Black Widow

By Cate Shortland |
Pandemic Movie Index (out of a possible 5): 🦠🦠🦠1/2 |

Was it worth the wait? Was it worth postponing this movie’s release so many times that we actually lost track of where it exactly fits in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)? Not to mention that after the recent Loki series, the MCU timeline has officially become more complex than string theory and even has its own college course to explain it?

Wedged right after Civil War (the Avengers kind, not the Ken Burns kind) and before Infinity War, Scarlett Johansson plays super-agent Natasha Romanoff alias The Black Widow who this time around, returns to the Russian motherland for a family reunion of sorts, to ultimately rid the world of yet another bad guy with a bad accent (we’re oversimplifying here). 

Clearly, Marvel has been cloning new films and series like mutant X-Men in a Petri dish. But throughout the process, it has somehow managed to keep its films fresh and original, while it fine-tuned its action sequences to a digital art form. But this time around, while the action is on point, you can’t help but feel that Widow “borrowed” ideas and gimmicks from a lot of other films.

There’s the free-falling finale reminiscent of Moonraker, which the film salutes in a brief scene.
There’s the convenient digital face-mask that thankfully, does not reveal a shrieking and over-acting Tom Cruise. 
And the chase scenes in Budapest definitely have a Jason Bourne vibe to them, as do some of the fight sequences.

But both in the background and forefront of all this — because this is now possible in the MCU — lie two superpowers that clearly distinguish Marvel from any other action/superhero film.

First, there is this innate capacity not to take itself too seriously, which yields moments that are truly hilarious and entertaining.

And secondly, there is also the fact that this superhero film is carried by an Academy Award-nominated actress who convincingly delivers on the whole spectrum of emotions, even when the film’s plot does not.

So no, this is not necessarily the best of all Marvel movies — Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther remain in a class of their own, as does the original Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire, even if it was pre-MCU. But it certainly deserves a spot in Marvel Valhalla way before the paler sequels and spinoffs that we’ve suffered through over the years, like Iron-Man 3. Or 2.

That being said, for Disney, the movie’s serial postponement combined with a simultaneous premium release on its Disney+ platform may not have been the best strategy, since Black Widow “only” grossed $318 million globally so far, which is chump change on the Marvel pay scale.  (Avengers: Endgame grossed — gulp — $2.8 billion). 

But ironically, the most spectacular action scenes and ruthless fighting involving Black Widow moved on to another realm this week — the Los Angeles Superior Court —  when Scarlett Johansson sued Disney for not respecting the terms of the movie’s release.  

And no, the object of the lawsuit was not the Infinity Stones — though it certainly did take some to file that lawsuit.