BLACK WIDOW (2021)
Scarlett Johansson finally gets her much-deserved standalone Marvel film, a well-acted outing brought down by a clunky story and the nagging feeling that it is all much ado about nothing.
Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff is on the run when she finds herself roped back in to the dangers of her past. Black Widow is a film that should have been made years ago, placed in the overall structure of the MCU not as an afterthought, but as part of the larger plan. The plot of this film vacillates between being incredibly interesting and stunningly dull, its best use serving as a vehicle for the introduction of Florence Pugh’s Yelena. While Johansson brings her A-game, its Pugh who steals the show with a balanced, yet powerful performance imbued with humor, fight, and presence. David Harbour and Rachel Weisz round out the solid supporting cast, though the “big bad” of the film is a bit of a letdown in Ray Winstone’s Dreykov, a generic “man behind the curtain” with not much to offer.
While the film as a whole is one of the more mature of the MCU, its third act goes into overdrive and simply tries to do too much. A severely underutilized Taskmaster comes and goes with a whimper as shoddy CGI explosions pepper the landscape. Revealed twists and turns are underwhelming in delivery and arguably unnecessary for an otherwise straightforward plot.
In the end, it was an absolute joy to see Johansson fronting one of these films, though I am not sure it does much for her character as much as it introduces us others. In the aftermath of Phase 3 being wrapped up and already starting down the Phase 4 road with the Disney+ shows, Black Widow simply fails to land an impactful punch in a mediocre outing. That is, until the after-credits scene. Stay tuned.
Black Widow is now playing in theaters and available through Disney+ Premier Access.
Photo from Roger Ebert