WARNING: Black Widow Spoilers Ahead
2021 really is the year where Marvel can’t find a way out of writing their most embarrassing finales yet to eerily compliment fairly promising first and second acts.
Before I dive into what may become my longest MCU-related review yet, I wanted to talk about something I initially admired about Black Widow that unfortunately became something which only made me even more riled up by it: the opening. Essentially, we are introduced to a flashback sequence where we observe a supposedly regular family that Natasha (aka Black Widow) had before meeting The Avengers, but it’s disclosed that they are in some sort of danger. They seem quite put together relationship-wise, but there is no doubt that they are on the run from an unusual threat. This entire sequence misleads the audience beautifully into assuming the obvious of something that would be established as your typical glimpse into a superhero origin story: they’re being chased by some sort of evil and the parents are trying to protect their children. If you have seen Black Widow, obviously you know that that isn’t exactly the case. We learn that not only are the parents just decoys used to emulate the common socialization of familyhood for the children, but that they were there using these kids as experimental pieces that would hopefully build them into becoming A-1 assassins. The family was being chased because, well, the parents were legitimately holding children hostage. The parents are debatably psychopaths! The best scene in this movie shows us how the ex-father figure Red Guardian and the younger ex-daughter Yelana confront each other about this; it ends up being a dispiritingly simple-answerable yet rightfully bonafide discussion. To this extent, that is about the farthest compliment I can give Black Widow, but either way, these pros are ultimately tarnished by how the movie decides to further add to them in notably its finale.
Scarlett Johansson has been a part of this franchise since 2010, and her character has also been demanded repeatedly to have her own solo spot in the light for years now, and despite us now finally getting there given this new movie that has come out about her, all I can say is “Natasha, you f**king deserved way better!” The fact that your movie has been delayed and delayed for a decade now is already considerable proof that Disney never gave a damn about any sort of “just” female representation until the concept of it became mainstream and thereon profitable, so I don’t think any of us should be surprised that your time to shine came into fruition so late. Anyhow, I’m sorry to say but, Black Widow may just be the worst MCU movie ever written, at least to me.
Look I would’ve been completely fine if this entire movie was just some awkward family reunion or if it stuck with its spy espionage, Matrix-like hyper-trained combat choreography — reminiscent of The Winter Soldier and even the Jason Bourne films — instead of it being periodically abandoned for (weakly edited) cheap and clean protagonist victories followed by disproportionately cartoonish action sequences. At first this movie smartly doesn’t seem like it’s about heroes but victims fending off for themselves from the dangers of the company that created them, yet almost always with these newer MCU movies does there have to be some out of place “bigger scheme” to their conquest that’ll ultimately sacrifice their level-headed developments for idealistic (i.e. unrealistic) improvements in themselves. I don’t think this universe has ever had a movie this try-hard thus far, and I will go into more detail about that of course later in this review. It’s just mind-boggling to recognize how powerful an ending can be, with such a savage ability to leave me with a purely sour taste in my mouth for something that I actually had fun with for some of its runtime. Conclusions are collateral when they eradicate every good idea they set up with spoon-feed pay-offs!
Instead of just making a movie about those opening credits where we can truly deep-dive into the manipulative transformation of underaged soldiers into cold-blooded killers or even the industrial corruptions of inflated secrecies in organization, the film just decides to show pity remorse for the concept of child slavery once the victims have become adults… The movie ends up presenting a cheesy resolution where decades of a misogynistic man’s oppression can be instantly taken down, and that leads me to another major complaint I have with Black Widow: it dares to include an allegory for sex trafficking, which is quite possibly the most notorious and disturbingly impenetrable worldwide crime a human can commit and the movie plays it off like it’s some quick-solve disruptance. I know most people will probably not look this far into what the blockbuster is trying to explore with this underlying implication, but to me the fact that a large amount of people will watch these Marvel movies and subconsciously infer and take into account this loose information about a very real atrocity is unfortunate. This film is undoubtedly trying to impact people with discussion about parallels to our own world, cause trust me, something as bold as sex-trafficking wouldn’t be implied in a film if it weren’t trying to make a statement.
