“Black Widow” was directed by Cate Shortland and stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/the Black Widow in her journey to face her past after the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” She is joined by former Widow Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh. David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, and Ray Winstone co-star.
Starting positively, Black Widow is one of the MCU’s best heroes and is great in this film, largely due to Johansson’s performance. However, the character was written much better in “The Avengers” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Scarlett Johansson isn’t the only actor who delivered a great performance. In particular, Florence Pugh was extremely likeable as the sarcastic Yelena Belova, and David Harbour was hilarious in his role as Alexei/the Red Guardian. I also appreciated that the film had a relatively dark tone. The MCU movies are normally too lighthearted except for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and parts of “Avengers: Endgame.” Possibly my main concern going into the theater was the tone, and thankfully the film knew it needed to be grim (for an MCU Disney movie).
Something that stood out to me was the perfect opening credits sequence. It showed the process of young girls being taken away from their families and brainwashed into becoming Black Widows by using different filters, footage, pictures, and a great music cover. It felt very David Fincher-esque, like the opening credits in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (which has my favorite opening credits sequence of all time). Fincher is the best at crafting opening credit sequences, so the filmmakers drew inspiration from the right place.
Despite these aspects, I found the film to be extremely disappointing. This is largely due to the poor screenplay. The reason it was so bad was because it was written by two groups of people: incompetent writers and an MCU regular. The incompetent writers include Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson. My theory is that they’re responsible for all the plot holes, mainly because Schaeffer was the showrunner of “WandaVision,” which was 1 half of a good show and 1 half of a complete mess. Eric Pearson is the MCU regular, and I theorize he was the main culprit of the film’s story issues. He wrote “Thor Ragnarok” which, while good, was a silly, formulaic Marvel movie. He was simply the wrong choice to write the script, as he just maintains the bland Marvel formula that holds the film back. The film’s main problem is the annoying Marvel formula with its quips at inappropriate times and now-generic story structure.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest spoiler-related flaws of the film that I spotted:
- The opening scene was a lot worse than the opening credits. First of all, I hated the look of young Natasha. The dyed-blue hair makes her look like a social media influencer. The actress who played young Natasha was terrible as well. Additionally, it made no sense why the fake parents of Natasha and Yelena were speaking in perfect American accents when the whole family knew they were from Russia. The plane chase was incredibly stupid as well. A plane can not take off with a Russian Captain America (Alexei) on its wing. This is “Wonder Woman 1984” type of logic.
- Why couldn’t Alexei break out of prison before Natasha saved him? He had super strength and the prison wasn’t equipped for him at all.
- Taskmaster and Dreykov are some of the worst villains of the entire MCU. Taskmaster was a complete waste of potential. The character barely showcased the ability to use the fighting moves of other characters in the Marvel Universe, and I didn’t like the twist reveal that she is the daughter of Dreykov. Stereotypical Russian blockbuster villain was awful as well. Natasha was able to defeat him just by breaking her nose to lose her sense of smell, as he was mind-controlling her through his scent. How stupid is that?! Also, why couldn’t Natasha break her nose before he continuously beat her if she already knew what to do?
- The idea that there are tens of thousands of Black Widows around the world hinders the Natasha Romanoff character. She feels a lot less special and unique because of it.
- What are the odds of Yelena, the Black Widow with the closest ties to Natasha, being the Widow to lose the brainwashing of the Black Widow program when there are thousands of others?
- Director Cate Shortland clearly couldn’t handle helming an action film. Every action scene is shot with shaky cam or quick-cut editing or both. Just because she doesn’t have an action background doesn’t mean she can’t still craft great action sequences. The Russo Brothers, for example, came off of directing sitcoms like “Arrested Development” and “Community” before directing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and now that film is known as having the best action of any comic book movie (I clearly love that film).
It’s important to mention the controversy of releasing this film after we’ve already seen Black Widow’s death in “Avengers: Endgame.” I personally don’t mind that we’re getting this film after Endgame because I’ve been waiting many years for a Black Widow film to be made, but the story they chose to pursue was the wrong one. Instead of a generic “facing one’s past” story which wastes all of the mystery surrounding Black Widow, the film should have been a story about Natasha meeting Hawkeye for the first time when she was an assassin and her road to becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. There wouldn’t have to be a backstory, allowing the character to stay ambiguous, and it would be a much more interesting and memorable film with a great character arc.
“Black Widow” has great performances, a needed dark tone, and is somewhat entertaining, but is ultimately a forgettable, formulaic MCU film with a disappointing story, poor direction, and plenty of plot holes. It’s not a terrible film, but it’s certainly one of the MCU’s weaker installments.