Black Widow (2021)
Theaters/Disney+; 2 / 5
I wanted to enjoy this movie. I really did. And if this movie had come out two or more years ago (even if it was exactly the same movie), it might have been much more fun than it is now. The reason for that is probably tied to the reason why it took so long to get here in the first place. Ultimately, Natasha Romanov is a character that has always been dependent on being part of an ensemble. She functions as a foil for everybody else. She can be a wise advice-giver, a joke punchliner, a source of exposition, or even the clever springer of an escape that saves the rest of the team. But she always ends up part of a team, no matter how much her MCU backstory claims she’s a works-alone spy-game operator.
In much the same way, this movie feels like it needs other MCU movies around it. It’s like Marvel didn’t expect this movie to ever be a standalone film. If it had been released right on the heels of Avengers: Endgame, it could have worked, particularly as a proper curtain call for the character. But production and release delays hung it out on its own, and that’s not a good thing. The script itself depends on you having seen other movies in the sequence to know background details driving this film’s plot. If this is your first MCU movie you will have questions at the end. And that feels like lazy writing, because nothing is established here that should require ties to the rest of the MCU. This could have been a legitimate solo film with only minor ties to the rest of the sequence. There’s no good reason to have done it this way.
And even within the film, there’s no good reason to have done a lot of things the way this film does them. Superheroes always have powersets that adjust to the needs of the plot, but Romanov shrugs off physical punishment here that would give Captain America pause. The whole Red Guardian character is a phoned-in disaster that suffers mightily from lack of real context. The cartoonishly broad Russian accents slip and slide around in a way that starts to feel a little insulting. Grammar is equally victimized: all these highly trained “spies” can fake American accents with correct grammar, but when they drop into their Russian “real voice” suddenly their grammar skills vanish, too. On some level, the whole movie feels like it’s faking it, and everyone involved (including the fans) deserved better.
2 stars of 5: This isn’t a very good movie, though I am sad to admit it.