last problem is explained away easily enough, this adventure took place a few years earlier. In fact, Black Widow comes down on the MCU timeline sometime between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: The Infinity War.

So, Black Widow has its work ahead of it to kickstart Phase four of the MCU after an unplanned two-year break. (I’m not counting the Disney+ TV series like Wandavision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki.) And honestly, Black Widow is sort of a mid-level Marvel film – not bad, but certainly not one of the classics. It’s a perfectly fine action film as these things go – a little overly familiar, slightly dated and it has a bit of a pre-pandemic blockbuster feeling, but that certainly isn’t the filmmakers’ fault.

Not that there is really any doubt that Black Widow will be a box office hit. Even “unsuccessful” MCU films (like Ant-Man, Thor: The Lost World, Doctor Strange or The Incredible Hulk) have been fairly big hits. So, chances are that Black Widow will be one of the biggest film openings in the short time since theaters have started reopening nationwide.

One of the bigger problems is that Black Widow is one of the less interesting of the Marvel characters – not necessarily because of her powers, although those are comparatively limited, too – but even the character herself acknowledges that she is not really a flashy hero. In fact, in her own film there are at least two characters who are more interesting than her. Her father, a Russian spy who was turned into an antihero named The Red Guardian (played wonderfully by David Harbour), but is now long past his glory days, and her spunky estranged little sister (Florence Pugh), who will apparently be taking over the mantle of Black Widow in future adventures.

However, there is lots of adventure and lots of fun in Black Widow. It’s a pretty standard MCU entry, but even half-powered MCU is pretty entertaining.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: July 9, 2021.

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