For years fans of the character have been begging Marvel Studios to give us a solo Black Widow movie. Then they went and killed her off in Avengers: Endgame. So what else is there to tell about her? Not much really. At least according to the new Black Widow film that finally made its way to cinemas and Disney+ last Friday after many delays and tribulations. Was it worth the wait? God no!
To clarify, Iron Man and Black Widow were my favourite MCU heroes and I was really looking forward to the Black Widow film. In fact, I was so excited for it, I barely watched any of the press tour, behind the scenes reels or trailers, so I could walk into the theater without any idea about what I might see. But no matter if I had or hadn’t seen any of the footage that had been relased prior to the film, the disappointment reigns supreme. Black Widow feels like a completely unnecessary film with a poor soundtrack, poor cinematography, a horrible script and mediocre CGI. The only thing I can praise is the performance of the two main leads, Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh. Their natural chemistry shines through and it is made very believable that they are sisters. The rest of the film is utterly ridiculous and unbelievable. For the first time watching an MCU film, I wish I could get my two hours back and below I will detail just why the film doesn’t work at all.
Let’s get into it. The film starts off with a family living in Ohio. One of the two girls has blue hair, with some red hair showing. As an audience member you immediately realise it is the Black Widow herself, Natasha Romanoff. But the film assumes you are beyond stupid and adds a big reveal scene after around 20 minutes run-time, explaining that the Russian kid is in fact called “Natasha”. Oh really? You don’t say? On top of that, you’d think if the family was undercover for the Soviet Union at the time, they’d be using cover identities, but nevermind that. The script has more holes than Swiss cheese and this is nothing compared to the rest of its blunders.
After the action-packed escape of the Russian spy family from Ohio and S.H.I.E.L.D., we get treated to the first red flag of the film. A three minute long sequence with a full-length pop song playing, while random images and scenes flash before us so quickly and incoherently that the scene should carry an epilepsy warning with it. Fun fact here: Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton feature in the images, so they apparently are now part of the MCU too, when for the entirety of the previous films, no real-world politicians had been seen. Makes you wonder what that was all about? After the scene, my watch party loudly exhaled in preparation for what was to come. And what came was indeed horrendous. The majority of the film had so many shaky camera shots that you could have been excused for wondering if the camera guys had been on drugs. The first time I noticed the camera shooting straight was an extended butt-shot of Scarlett Johansson. Of course, that had to be there, for what felt like almost 30 seconds.
21 years later
So we saw a few flashing images that reveal far less about the red room training Natasha was forced to go through than what we had already seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Mistake #1, why are we not seeing more of the horrors she had to go through? No, anyhow, we are now in present day America, I mean, actually we are somewhere in a bathroom, at the end of Captain America: Civil War. This is made clear only by the fact that Senator Ross shows up and tells his team of soldiers that the Black Widow assaulted the Black Panther and acted against the Sokovia Accords.
Before you know it, Natasha is no longer in the bathroom, but on a cargo ship somewhere in Norway (we have to assume, based on the surroundings). Natasha got supplies and new identities from her British friend, who is a criminal fixer, apparently. He’s just there for that though. He shows up maybe three times in the film, banters with Natasha, gives her whatever items she needs for free and then is disappointed he is left in the friend zone. I found out after the fact, that his role had been hyped up in the marketing campaign. Good thing, I did not follow that before the film came out.
You and I remember Budapest very differently
Anyhow, Natasha suddenly is in Budapest, Hungary, at her old safehouse, where she finds her long-lost sister Yelena Belova. They tumble for a bit, but get interrupted by a team of Black Widows, who are hunting them both. It turns out, Black Widow turned on the guy who created the Red Room, blew it up and killed him together with Hawkeye in Budapest and that’s how she joined S.H.I.E.L.D.; that’s the story of Budapest. In fact, it wasn’t even a particularly interesting story. Turns out, she just placed a bomb in the guy’s office and waited for his little daughter to come up into his office to confirm that he was really there. Then she blew them sky-high from the safety of her car and proceeded to hide from the authorities with Hawkeye in an air vent in an underground station for several days. That’s it. Nothing more to tell. So the alien invasion of New York wasn’t all that much like Budapest after all, wouldn’t you say, Natasha?
