It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday…
That moment has finally come as the spectacle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes back to us in big screen form (or via Disney+ Premium Access) after the hiatus otherwise known as the global COVID-19 Pandemic, and we’re left wondering…if it’s worth the wait.
Oh baby…and then some.
Black Widow gives us the non-stop spectacle, the humor and the heart that we’ve come to expect from the MCU and it allows for a genuine swan song for one of our favourite Avengers who have been along for the ride since nearly the beginning.
Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.
With director Cate Shortland coming on board; Black Widow has the emotional resonance needed as we kick off into yet another chapter while giving us much needed closure on the fate of a fan favourite.
Taking place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War; director Cate Shortland does a marvelous job of blocking out any of the noise of this universe that might be going in the background and focuses on Natasha and her finding peace with her past.
The screenplay by Eric Pearson crafts a solid balance between spectacle and character driven story. While we’ve seen some of these beats play out in other films playing out different back stories, it all works as Shortland who knows character driven pieces successfully manages all this with the spectacle that we’re used to in these movies. On top of all that we get some very relevant social and political subtext about how women are have and are still being treated around the world. It’s becoming more and more obvious that character driven storytellers are more then up to the challenge of telling these stories and had the MCU been helmed by filmmakers who were more spectacle driven, I shudder to think how this all may have fleshed out over the years.
The film is really nothing new, but it’s a great example of when excellence in direction and some stellar character driven performances come together in a spectacular way.
While Scarlett Johansson has inhabited the skin of the Black Widow for the past decade it makes sense that the character has genuinely evolved, not just in her depiction but in her portrayal as well. As she’s on the run here, re-connecting with the only people she even equates as family, we get the natural frustration but love in wanting to not only revisit her past relationships but try to correct past wrongs that are still be undertaken in her name all these years later after she defected from the ‘Red Room’ to S.H.I.E.L.D.
That all being said, Scarlett deftly passes the torch on with aplomb as Florence Pugh rises up to superstar status with her performance in this film. As Yelena Belova, Romanoff’s defacto sister we see the humanity that she left behind when she defected for west. Pugh works wonders as an action hero who can hold the screen at every turn and she is the natural choice to carry the spirit of what Johansson brought to the screen. She’s a bad ass who has no qualms at kicking people’s teeth in if she views them as being on the wrong side of her ledger. Natasha cleared her books and did some good and now its Yelena’s turn.
The iconic David Harbour brings some fun comedic chops as Alexei; the “dad” of this motley crew and Rachel Weisz was a perfect choice as Melina or “mom” that shows what these very super women evolved from. Only Ray Winstone misses the mark a little bit as our generic Russian bad guy with a god complex Dreykov.
At the end of the day, Black Widow is both swan song for one chapter of the MCU and launching point for another. It’s never going to be accused of reinventing the wheel or reaching hits that have come before it, but it’s a staunch reminder of how character driven these films truly are.