I think the best thing I can say about Black Widow is that I don’t have anything bad to say about it.
I’m pretty sure I’m about to be unfair to this movie. I’ve been burning out on the MCU lately, and Loki really didn’t help with that, and the notion that Black Widow was going to have to be … well, not a prequel, really, but set in the past at least, because Black Widow herself was killed in Endgame has always rubbed me all kinds of wrong. And I wasn’t in a hugely receptive mood for it when I sat down to watch. This usually isn’t a good sign for a movie! And yet. I mean, I have some gripes, but they’re just that– gripes; the movie itself is fine.
- The cast they’ve built around Natasha is great. David Harbour’s Russian accent is godawful and inconsistent but he is very clearly having an enormous amount of fun playing the character, and y’all probably know by now how far that can get you with me.
- The story is pleasingly self-contained. You’ll kinda have a hard time if the phrase “Sokovia Accords” doesn’t ring any bells, but just knowing that she’s on the run from somebody because of something is probably good enough to get you through the movie. You don’t really need the details and the movie doesn’t get into the weeds with them either.
- The main villain might be the biggest bastard we’ve seen in the MCU so far. Seriously: he’s Killgrave from Jessica Jones level, if that’s even still canon.
- The good guys’ Big Plan at the end is also pretty good, especially since it seems to have been thrown together in something around three minutes of in-movie time.
- The action sequences are solid, but see the next section.
Like, okay, that doesn’t sound like much? But to a certain degree it’s all you really need, right? Good actors in roles they’re well-suited for in a well-written action film that looks good and shows you some shit you’ve not seen before. That’s already a B or B+ movie, and remember I was in a bad mood watching it.
- I’m not sure how I feel about how the movie treated Natasha? She spends the entire film getting her ass beat and you’d think that since it’s her movie they’d give her an action sequence at least as badass as either her first appearance in Iron Man 2 or her introduction in Avengers. Sadly, that’s not the case. Again, the action sequences are pretty cool– the whole final falling-through-the-sky bit and the rescue at the prison are standouts– but she doesn’t get a moment anywhere that lets you know what a badass the character is.(*)
- There’s a lot of unnecessary ass shots. I mean, I enjoy Scarlett Johansson’s ass as much as any other straight guy, but it was actually distracting. And the movie was directed by a woman!
- I want more Taskmaster. I wanted more Taskmaster in this movie, and I want to see the character again. Not as much of a gripe as it could be, though.
- There were some points where I was wondering about where she gets her money from. Like, she’s got a Guy, and this Guy seems to be able to produce whatever she wants on short notice in any country on Earth, and I feel like maybe we should have learned a little more about that guy.
- The stinger at the end suggests that Yelena’s career went in a different direction after the events of the film than her character development during the film would imply. I’m being deliberately opaque to avoid spoilers, of course, but, c’mon, you ended the movie as this, and a few years later you’re doing that? Really?
So, yeah: I went in with a bad attitude and kinda down on the entire MCU thing and came out of it having watched a solid action movie. Call it a B, or a B+ if you are as entertained by David Harbour as I am. And the movie adds some texture to Infinity War and Endgame that wasn’t there before, which is cool. I don’t know for sure that you need to drop $30 for this on Disney+ right away, but you probably already have if you were going to, and I’m glad I didn’t go to a theater to see it, but it’s an enjoyable, competent piece of filmmaking and I enjoyed it.
(*) There’s a moment late in the film where Natasha does … uh, something to herself … that shows how impossibly tough she is, and she keeps getting up after each of the fights. She’s absolutely not portrayed as weak. But showing her toughness and a standout badass moment are not quite the same thing.