Black Widow – The Scarlett Johansson-starrer is a mixed bag.
Director Cate Shortland ends up extending events much beyond the uncomfortable two-hour mark in an attempt to both locate and enlarge space in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Black Widow’s fate appears destined from the start, overshadowed by Marvel’s newest hero Shang-Chi and thrown under the bus by Disney, which chose to distribute this film simultaneously on screen and on its streaming service. This Scarlett Johansson vehicle, on the other hand, bleeds itself and wears out its heart in the hopes of being counted.
As a result, the picture is uneven, at moments being deeply, almost achingly emotional, while at other times insisting on blowing everything up, loudly and completely. Director Cate Shortland ends up extending events much beyond the uncomfortable two-hour mark in an attempt to both locate and enlarge space in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
The beginning is lovely, accurate, and startling. A family of four, consisting of two loving parents and two close children, lives in Ohio and enjoys all things American, including baseball and the song Bye, Bye American Pie. Natasha, the older daughter (played by a little girl who has a remarkable likeness to Johansson), is cautious and vigilant, hinting at secrets that will be revealed shortly. It comes out that the parents are Russian agents using the family as a cover. They are sent to different camps, as do the females, where they are educated to be trained murderers.
Next, we meet Natasha, who has previously escaped the Russian system, joined the Avengers, and is now on the run after the Avengers have broken up. Yelena (Pugh), the younger girl, is now part of a new generation of Black Widows who have been reinforced with drugs to control them. The “treatment” — an antidote packaged in vials that Yelena has escaped with — is just as questionable as the science.
Despite the evident secrecy of a system like the one established by Russian spy Dreykov (Ray Winstone), with “Black Widows dispersed around the world,” the two make-believe sisters find one other surprisingly easy.
When their “parents,” Alexei (Harbour) and Melina (Weisz), enter the scene, their reunion picks up speed and true tenderness.
There are, however, wars to fight, the planet to defend, and some big leaps of faith for us to swallow in order for it to earn its stripes as a standalone Marvel adventure. There are also several odd side action excursions that don’t contribute anything to the storey.
One hopes the film would stick to the four hearts that are the lifeblood of this storey, as well as the four actors that play them. Pugh, who is slated to join the MCU as the next member, threatens to steal the show. However, Johansson’s lonely Natasha, in search of a family and a place to belong, struggles with her heart — and, given Marvel’s treatment of Black Widow, the role has a sad poignancy.
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