Written by: Eric Pearson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko
Carrying the worthless marker as a movie cannot be a good indicator as for how it relates to a series of films continually building off each other. As a criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it nearly becomes an insult to release Black Widow in the timeframe it did, but as a feature, it certainly wants to speak on some larger issues even if it gets shrouded in mostly unimpressive CGI-filled battles.
Following the splinter of the Avengers, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) learns her previous mission to kill the leader of the program that trained and sterilized her has failed and he’s still alive doing the same to more girls. In this effort, she reunites with her family, Yelena (Florence Pugh), Alexei (David Harbour), and Melina (Rachel Weisz) as they try to finish the job once and for all.
Beginning with a title sequence showing images of the horror of the human trafficking of girls, Black Widow wants to make a distinct mark about the topic it wants to take on. Considering the program Natasha and Yelena were forced into when young, it very much aligns with the horrors these girls get forced into, which leaves the rest of the film being about these grown women trying to stop this from ever happening again. In this regard, Black Widow undoubtedly carries value, especially as a large blockbuster but it has to be a slap in the face when this got released, right? This takes place between a time period 10(!) films ago in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and after the character already died in Avengers: Endgame. In the span of time where a second Ant-Man film and two Spider-Man movies were made, shifting a pivotal character introduced in the second film of this franchise has to be the equivalent of a spit in the face, right? This cinematic universe has always struggled with actually having stakes in its story, but almost every action scene in this feature feels pretty weak considering not much in this story actually matters.
To be completely fair, this horrid treatment by executives is not the fault of the filmmakers trying to bring this to life. They begin with a handicap and make the most of it establishing the relationship between Natasha and Yelena. Sisters in a different way but sisters nonetheless, the bonds they hold push forward much of the emotion this film wants to conjure. Between them, they have plenty of quippy banter as expected with these Marvel films and they build a sibling bond where they mock each other but still hold plenty of love. Admittedly, having Yelena make fun of Natasha’s trademark landing adds a level of depth this character has deserved for a long time. This, along with the connection of their journey with human trafficked girls, undoubtedly becomes the most memorable facet of the film. However, there is a rest of the movie and much of it becomes quite the chore.
Much of this appears in the fairly stale action taking place here partly due to the aforementioned lack of stakes but the way Natasha essentially can crash into things like a pinball takes away what this film tries to be as compared to the other Marvel films, a more grounded and gritty story much like a spy feature. In this effort, it leaves plenty to be desired. It only gets worse with the further introduction of the villain of this story. Such a waste of a villain, which tries to play off the larger theme of the story but one where I could not recite their name 10 minutes after the conclusion of the film. Something that certainly does not speak well to their impact on the narrative.
While struggling with creating riveting action sequences or having any semblance of actual stakes, Black Widow has just enough going for it narratively and thematically to get it over the line. The opening and the conclusion really nail down an issue going on around the world as this film just superheroes it up. I do not think that’s an actual verb but I’m going with it and will not be stopped. While it feels more like something made out of a contractual obligation, it still carries its worth in trying to actually be about something in a world where blockbusters struggle to even coherently put out a plot.