Black Widow (2021)

*. 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.

13 thoughts on “Black Widow (2021)

  1. Bookstooge

    Phase 4 of the MCU is going to be where Disney has driven the franchise to die. While individual movies might be ok (like the upcoming Spiderman one) the metanarrative has no where to go since the MCU was based on the Infinity War storyline of the comics. The writers are such inept idiots that they can’t create something good on their own and they’re arrogant enough to disdain taking anything else from the comics (which is ridiculous because there is 70+ years worth of stories to be mined).

    I think audiences as a whole are about done with superhero movies. So if they return to standalones or trilogies based on a character (like the Venom movies), I think that is what we’ll see happen. Instead of the introduction of characters that nobody but diehard fans have heard of or even want to have heard about (I’m looking at The Eternals there)

    Reply
    1. Alex Good

      I’ve just been reading the original Morbius comics from the 60s and 70s and wondering what they’re going to make out of him. I agree they don’t have much in the way of a grand narrative anymore, but I wasn’t that thrilled by the Infinity War story much either. I think the “universe” is just going to become a soap.

      Reply
      1. Bookstooge

        There’s going to be a Morbius movie? Got any links?

        Infinity was all about the entire age group in the 90’s who grew up under that umbrella. Whether you were into it or not, if you read Marvel comics, you were at least tangentially aware of it. So it was a great idea to bring comic geeks together and make them watch every single movie. We were used to that kind of behavior from our comics already.

        That is what has happened with comics. Which is why they are constantly rebooting every 2-6 years it seems like. Run a story line of epic proportions into the ground and then hit the reset button and start with some other story with zero regard for what has happened before.
        I was actually expecting that to happen in the MCU so they could reuse characters like Cap and Iron Man, etc, but with new actors.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Morbius here:
        https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5108870/

        I think I was of a previous generation of comics and didn’t grow up with Infinity. I do remember the X-Men Apocalypse saga though. Which seemed a slightly better story to me. All the time travel and multidimensional jumping around in Infinity just seemed to water everything down to me.

      3. Bookstooge

        Hmmmmm, thanks.
        But that is exactly what I’m talking about for Phase 4. Who, outside of fans, have even heard of him? Even other comics fan might have heard of him (like me) but couldn’t tell you anything about him. So the general populace who aren’t even comic fans? I just don’t see them making a good connection to the character and without another huge franchise tie-together like Infinity War (and I think just about everyone is tired of something that size now), I don’t see this kind of thing taking off. It feels like the MCU is starting to fizzle out due to the leadership choices at disney.

        Unfortunately for you, Apocalypse was put into one single movie and badly done at that too. I liked the 3rd X-men movie better than that one :-/

        It feels like we’ve seen the rise of superhero films and now are watching the decline….

      4. Alex Good Post author

        I only ever saw the first X-Men trilogy and still haven’t seen Apocalypse. Sad to hear it wasn’t good. Oh well. I’ll try to catch it sometime.

        I agree that superhero movies have probably run their course. It will be interesting to see what Hollywood comes up with to fill the gap. Their cash cow franchises (Marvel, Star Wars) are feeling used up. I don’t know where the next big intellectual property to exploit is. Like you say, Morbius (or the Eternals) aren’t A-listers even as superheroes.

  2. Alex's Review Corner

    Oof. I grew up watching these movies and had a weird “growing apart” phase as the franchise reached it’s end. Since Endgame (and even a little before” I’ve become so uninterested in keeping up with the new Marvel films. I was considering giving this a go for old times sake, but you may have convinced me to move on! The only MCU film I look forward to now is the new Spiderman movie because it might have Tobey Maguire in it and I’m a sucker for the Sam Raimi trilogy.

    Reply

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