Knowing it was inevitable that I would watch it sooner or later, I watched the latest action/thriller that rolled off the assembly line, Black Widow, the latest entry from the MCU. The film is part of phase four of their master plan to conquer the cinematic world. If you are starting to feel a little jaded like I am because nearly almost every movie these days is an action thriller, you can perhaps understand why I started watching this film with lower-than-usual expectations, especially after the news ex-MCU movie star Stephen Dorff labeled the film garbage, which it is not. I needn’t have worried; after all, this is the MCU we’re talking about here. Black Widow is a very entertaining and enjoyable action/thriller that’s like a James Bond movie on steroids and maybe a little better than that, with an easy-to-digest storyline and great dialogue. The first half of the film is pretty much a sequence of non-stop, sensational set pieces that show this film is out to outdo any other action/thriller that came before while unapologetically hammering home the message that the MCU is still king (or queen) of the hill when it comes to engaging action movies. Because ultimately, that’s what this is, an over-the-top action movie with all the stuff you might expect, really well-choreographed fight scenes, car chases, lots of gunplay, a plethora of pyrotechnics, explosions, and more. If that is what you are looking for in a couple of hours of entertainment, then this is the film for you.
I am breaking my self-imposed rule to avoid doing articles about these ‘superhero’ films for the most part because along with the Tomorrow War (2021), another controversial contemporary action film I wrote about last week, I have a theory that both films represent a new strategy being used to swell the ranks of their fans by any means necessary. That strategy, along with all the action, is to tie in a more or less sentimental subtext into these films to get audiences more emotionally invested by way of human drama while also possibly generating more appeal to female audiences and thereby swelling their ranks of fans. While it was obvious to some of us the creators of that other film went too far in that direction, Black Widow, more or less, is more successfully attempting the same strategy here. While introducing more touchy-feely elements may not work for some, it works pretty well for others. Someone finally figured out the one thing all these action films sometimes lacked, and that’s a heart or, lacking that, a reasonable substitute. I mean, let’s face it, they’re so many of these action/thrillers getting churned out it’s starting to feel that films like these are a dime-a-dozen. In the case of this film, there is almost non-stop messaging woven into the film narrative about family, sisterhood, trust, and more of these sorts of sentimental themes going on constantly. I also have another theory that the major studios will start making many more films along these lines, especially if this one does well at the box office.
Not familiar with this title? Black Widow is a 2021 American superhero film based on Marvel Comics featuring the eponymous character of the same name. Black Widow is the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Cate Shortland from a screenplay by Eric Pearson and stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow alongside Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz. Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016), the film sees Romanoff on the run and forced to confront a conspiracy tied to her past.
The cast mostly does very well, with a strong performance by Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova Natasha’s more or less sister, The banter and back and forth between the two sisters is an amusing and entertaining addition to this film. Also turning in a pleasantly surprising scene-stealing performance is David Harbour in his role and an appearance by Rachel Weiss as Natasha’s adopted parents. Surprisingly I found myself enjoying this film more than expected. Less surprising in hindsight is that the film’s creators did do such a good job, all things considered. The consequences for screwing things up at this point would spell calamity with repercussions that would resonate throughout the MCU and for the Marvel brand.