I don’t think it’s healthy to always be consuming media that glorifies the idea that all it takes is a superhero to instantly fix a very real-life situation such as sex-trafficking; it’s a manipulatively utopian belief to teach children that all that has to happen for something to be fixed is to let someone who has more power than you do the work for you as if the cruel scheme of life is that easy to patch up or, better yet, that you yourself have the power to instantly fix an issue as if it would take no effort to complete it and not a long journey of planning and built-up collaboration to get there. I do believe though that most people are thankfully able to suspend their disbelief, so I’m sure most aren’t thinking or taking the hilariously surface-level Harvey Weinstein-esc plotline seriously, but I’m just personally annoyed by the fact that Marvel even attempted to integrate something as serious, touchy, and complex as sex-trafficking into such a goofball of a story. I mean, speaking of Weinstein who is clearly being mirrored in this movie with the main villain, just look at his situation for example; it took decades for that man to actually be sent to prison after all the sex crimes he committed and a long line of accusations that had to be piled up for it to finally be taken seriously, some of those accusations coming from people who were spilling the tea on him for also decades. Nonetheless, I guess this will probably only come off as a problem to you if it collides with your own moral beliefs, but since it collided with mine, obviously it made me think lesser of the film and of course its messages.
I think Black Widow got unlucky being so far ahead in the MCU’s canon, because it almost feels like another add on to our fatigue for the ever-increasing fantasy-driven bulls**t that has made the superhero experience progressively worse than maybe it would’ve been if it had came out earlier in the franchise when logic wasn’t at least completely abandoned. Anyways, sticking to the topic of the idealism envelope we find stirring in the MCU today, let’s talk about another prominent villain in Black Widow called Taskmaster: turns out, she’s just here to be a plot device so we can have an absolutely pathetic redemption arc for Natasha. This again is another Marvel superhero moment where a character makes a fatal mistake (Natasha *allegedly* killed a child) and doesn’t end up suffering the full consequences of it because it was actually a (difficult to believe) hoax all along. Wow, these heroes really are invincible!
The psychopathic parents that I mentioned before who were really well set up in that opening due to them being coated in deception like a real smuggler suddenly decide they want to do the right thing out of… I don’t know… God’s will? Maybe though this doesn’t completely apply to David Harbour’s character, but Rachel Weisz’s character (the ex-mother figure) is so horribly underdeveloped that the film thought it would be okay for her to suddenly want to take down an organization she’s helped out for decades, one for which she furthermore also knew the Leader’s weakness — so if she really despised this leader, why did she not try to take him down beforehand — yet all it took was being called a “coward” for her to finally commit to it. Also, the main villain Dreykov was able to keep all these women enslaved for decades yet makes a series of some of the dumbest decisions you could possibly make in the finale at the convenience of allowing the good guys to succeed by cornering ALL of his slaves into one room with the heroes who he knows could have an antidote for their mind-control… Umm… I don’t even want to talk about the sacrifice that Yolanda makes because I’m sure for those who watched it, you already know how out of place it felt practically, phasing as another random way to spark an emotional reaction from the audience. Plus, don’t even get me started on how the climax was sequenced so that they could implement some twists and turns into the mix; it’s embarrassingly structured and more importantly convoluted logistically.
To me like I said before, this may just be the worst MCU movie not because it’s the least competently directed or acted one — since it really isn’t! — but because it tries to do SO MUCH thematically but only wants to take last-minute shortcuts to get there. Full redemptions (necessary or out of place) and major personality changes (needed or not) are all amalgamated at the span of minutes in just one ridiculously over-produced finale, frying my brain to dumbfounded shock as I left the theater. When it comes to a case such as Black Widow, I think I’ve officially learned that me being suddenly disappointed as a film goes along just hurts more than say being consistently bored which most of the bottom-tier MCU fare committed before 2021. Natasha is one of the least interesting characters in her own movie; her arcs only makes her seem as unbelievably over-the-top (even for MCU standards) as the new-founded trivialized action sequences. She’s a character now that feels inaccessibly invincible for the audience. It’s already difficult to connect with people who can’t be physically harmed in action spectacles, but when a movie ironically then thinks it’s okay to bring “psychological” harm into the mix with something as ridiculous as Natasha killing a little girl and then that little girl happening to be alive from a colossal explosion all along just so Natasha can reassure how perfect she is by saving this girl as an adult, you’ve basically lost most of my respect for your lead that you want us to emphasize with. I don’t know, why not just have her face the consequences so she can be inspired to become a better person? Why go through all these extra loopholes? Doesn’t it seem so simple or am I just losing my mind???
Bless, Florence Pugh though; her performances have never stumbled even in movies as bad as this. As a sibling, I also related to how they wrote her banter because a lot of it seemed “weak” but on purpose in a “this is coming off the top of my head, and I’m not really trying to offend you; I’m just teasing you because you’re my sibling” sort of routine that many of us can familiarize with. Trust me, I would be giving this film the lowest score possible if her, David Harbour, or that opening weren’t as emotionally convincing or as entertaining personality-wise.
Everybody’s accents here may have gone a little too far, nonetheless. Yikes!
“Black Widow” is now playing in theaters and available to purchase on Disney+.