Natasha Romanoff confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises.Natasha Romanoff confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises.Natasha Romanoff confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises.
Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh on Motorcycles & More
You can imagine, then, the tears that came when Avengers: Infinity War dropped and its villain proved to be a serious threat, only to have most of his victims return by the time we got Avengers: Endgame. Even their worst and most heartbreaking wasn't too bad.
However, one death that still meant something was that of Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in the latter production, likewise that of Tony Stark, so what must we do to help the fanboys cope? Simple: include her in a midquel set after Civil War, featuring bit characters that are absent and unmentioned by the time Infinity War's plot comes along. The MCU canon has always seemed remarkably well-thought-out, but as proven by Captain Marvel, it gets tricky when they start adding major events "in the middle". Some of you already know what I think of Loki and TFATWS but let's focus on just the movies for now.
The plot: after the events of Civil War, self-exiled Avenger and former S. H. I. E. L. D. agent Natasha Romanoff finds that her troubled past in the KGB (briefly alluded to in Age of Ultron) is catching up with her, as she reconnects with other "Black Widows" (Florence Pugh as her adoptive sister; Rachel Weisz as her adoptive mother) and The Red Guardian (David Harbour), Russia's equivalent to Captain America. There's also Natasha's former S. H. I. E. L. D. colleague, played by O-T Fagbenle - a name I am not 100% sure I'm actually allowed to say.
I liked the prologue more than anything else. We see younger versions of both Natasha and Yelena (the Pugh character, whose younger self looks more like the Johansson character and vice versa) as their Black Widow lives truly, hauntingly begin. The subsequent credits montage is a visual feast (though the spooky lullaby cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" won't be universally loved) and nothing else in the film compares to it.
Still, this long-overdue solo adventure is occasionally gripping - and uses its classic spy-movie tropes charmingly, even if some concepts are too dumb for even Austin Powers - but considering how wild and "out there" the rest of MCU Phase Four is getting (with multiverses, Time Keepers, et al.), this comparatively vanilla comic-book movie may be too little too late for most geeks, barring the hardcore Black Widow fans. Some of it gets pretty dark, then punctuated (and deflated) by the typical MCU comedy, which gets way worse halfway through. The effects and shoddy greenscreens won't be a huge draw either. All of this is a shame, considering this is the first proper MCU film release since 2019.
Disney, along with the usual journalists, have admittedly done their best to generate juicy PR. There was a fruitful attempt to get a rise out of angry nerds with articles about how men will be "put in their place" by this movie and outright squeam (sic) at the sight of women kicking ass, which the other side was naturally meant to laud as the most empowering thing since Ghostbusters, Ocean's 8, and the all-female reboot of Die Zombiejäger that I just decided to make.
But people are getting smarter, at least when it comes to films like Charlie's Angels, Wonder Woman 1984, and now this. Even Twitter feminists can see through the narrative that these movies were hated purely because they star/celebrate women. Bad movies are bad movies, no matter what the message is (or pretends to be) or whom you can spite by supporting it. Yes, some dudebros still got mad at the article, but even then, many of them just seemed weary of the same old spiel and how transparent it's getting. While I'm sure Disney coaxed one or two angry videos out of The Quartering and Geeks+Gamers, fighting like toddlers over big-studio cinema just isn't what it used to be.
The movie itself is, simply put, pretty lame. It isn't outlandish enough to compete with the rest of the Phase Four media and it doesn't even play like something out of Phase 3 where things started getting ambitious and/or weird - with retro oddities like Thor: Ragnarok and visual marvels like Black Panther, give or take the odd CG rhino. Instead, this would be at home amongst the lame, contrived sequels of Phase Two. You know, back when people were excited about the idea of a Black Widow movie?
I've also been told the character of Taskmaster constitutes another Mandarin scenario (à la Iron Man 3, also from Phase Two) but I don't know enough about the original comics' character to judge. My mind is all Watchers and Time Keepers at the moment; you think I have time to worry about some Russian spies? Dosvedanya, Romanoff.
- Jul 12, 2021