The Black Widows are literally black
Here’s another really weird thing for you. Pretty much all, if not at least the majority of the new Black Widows are black women. They are Russian and they are black. Tell me, Marvel, when exactly did Russia colonise any country in Africa? When were there black slaves in Russia? There aren’t very many black people in Russia. You know what they have many of? Asians! But in typical Hollywood-fashion, being black is cool right now, so we need lots of black actors in all the films now, but Asians are still on the racist-shitlist, so we don’t need to give them representation, right? Of course not, after all Hollywood only cares about representation for two reasons: 1) To cover up their actual racist tendencies. 2) To appeal to specific audiences and make more money off of them.
Now later in the film, it is explained that many of the girls that made up the new Black Widows were rejected kids taken from the streets or trafficked and that could explain how some of them ended up being black, but if they really come from all over the world, you’d expect a bit more diversity there, wouldn’t you? Besides, if we are to be believed that this is a Russian governmental agency, then they probably wouldn’t allow any non-Russians into the programme, cause that’s how they think. So if anything, this casting choice shows that the film makers don’t know anything about Russia and don’t really care, so long as they are the bad guys.
‘Tis but a scratch!
On top of all this, the Black Widows are incredibly inept. And they die very easily and realistically, unlike Natasha and Yelena, who survive anything and everything as if they were Thor. Yelena even drops a one liner about Thor not needing an ibuprofen after a fight. Which is cute, but still does not explain how eiter of them survives any of the things that happen to them, let alone walk away with barely a scratch on them.
Natasha’s car gets flipped over at least five times. In one scene, you can even clearly see that the passenger seats and the dolls that act as silhouettes for the actors, get crushed. But right after that, Natasha groans and both she and Yelena emerge from the car without any heavy injuries. Oh, poor Yelena, she’s bleeding a little out of her arm! Oh the humanity! Anyone without plot armor would be dead ten times over.
One time, Natasha fights a Black Widow and both fall from the roof of a building. The Black Widow survives that fall somehow, but cannot move and is killed remotely via mind control. Natasha on the other hand, hits several vents on the way down, either one of which should have broken some ribs, an arm or a leg, or even her neck and then she lands on her feet. No, she doesn’t fall on her front or back, nor does she roll off the fall. She just falls straight onto her feet, like a freaking cat! She also gets tossed around by Taskmaster like a ragdoll and always gets right back up again. Finally, (s)he throws her off a bridge and into an icy river. She manages to dive through the ice water undetected to some shore far away without a problem off-screen. What?
And this is only the tip of the ice berg. There’s also a literal ice berg! Or rather a snowy mountain from which a huge avalanche launches randomly to increase the tension of the film, from which they escape in ridiculous fashion in a helicopter. The final fight, which managed to be a CGI-fest, despite no super powers being used, is the dumbest thing I have seen in an American film in a long time. So Yelena takes a staff and shoves it into the rotating blades of a quin-jet. What happens? The staff immediately is thrust into her face and knocks her off? No, the whole thing explodes and she gets thrown down (but without a scratch). Natasha, who just previously rode down three stories of collapsing and exploding debris unharmed witnesses this and immediately spawns a parachute right next to her so she can jump after Yelena (they are in a city in the sky, more on that later). After some more shooting action in the sky, the two of them meet up and open the parachute, while huge chunks of burning debris are raining down around them. Smart.
Then, Natasha lets go, because Taskmaster is after her and only her for some reason and jumped after her too. They crush through some debris, without a scratch, I might add, and fight until they are about 100m from the ground. That’s when they open up a parachute and land safely standing without a scratch. That’s not how gravity works, and it’s also not how parachutes work…
Now let’s talk about the villain. Because there is basically just one and he sucks monkeyballs: Russian General Dreykov. Surprise! Natasha, the guy you killed off-screen all these years ago, is alive and well! And he has established a new Red Room in a flying city in the clouds… Yes, we got Cloud City in the MCU now, go call Lando!
