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January 22nd, 2022

black widow spotlight pageScarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in an early scene from Marvel’s newest, “Black Widow.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

I’ve mentioned on here a few times how I’m a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and as part of the MCU fandom, I’m one of the many people who has waited for Scarlett Johansson’s turn for the spotlight in a solo “Black Widow” film. 

After much anticipation (and multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic), I finally got to see that effort this past weekend, and thankfully, I was very much not disappointed. The movie takes place shortly after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and sees Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff confront some past demons. 

The first thing I noticed about the movie was its tone, it definitely did NOT feel like any of the past MCU movies. I thought the tone felt darker and much grittier than the past MCU movies, and it somewhat threw me for a loop, mostly in a good way. Instead of feeling like a typical superhero movie, “Black Widow” feels more like a spy thriller film, not entirely unlike “Captain America and the Winter Soldier,” and it ultimately ends up paying off for viewers. 

Something else that really impressed me about the movie was the fight choreography. The MCU movies have plenty of memorable fight scenes, but the fight scenes in “Black Widow” really stood out to me. Each move is precise and sharp, and for me, it was almost like watching a dance each time  characters came up against each other. The people in charge of the fight choreography definitely knew what they were doing, and I feel like they did a great job. The only minor qualm I had with that aspect, however, is the movie seems to somewhat depower Natasha. Every other MCU film sees her able to take out pretty much anyone that comes her way, but “Black Widow” has her getting knocked down more than usual, and that somewhat bugged me – Natasha’s definitely one of the strongest Avengers (to me, at least), so why would they write her as weaker for her solo film?

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The cast of the movie also did a great job. Johansson definitely knew how she wanted her tenure as Romanoff to end, and I really liked her performance throughout the movie. She’s able to maintain Natasha as smart and tough, but you also see the evolution she’s gone through during her time with the Avengers – like I wrote in a past column, she’ll still take out anyone who messes with her, but she also uses her skills to help people in need. The scene stealer of the movie, unquestionably, however, is Florence Pugh as another Widow, Yelena Belova, who also serves as a little sister role to Natasha. Yelena is an absolute firecracker and is so much fun to watch. She’s got some great action scenes of her own throughout the movie, and her comedic timing with her snappy comebacks made me laugh out loud more than once. Johansson and Pugh also have great sisterly chemistry and more than once during their back-and-forths, I couldn’t help but think “Yep, that’s totally how siblings roast each other.”

As far as the characters go, I was rather disappointed in the movie’s villains, Dreykov and Taskmaster, both of whom are connected to Natasha’s past in the Widow program. There’s practically no establishment or anything like that to really let viewers know what they’re thinking and what their motives are. If there had been more of the story dedicated to establishing them better, I think they could have turned out much better – in the context of “Black Widow,” however, they’re pretty disappointing. I would have also liked to see more of Rachel Weisz as Natasha and Yelena’s “mother,” Melina, because she feels like a character who’s just kind of there, ultimately leading to Weisz being rather wasted in the role. 

I was also slightly disappointed with some aspects of the screenplay. In general, throughout the movie, there were a few things that definitely could have been improved by some tweaks and strengthening during the writing process. The overall story and outline are really good, but there were some details that could have been slightly punched up. And now that I’ve actually seen the movie, I can’t help but wonder why Marvel decided to wait nearly five years after “Captain America: Civil War” (and after what ultimately happens to Romanoff in “Avengers: Endgame”) instead of releasing it shortly after “Civil War.” It would have fit so much better in the MCU continuity at that point, in my opinion. 

Overall, I enjoyed “Black Widow” and I would give it a solid “B” grade. The fight choreography was great and fits in with the grittier tone compared to the past MCU movies. I also enjoyed the cast, particularly Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh, though there were a few disappointments in that area. I also feel the screenplay could have used some strengthening, though I did like the story. If you’re a fan of the other MCU films, you’ll probably enjoy “Black Widow.”

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