*. There are franchises, and then there is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A bit of looking into these matters tells me that Black Widow is the 24th movie in the MCU, of which I may have seen half. I was also shocked to find out that this is Scarlett Johansson’s ninth appearance as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. How did that happen?
*. I guess there’s some kind of through narrative that links all the various storylines together, but I didn’t get many of the connections. So I came at it more-or-less as a standalone entry, albeit another Marvel superhero movie. Which is all you really need to know going in.
*. I’ll say up front that while they didn’t knock it out of the park — I don’t think there have been any Marvel movies that knocked it out of the park — this is one of their better efforts. I enjoyed it. At 130 minutes I thought they could have cut at least half an hour out of it, but the story was passable (I’d give any story that didn’t involve opening a portal to another dimension a pass at this point). The cute parts, like the dysfunctional family reunion, were cute. The leads were respectable. Even when saddled with a hopeless Russian accent (that, given the back story, was unnecessary) Florence Pugh out-acts Johansson, which bodes well for the future (I think). They kept the bad guys simple: a devious Russian controller with an army of mind-controlled widow-ninjas and a Terminator cyborg thingy called the Taskmaster. At least there were no demigods and aliens this time.
*. Cate Shortland directs. I don’t think this is really her thing, as the action and fight scenes are nothing special. Though by now I don’t know if Marvel has any new ideas for doing car chases or manically-edited martial arts. I do like the occasional bit of grit, like the depressing apartment in Budapest or the pig farm outside of St. Petersburg. I sort of wished there’d been more of that, but that’s not what people are laying down their money for. They want exotic locations, so . . .
*. The script, like the action, is just functional. There’s obviously a feminist angle to it — with the sorority of widows gaining class consciousness and rising up to overthrow the swinish patriarchy at the end — but I didn’t find it inappropriate or preachy. There’s also some good sibling badinage that got some smiles. Meanwhile, there are also lots of booty shots of Johansson and Pugh’s backsides in tight outfits, if that’s your thing. And yes, it’s my thing.
*. There isn’t much more to say. Apparently this was meant to kick off a new “phase” (the fourth, ye gods) to the MCU. I liked it slightly more than the usual run of Marvel fare. Johansson sued Disney for not giving the film a theatrical release, settling for a reported $40 million. Oof.
*. A good day’s (or couple of month’s) work for a lot of people. As usual there’s a post-credit scene that I forwarded through the credits to get to. Has anyone ever counted the number of names that get a mention on these productions? By my reckoning they must be getting up in the thousands. It takes a city to make one of these movies. Meanwhile, I can’t help thinking all that time, effort, and money could have been spent making 100 better movies, but this is the state of the industry.