Black Widow

Fast & Furious Black Widows - 6/10

by Jad Sammour

It sure feels good to be back at the movies. Black Widow is the first film I saw in a movie theater since last year’s The Invisible Man… no need to explain why it has been 17 months. Anyway, it’s great to be back – the two masks I wore weren’t as annoying as I thought they would be.

Black Widow is the first MCU film released in theaters after Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). We had some Disney+ shows to keep us distracted but nothing matches seeing a Marvel film in a movie theater.

 

Overall, Black Widow is a very enjoyable film. It certainly isn’t Marvel’s best outing but it is better than others, especially since it is a remake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Oops, yes. To perfectly word it, imagine mixing The Winter Solider, Mission Impossible, and Solo: A Star Wars Story (+ Fast and Furious-level stunts) together and you would get Black Widow. The film feels derivative (simply said). It is not essentially a bad thing. And really, Black Widow’s liability is that it is a Marvel film. The Marvel-y elements are what hinder its quality. There is a good independent film in there that was shackled by Marvel Studios and it, the film, being part of the MCU. I’ll talk about the good things in the film, then go over the problems that this film faced. Just don’t worry, it is enjoyable, fun, and a very good solo outing. 

 

Director Cate Shortland did a great job at handling this film. Her being an indie filmmaker can be really seen and felt in the film. From her compositions to the editing choices to directing the actors, the emotions and the theme of family do seep through the screen... It feels like a hybrid arthouse and blockbuster film (with stress on the later). She brought to the film a beautiful layer that sets it apart from other Marvel films. (*This got me really excited to see what Chloe Zhao will be doing with Eternals).

The action scenes were fun to watch with very good stunts. These scenes had a lot of energy and a crazy number of cuts. And I dare say that some of the action sequence were kind of too ridiculous and crazy.
It can be easily said that the action scenes are not the highlight of the film. The characters and their interactions drive the story forward and Cate Shortland really knew how to do it and balance both of them. The first fifteen minutes were very un-Marvel-like and looked like something pulled out of an independent drama film and some of the beauty shown in these fifteen minutes snuck into the film later on and showed up in small details that highlighted the atalents.

The performances were really good. Scarlet Johansson is Black Widow, so we’re used to seeing her back as the character and she brought her A-game. Now, the real star of the film was Florence Pugh. She is superb. She portrayed a mature character with a witty, juvenile personality that was not comic nor one-dimensional. I cannot give her enough praise… she is the May Queen after all (and I am not sure if that is a good thing but nonetheless, she is a queen). David Harbour was okay. He portrayed what he was supposed to, but the character was written as a superficial caricature that was, sadly, annoying sometimes. Rachel Weisz was there and delivered a good performance. The dynamic between the main cast members gave the film a nice touch. The chemistry between Scarlet Johansson and Florence Pugh was very enjoyable.

The visual effects and the music were really good. They got ILM, the best in the business, so why even mention they’re good. The musical score was really nice. I enjoyed the touch of Red-Army-Choir- Russian music sprinkled in it (very stereotypical stuff that were used well – at least they did not use Kalinka).

Many people criticized the villain Taskmaster and I kind of disagree. Of course, they besmirched the character’s comic-book legacy but Taskmaster’s use was justified. Taskmaster is not the main villain; the villain here is a hidden system and it was an okay-threat. It could’ve been made more menacing but I was not really bothered.

The script is what I had major issues with. Yeesh… Marvel, you need to revamp your writing team. The script needed some work. There was a good foundation for a solid film but the Marvel touch stained it. It is, as I said, driven by the characters and their personal lives which was nice and brought a human element and heart to the story. The film’s set-up was trippy. I actually enjoyed the first half more than the second. The story did fit in the marvel continuity and I loved how self-contained it felt.

 

Now, onto the bad stuff. The humor was embarrassing and it ruined many major moments. Marvel films can’t get serious, period. There were so many good and serious moments that were ruined with out-of-place Marvel humor. Some of the jokes were predictable and embarrassing.

The script also suffered from the mix-and-match syndrome which, as I stated before, made the film seem very derivative. For example, the characters have a Fast-and-Furious-Level immunity: from surviving explosions, to crazy car crashes… it is a bit too ridiculous given that the characters are not super-soldiers. The film’s bone structure, and especially the third act was really reminiscent of The Winter Solider: plot points, themes, and locations. The film also reminded me of Mission Impossible because of some very familiar stunts and the “I outsmarted your outsmarting” flashback reveals, in addition to some aerial stunts. The Solo: A Star Wars Story resemblance is in the origin of every single Black Widow item or hint from past films being addressed here. But they did it better then Star Wars, so that’s a good thing. 

Another problem the film faced is the usual stereotyping of Russian characters. Alexei, the Red Guardian, was too comic: I-am-Russian-I-Smash-vodka-cold-in-Russia comic. David Harbour played this part well but the decision to make him so was what ruined his character. Yes, they wanted to make him someone absolutely absorbed by his ego and his own fantasy but he it didn’t quite work out.

Also, when will Hollywood films stop doing the “Ground Splits Open Directly Between Two Opposing Characters” during the final act? Just stop doing it. It’s BAD. It pissed me off and I am takin 0.5 points out of the film's rating because of it.

 

A good thing to add is that there are clear themes of emancipation and female liberation that were really organic to the story and were not forced like other films’ attempts at tackling these themes.

If you can look past the issues, and not think too much about the bad elements I mentioned here, you will have a very pleasant time… I mean I did while noticing these bad elements. The runtime flew by fast and the film had a beautiful energy that will surely entertain.

And do not forget the after credits scene; it is worth it!

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