Marvel’s second luxury knife since Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson aka Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow aka Black Widow is finally entitled to the solo film the world has been waiting for (or not). He just had to wait for Wonder Woman in DC, then Captain Marvel in the MCU, and die in Avengers: Endgame. And despite the presence of Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbor by his side, the most mundane of Avengers has a hard time justifying his return from the grave in this first Phase 4 film (after the WandaVision series, Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki), directed by Cate Shortland. .
AVENGERS: END OF GAME END
The final gift to reward the kind and loyal service (at a cost of several tens of millions) from Scarlett Johansson? A purely strategic maneuver to cover a decade of laziness for dropping superheroes into the background? A real dramatic need to end the character’s story, forgotten like a dirty plate at the end of Avengers: Endgame? The existence of the Black Widow raises several questions.
A few years ago (i.e. around the time the story unfolds, post-during Captain America: Civil War) this single-player adventure would have made sense to complete before the Infinity War of the Stones, and delve deeper into the characters, especially after The Russian Flashback from Avengers: Age. of Ultron. Post Thanos, as the MCU gears up for a new chapter, Black Widow’s single-player missions feel like disappointing brackets on every level.
The Marvel Galaxy is increasingly taking off into the cosmos, and this flashback, which marks a post-mortem exception in the MCU’s linear and rigid storytelling, bets on a terrestrial adventure. To tap into Natasha’s past, and come to terms with her lack of proper superpowers, the 200 million blockbuster naturally slips into the spy movie, with some strings borrowed from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But this splendid operation dedicated to Scarlett Johansson can only confirm the worst fears: the Black Widow movie is a very unbreakable MCU stage, and a very soft and tasteless pause.
It’s a shame that Black Widow got off to a good start, with a lengthy introduction to The American’s songs, even WandaVision’s twisted relationship with the American dream — and with Ever Anderson, daughter of Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson, in the skin of young Natasha. Simple, clean and sober, this prologue anchors the film in an emotional reality more credible than usual, and quietly hijacks the idea of a sacred family.
Returning to post-Civil War reality (poor William Hurt, responsible for walking with his mustache and mentioning the Sokovia deal for context), the sequel quickly kicks in, and places plot pawns without wasting time. Natasha’s isolation, Yelena Belova’s presentation, intrigue bets, Taskmaster’s threat: the engine seems to launch well, with a welcome saving of words. But it didn’t take long to derail, or rather return to the most rusty tracks in the MCU.
Because behind Jason Bourne’s appearance, with more travel than the MCU average, Black Widow quickly descends into a gentle race for the magic bottle, built around a few meager action scenes. Apart from the prison break that looks like a homage to Mulan, it’s a festival of asphalt, tangled bodywork, and poorly filmed battles, until the inevitable climax in the form of a CGI demo tape where it all explodes. Even there, some fun ideas were quickly sent over, systematically bringing the show back to genre standards.
Black Widow is sorely short on ideas at every level, with infinitely sad art directions. From streets lined with cars and motorbikes to wide shots of CGI armor, to kitchen and living room interiors, this world seems hopelessly small as the MCU grows bigger and bigger. Even the Great Villain Headquarters, said to be the weirdest movie idea, will seem familiar enough to anyone who has followed the Avengers adventures.
The fact that the evil Taskmaster can emulate the moves of his opponents and particularly the Avengers (a great idea, never really exploited), is almost a meta because the Black Widow movie is content to recycle Hollywood craftsmanship at Disney. Almost everything looks like a photocopy of a seen scene or idea, so much so that any of the twists point straight to the heroine’s previous achievements in the MCU.
MISSION: TOO POSSIBLE
The treatment of action scenes remains the best symptom of this Hollywood disease that plagues big productions. In Black Widow as in all the MCU movies, other moments of chase and fight are goneg in the same cutting and editing issues, killing the idea of a good choreography. The confrontation between Natasha and Yelena is a good example of this: the strength of the characters rests in their brutality and agility, but their movements are so choppy that all the energy is lost in the picture.
The explanation is simple: the team that manages these action scenes is pretty much the same from film to film, and the filmmakers are barely involved (director Lucrecia Martel explained that she turned down Black Widow when the producers told her that ‘she didn’t have to’ manage this sequence). Irreparably, this separation of powers condemns the majority of blockbusters to the same allure. Marvel didn’t create this recipe, but made it the keystone of their show. And Black Widow is the perfect representative of this type of blockbuster.
Result: the film has the same warmth on all floors. CGI rendering isn’t always fun, especially the glitch in uninspired photos. Scarlett Johansson sometimes wears hair and makeup like a Barbie doll (especially for prison scenes). The music signed by Lorne Balfe (who replaced Alexandre Desplat, was removed from the project in his own words) has no identity. And none of the action scenes are truly memorable, apart from a few fun ideas that are often overlooked.
With no superpowers or high-tech combinations, Black Widow just has the power to fill the space. It was even a tacit contract from a film dedicated to female spies. And it’s a huge failure, so much so that every John Wick, Mission: Impossible, or even Atom Blonde has done better, and more inventively.