Runtime: 133 minutes
Director: Cate Shortland
Writers: Eric Pearson, Jac Schaeffer, Ned Benson
Actors: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, William Hurt, Olga Kurylenko
By Alexandra Petrache
“Black Widow” (2021) is one of the best Marvel films. I left the cinema thinking it was “up there” with “Infinity War” (2018) and “Endgame” (2019). The story and characters were engaging and believable, there were some Easter eggs, and we sort of find out what happened in Budapest. I’ll focus on Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh), two awesome characters, and let you explore the rest at the cinema.
Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) has to do some soul searching once she finds out that the Red Room that trained her is still subjugating young females and brainwashing them into becoming assassins. Prior to finding out, it looked as if she was going to settle for some time on the run, laying low in Scandinavian towns. An interesting encounter (try to guess who it is!), is dragging her back into the thick of it. She gets a new suit and kicks some ass. The film is not so much an origin story, though, and it could have done with a bit more exploration of who Black Widow is rather than a juxtaposition of her story with that of her spy family, which seemed to serve mostly as an introduction to the next phase in the Marvel cinematic universe. However, it is a well-crafted and enjoyable film, which I definitely recommend seeing.
An “acquaintance” from Natasha’s childhood, Yelena (played by Florence Pugh) is just as deadly, but while Natasha seems willing to dedicate herself only to good now and to helping others not go through the same horrible training she went through, Yelena has a certain nonchalance about herself, and is still hopeful to experience a normal life. In a scene where she boasts about her vest with lots of pockets, Yelena is all of us.
At times it feels that the film would be seriously out of balance without Yelena. She brings some dark playfulness to Natasha’s seriousness. She also does a good job at explaining some of the horrors that they went through in the Red Room- such as the forced hysterectomy the “widows” undergo.
Overall, the film is an improvement over previous instalments in terms of building the Black Widow as a standalone character with emotions and intent while not sexualizing her (“Endgame” did that, too). She turns from some form of Bond girl into a gritty 007 who keeps her eyes on the prize and is true to her mission. Director Cate Shortland does a brilliant job at keeping the film honest and true to the story, and treating the characters with respect, with no unnecessary sexualizing shots (I counted two butt shots that we could have done without, but I was being very picky). The film’s onus is clearly on the female characters, their strength and determination in contrast with some of the male characters.
The film did leave me wondering where the former widows were during the Endgame battle, though. Or The Red Guardian- surely he would have loved to be an Avenger and match Captain America’s wits. They may have had their own missions, but surely nothing is more important than saving the world, right?