Black Widow Review
Black Widow is a thrilling though heavy-handed espionage take on marvel’s standard fare that adds tragic depth to Natasha Romanov’s superhero story.
A trained Russian assassin decked out in black tactical wear and an ever-changing range of hairstyles Natasha Romanov easily shrugged out of one identity and into her next wrangling with a guilty conscience over her past lives with black widow.
Marvel is finally digging into that mysterious past giving the original avengers team’s only woman far overdue time in the limelight.
The film is in a word ambitious it’s a superhero flick but also an espionage action thriller a dysfunctional family drama a send-off and overwhelmingly a film about recovering from abuse. Much of it doesn’t feel like a marvel film at all thanks to the darker tone used to tell.
The story of a russian program that kidnaps young girls and trains them to become assassins the film centers on affirming. Why Nat continues on the path of heroism beyond just escaping the confines of her past life though it resolves on a hopeful.
Note it leaves an aftertaste of intense tragedy for one of marvel’s original avengers it feels natural for black widow to be styled like a james bond espionage thriller complete with a broody title sequence.
The film flits between international locales motorcycle chases rescue missions and fight scenes in close quarters that have a real sense of urgency and mortality.
It’s a nice dial back from marvel films whose heroes can feel immortal threatened only by a villain like thanos and the power of the infinity stones.
Natasha isn’t superhuman but rather the most optimized version of a human and when she takes the punch it looks like it hurts like hell.
When she fights taskmaster there’s a sense of real danger the fabric of the universe doesn’t bend and time doesn’t shift but the film is plied with pseudo-scientific futuristic technology befitting a spy-tinged marvel world black widow is strongest when its leads Natasha and little sister Yelena Belova are fighting.
Whether against one another or working together florence does excellent work as fellow black widow,
Yelena her deadpan is pitch perfect coaxing humor out of a traditionally stoic Scarlett Johansson.
Where natasha has coped by turning cold elena has coped with humor it’s also thrilling to see a classic genre populated by more women fighters.
Operating a helicopter as Johansen Parkours her way on foot and rachel vice rounds out the trio as the brains of the operation for all of its inventive action pyrotechnics black widow does eventually land in territory that feels more in line with the mcu it chugs through scenes that affirm marvel’s traditional sense of found family.
The idea that family is whoever you decide to fight for and a hero is someone willing to defend even those outside of it Natasha’s found family of avengers is contrasted with her dysfunctional planted childhood family of Russian spies David harbor and rachel weiss’s performances as reluctant parents ground the drama in surprisingly relatable emotions.
But taskmaster fights for relevance as the film dwells on family baggage slowing down as it climbs up to its final confrontation between natasha and her target the man behind the black widow program.
Black widow also repeats some of marvel’s tiresome trends with women’s superheroes of their heavy-handed cheesy empowerment messages consider captain marvel’s montages of falling and getting back up again.
The cringy final comeuppance with her mentor yonrog the mcu’s women tend to have traumatic stories explicitly tied to powerful abusive men such as Nebula and Gamora and Natasha is no different her film centers on surviving trauma and confronting her.
Abuser a man who is not quite as over the top evil as thanos but still refers to young girls as the world’s most over abundant resource in this context deriving strength from enduring suffering feels as slimy as it does tragic a nail in the coffin to marvel’s handling of women’s superheroes while black widow eulogizes Natasha Romanov as a formidable tough as hell hero with the clearest heart.
It also intensifies endgame’s poor handling of her send-off and the unbalanced level of respect given to her male peers Natasha endured years of abuse and risked life and limb after escaping before sacrificing herself for a friend she still deserves a real memorial.
Marvel’s long-awaited black widow solo film shakes at the classic superhero movie form styled like an espionage thriller. The film digs into Natasha romanov’s mysterious past as a trained assassin opening up about her family and introducing an inventive villain in taskmaster but while the film is plied with eye-catching action sequences it struggles to strike a balance between action and family drama and reinforces some of marvel’s tired tropes of women’s superheroes.
It ultimately captures Natasha as a formidable fighter with unshakable morals making her inadequate endgame send off all the more bittersweet.