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The long wait to understand why Black Widow is who she is gets muddled on the big screen. I’ve known about her origins by reading the graphic novel collections and consulting the Internet. To finally see her solo adventure in cinema is more of a let’s stick to the MCU tradition: Every hero needs his or her solo adventure, and let’s try not to riff off of Captain America: Civil War too much.
We’ve seen snippets of this superspy’s training from past films. To know how these past scenes and other bits play to her psychology isn’t examined. I was hoping part of the tale would flashback to specific moments of her life and lead up to how she died in Avengers Endgame. Sadly, this would mean viewers would have to know those past movies. There’s no guarantee everyone would understand when the film ends with her broken body, and the last words from her lips muttering, “No regrets…” It can work had it started as an intro, and reference those movies so some fans can go rewatch them again. Movies that are built through flashbacks can be done.
Black Widow has always been a moniker for the women brainwashed to become assassins. We don’t get reminded of this fact until later in the film. When considering the introduction shows Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) first, and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) second, I knew what was going on. The film is really about Belova. These sisters were living the American dream, complete with white picket fences. It gets rear-ended when the military comes in to cleanse the communist problem in the 90s to suggest the Cold War isn’t over. These siblings are told the entire family is a lie. Nobody is who they are, including the pretend parents Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). Apparently, Harbour is okay with continuing to play the buffoon type roles and Weisz is even more deadly when compared to her Evie character in The Mummy films many years back.
I doubt Dreykov (Ray Winstone), your atypical megalomaniac, made a deal with the devil (aka Loki) but you never know when considering how The Avengers showed Natasha interrogating Loki. he said, “Can you wipe out that much red? Dreykov’s daughter… São Paolo… the hospital fire… Barton told me everything.”
Narrative wise, the setup suggests some heroes wish to change the past. Steve Rogers did it to be with Peggy. So why can’t Romanoff? She never had the chance and if she did with an infinity stone, the timeline would get foo-bared again.
As a stand-alone product, Black Widow is a very moody film. It takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame where Nat is trying to figure out her life. A lot of narratives being pumped out lately are doing the “You don’t have to live like a refugee,” and I really didn’t want to watch another variation on a theme. I’m specifically thinking of Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
When the film jumps to the “present day,” Natasha is ready to take down The Red Room, the place where she got her training. Dreykov is the boss. Curiously, the movie doesn’t show his relationship with the Soviets since he’s even willing to take down Moscow. There’s very little exposition to link him to the Cold War agenda. Instead, we have an Illuminati level threat and a Cylon (The Taskmaster) as this Emperor’s number one. The climax is simply about attaining freedom from an overlord.
Had this movie been written as a G.I. Joe Origins film, I’d be in love. As a Marvel Comics Entertainment product, it’s not the type of send off I wanted for Romanoff. She deserves much more than a solo spy-action adventure before passing the torch to Yelena, the new Black Widow, who is now out for “revenge.” Although Scarlet’s history is nothing like Natasha’s, it’s close enough when considering all that’s said about her normal life in the episode, “Captives of Cobra” (available to watch on Hasbro’s GI Joe YouTube Channel and what I’ve read in the comic book front. The end would be a perfect setup to bring Snake Eyes in to recruit her. His solo film is coming on July 23rd.
3 Stars Out of 5