So his genious evil plan… well, actually he doesn’t really have a plan. He apparently already succeeded in taking over the world and he already controls every government out there through his sleeper agents, which number into thousands across the world. As he explains it, he utilised the only “resource the world has too much of: girls”. Cringe…
So women are a resource according to this guy. That’s a nice twist on sexist tropes. No no, women are not useless sex objects, they are useful tool objects! The writing, as you can tell, is less than admirable. I guess Hollywood still hasn’t found any writers who are good at writing stories about women. Then again, it is unsurprising if they make the director a woman for show, but give the story to three dudes with more than questionable writing credits.
So here is the kicker. Natasha does the same thing she always does, like using her face hologram gadget, and her wrist shockers, nothing new, but she also gets called out on “posing” by Yelena. It almost feels like a fourth-wall break in a way, as she adds that she feels like Natasha does that out of some sense that she is constantly watched by people when she fights. So there is nothing innovative here, more like the opposite, Natasha is being deconstructed as a character. Then the big twist is: Natasha can’t hurt Dreykov, because of his pheromones.
Yeah, his pheromones. In fact, that’s why none of the women can think straight or exercise free will. Because Dreykov has special pheromones that make it impossible for them to hurt him and he uses a variation of those pheromones to also mind-control all of the Black Widows. So, the message of the film appears to be: Women just can’t help themselves because of men’s natural pheromones? What? They need to free themselves from all those toxic male pheromones? I don’t know. But that’s basically the plot of the entire film in a nutshell. Pheromones control all the Black Widows and they need to smell the counteragent to get their free will back. What. The. Actual. Fuck.
Oh and last plot-twist, Taskmaster is actually not former S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Mr. Masters, but Dreykov’s disfigured daughter, whom Natasha had blown up all those years ago. Nothing more to it really, except she doesn’t hold a grudge, cause her dad implanted a chip in the back of her head to control her. But when she smells the counteragent apparently she also is free and good again, because pheromones, even though we had just established it was a chip with her, but don’t overthink it, this is not that kind of movie.
Honestly, this was one of the most disappointing parts. Natasha’s real parents sold her off as a child (probably under duress), because she had good genes and was ripe for experimentation by the Soviet Union. Her mom, however, never stopped looking for her and got executed for it. Natasha never learns her name or where she is buried.
Meanwhile, the family we see in Ohio is just a random bunch of Russian agents who all had been knowingly pretending for three years to be a family. And that’s it. They are not actually related, nor did they spend a lot of time together. But in a lengthy and completely unbelievable sequence, all four of them reunite and decide that actually, yeah, those three years in Ohio were the best and they totally were a family after all and should be a family again… For real? Their supposed mom even turns on Dreykov, who is her employer and benefactor, just like that. I mean, why? Because of two girls she had known 20 years ago for three years as part of a previous job? The Red Guardian at least wants revenge, for being locked in prison for all those years, but why pretend like they all actually care about each other? Even Yelena and Natasha don’t make much sense, because Natasha, as it turns out, never went back to look for her, but just assumed she escaped from the Red Room on her own and was living somewhere happily and didn’t want to be bothered by her. Really? In the end, we don’t even know what happened to Melina and Alexei. We just know that Natasha wore Yelena’s vest in Infinity War now (we needed that explanation, right?). We know that Natasha got the qunijet from Infinity War from her black British friend and we got a post-credit scene setting up Yelena as the new Black Widow, who will go after Hawkeye, most likely in his Disney+ show.
What was the point?
In the end, Natasha plays a sidekick role in her own film. The film doesn’t tell us much more about her, than we already knew, it makes the character look completely unbelievable and ridiculous and only serves to set up Florence Pugh as the new MCU superspy. And while she delivered a great performance in the film, her writing was also so lackluster, that the setup doesn’t really bare any fruits. I am not excited for her to take over for Scarlett. Because if Scarlett’s role is any indication, the character of Yelena Belova will be completely underutilised, oversexualised and will have to wait fifteen years for her solo movie, only to be disappointed. Shame on you Marvel, shame on you.