2021, PG-12, 2h 13min – in theaters or on Disney+
Long awaited and often postponed, now finally in theaters and/or on streaming service: The long overdue Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) solo adventure, illustrating her progression from Russian secret service to the Avengers. The story is set between Age of Ultron / Civil War and Infinity War – and because it’s about female recruits to a secret organization, the girls finally have the upper hand here – on screen and in the director’s chair (Cate Shortland). Therefore I had hoped that it will not turn out as one of those 08/15 “male” action movies.
Unfortunately, I had hoped in vain, and a certain disappointment has only marginally to do with high expectations due to the long wait. Anyway, the set off is brilliant, breathtaking and super promising – and seems to keep those promises into the first half. However, a tendency towards CGI overkill a la Fast & Furious is already apparent. Which is especially frustrating when you can see the ideas that are not followed through. Or let’s say it like this, those who enjoy popcorn action and sort-of brainless bruhaha can certainly fully appreciate Black Widow. Those who rather value story (Black Widow’s career), coherent plot points and distinctive characters will be only partially satisfied, for example with this wonderfully dysfunctional family. But even this aspect remains as underdeveloped as any emotional connection as a viewer to on-screen characters (besides the sufficiently established title heroine). Relevant topics like human trafficking remain set pieces – wasting the chance to build up female counterparts to Winter Soldier, for example… And why does the one-dimensional Florence Pugh as Yelena receive so much attention, whereas the potential of solid, versatile character actors (Rachel Weisz!! David Harbour!!) is wasted here, remains a mystery to me. “Taskmaster” is also almost completely drowned out in this orgy of material destruction.
Then all these new faces… Although I don’t consider myself a Marvel expert, I do know just about all the current movie and streaming releases – and I still felt confused now and then. Who, for example, is the guy who organizes all this tech stuff, especially since he’s not mentioned by name even once in the movie? The post-credit scene can only be understood by those who have seen “Falcon and the Winter Soldier”, too. However – the “Budapest” running gag of the Avengers movies finally finds an explanation.
Summa summarum, it’s not really a bad movie, but it failed to be another example of female power in action cinema with a very personal touch (see Wonder Woman, see Captain Marvel) … for me it’s only the fact “finally more women in a movie than men”, the awesome opening and some wonderfully weird Red Guardian scenes that put this one over the average line.
Florence Pugh – Yelena Belova
Scarlett Johansson – Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
David Harbour – Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian
Rachel Weisz – Melina Vostokoff
Olga Kurylenko – Antonia Dreykov / Taskmaster
PS: Finnish fans reacted especially enthusiastically during a scene with Finnish original sound – a nice surprise.