The overdue solo movie is a solid spy movie with plenty of combat, humor, and twists.
Nat’s last stand at the box office drew $158,000,000 worldwide and $60 million on Disney+ Premier Access – exceeding expectations and showing that paid streaming is a viable option. Either they underestimated how many Black Widow fans are out there, or how hungry audiences are for top-shelf action movies.
If you just dropped in to get a feel for the movie before you buy a ticket – it’s not perfect, but it is a fun revenge movie with a lot of heart. The core cast (Harbour, Johansson, Pugh, and Wiesz) has great chemistry. It has just the right amount of action to crafty spy stuff with some laugh-out-loud moments. Don’t miss out on this one in a theater because it has some sweeping scenes and fights that really deserve a big screen. If you’ve been craving a new Marvel movie, buy a ticket.
Major spoilers below.
The Great First
FLORENCE PUGH IS AWESOME. So are David Habour and Rachel Wiesz.
The Good Second
Ok, that checked off. Writers Eric Pearson, Jac Schaeffer, and Ned Benson chose a great franchise as inspiration. Not exactly one of its better movies, but you could do worse. I’m talking, of course, about Moonraker. The way Taskmaster is used like Jaws, the crazy skydiving scene, the big bad that is really just a coward with a bunch of tech and people that do the dirty work for him. Director Cate Shortland says these are coincidences rather than purposeful features, but I don’t entirely buy that.
“That was unintentional. If I asked Eric, the writer, he might say, might grab it now, and say it was completely intentional. I’m not sure. I’m happy that there are coincidences, because, it’s kind of a beautiful coincidence.”
Bond vs Jaws and Natasha vs Taskmaster while plummeting to the earth…
It all works, though. Black Widow uses a classic spy movie framework with Marvel lore on top to tell Nat’s story, which is generally well written with some fun schemes and twists and turns.
It also was nice to see her not at the whim of a male director and in her own movie – she has room here to be a more rounded character that’s not just a crutch for other (male) characters or a sexpot that can beat people up. Could they have done better? Yes. But the Nat we get in this movie is such a step up I’m not going to complain.
The Bad Third
It’s a great stand-alone, but not really great for continuity of the saga. This movie totally invalidates the reason why Nat sacrifices herself in Infinity War. It’s annoying and could have been avoidable if they made the movie when they should have rather than an afterthought.
It is clear that Scarlett Johansson is surrounded by actors that are better than she is – it makes Nat dull and flat compared to Yelena, who is whip-smart and cracks jokes that land every time.
It handles Taskmaster and Antonia poorly – they both deserve better. Anthony Masters isn’t a minor bad guy in the comics and he’s an interesting one with a lot of flexibility in terms of where he can show up. I was really hoping they’d do more with the character. I have no issue with the gender swap; it’s the way Antonia (who is played by former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko) was used. She exists to make an already horrible, misogynistic Dreykov look eviler. They gave her some fight scenes, made her a plot point, and then she was tossed aside. She has the Taskmaster skill set and potential to be more. I hope we’ll see her in later movies.
Overall, it’s a solid MCU movie with all the hallmarks. Not the best, but very far from the worst (I’m looking at you, Thor: The Dark World). It closes the saga on a decent note. I’m looking forward to the start of the next one next month.
Small bit of trivia – young Natasha is played by Milla Jovovich’s oldest daughter, Ever. She looks just like her mom.