After being delayed over a year... Black Widow is finally here!
Well, I say "over a year" but it's actually more like eleven years because I've been waiting for a solo movie ever since the character first appeared in Iron Man 2 back in May of 2010. Instead she appeared in just about every other character's movie without getting her own. At least until now.
No, I did not go to a theater to watch it. I paid $30 to watch it at home, which is something I was thrilled to do. I would never step foot in a movie theater ever again if it was the option. Partly because I've got a great big-screen TV and sound-system at home... but mostly because I hate sitting in a theater with a bunch of selfish, inconsiderate assholes who feel the need to light up the theater with their cell phones, talk, and exist while I'm trying to concentrate on the movie. And, yes, I will undoubtedly buy the film on iTunes when it's released as well. Though it sure would be nice if Premiere Access customers got a bit of a discount on it! I love Marvel Studios movies, watch them over and over again, so I buy them.
As a non-spoilery review, about all I can say is that I liked it quite a lot. Don't know that I'd go so far as to say I loved it, because Natasha did get a little short-changed in her own film... but it was darn entertaining and continues Marvel's unfathomable streak of awesome movies...
Since Black Widow is... well... dead... in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thanks to Avengers: Infinity War), they pretty much had no choice but to go back in time. Conveniently, there's a period after Captain America: Civil War where some of the characters are on the run for violating the Sokovia Accords, and that's when Black Widow is set. The story, in a nutshell, is that Natasha has to confront her past which is having a scary relevance to what's happening in her present (which is our past). Along the way we meet her former "family" of spies, including her father (David Harbor), mother (Rachel Weisz), and sister (Florence Pugh). All of whom are likely not done in the MCU.
So... yeah. Kudos to Marvel for not only finally giving Black Widow a film of her own... but for investing enough money to make it really cool as well.
I already watched the movie once. I am going to watch it again right now and live-blog it as I go. You can read that (along with other thoughts) in a spoiler-filled extended entry...
Needless to say... spoilers ahead.
I just want to get this out of the way... I was pissed that no Marvel big-hitters made even a small cameo appearance. After Scarlett Johansson would drop in anywhere in the MCU that they could fit her, nobody would take the time to appear in hers? I was at least expecting to see Captain America and Falcon since Black Widow ended up with them after Civil War... or even Iron Man since Tony Stark was still alive back then... but nope! All we get is General Thunderbolt Ross (thank you for that, William Hurt!), which is better than nothing I guess.
Anyway... here we go...
- The movie opens in Ohio of 1995 with a young actor that's eerily resembling Scarlett Johansson. Since the Soviet Union collapsed in '91, and it's later revealed that the spy "family" was only together for 3 years... that means this was clearly a Russian op that's a holdover from the Soviet government? They are incredibly vague as to what, exactly, is happening politically here.
- Rachel Weisz and David Harbor being youthafied a bit here? Regardless, Rachel Weisz looks phenomenal at any age, as usual.
- This whole "Escape from Ohio" sequence is a pretty darn impressive way to open a movie... just sayin'.
- Ah yes. David Harbor throwing a trailer out of the way does indeed well establishes that he's the "Russian Captain America" AKA "The Red Guardian." In the comics, Red Guardian has a long and varied history (as do most characters). All I want to know is if the MCU version actually got his powers from the same Super Soldier Serum that gave Steve Rogers his powers. If so... was it developed or stolen? So many questions.
- A wild coincidence that the data that David Harbor stole ends up being the entire plot device for the movie once we jump forward in time. And kinda an unnecessary one, in my humble opinion. Makes the movie "universe" seem smaller for no reason.
- Ray Winstone was a good choice to play the movie's villain. Even though he's more of a mastermind than a villain.
- The opening credits showing a montage of the horrors of The Red Room to a haunting cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit is pretty great. That song has some phenomenal lyrics that are so apt for these times we live in... even more so than when it was released in 1991.
- A nod to the actual Marvel Cinematic Universe with General Ross and The Sokovia Accords fallout from Captain America: Civil War. The only tangible one in the entire film. Everything else is just name-dropping. I still don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing? I mean, it can get tedious to have absolutely every little thing be connected... but that's kinda what Marvel Studios does which makes their "universe" of movies so phenomenal.
- One thing this movie does so well is to show how women can have every bit the physical weight in a major motion picture action film as men have. It's about damn time. Wonder Woman was anchored to Steve Trevor... even after he frickin' died in the first movie. Captain Marvel fared a little better, but she was ultimately half of the picture, wth the other half going to Nick Fury, Yon-Rogg, Talos, and other men. But with Black Widow? Red Guardian, Thunderbolt Ross, and Dreykov are very, very much supporting characters with women carrying the entire movie. As it really should be.
- Oh Taskmaster. I have to say, I was very excited when he popped up in the movie trailers. He has amazing villain potential, and is the perfect foil for Black Widow. The costume they gave him was fantastic. Super-perfect, actually. Alas, as an actual character, he was really short changed in this movie. But we'll get to that.
- This fight on the bridge with Taskmaster shows that characters don't have to have super-powers in a comic book movie to make for great action beats.
- I will say again how great Taskmaster's costume is. Perfectly illustrates how Doctor Doom could be well-represented on-screen for once.
- Budapest is a mind-blowing city. I would dearly love to go back. And now we finally know a little more about the mission that Natasha and Clint have been referencing all this time.
- Many of the early reviews said that Florence Pugh stole the movie. I don't know that this is exactly true... but she is 100% a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and does have a really great part. Not exactly sure why they are fighting here though. Except to say that it was a fun little fight to watch.
- This movie has many excellent action sequences, but my favorite is the chase in Budapest after Natasha impossibly survives falling off a building. Great stunts. Relentless action. Some great humor.
- And here's the story of "Dreykov's Daughter" first mentioned by Loki in the first Avengers movie back in 2012!
- "I doubt the god from space has to take an Ibuprofen after a fight." — BAWAH HA HA HAAA!
- "Fighting pose." — BWAH HA HA HAAA!
- David Harbor was really perfect for this role. Once again I marvel at how Marvel Studios doesn't make any missteps when it comes to casting.
- Yet another action sequence that works on every possible level. It's really something how they are not superfluous either. They are necessary to move the story forward. And Marvel Studios knows this, which is why they invested the money needed to make it great.
- "You both have killed so many people. Your ledgers must be dripping... just gushing red. I couldn't be more proud of you." This is one of those lines that comes across as hilarious, but is actually deeply disturbing.
- Half-way through the movie we finally catch up with Rachel Weisz. I admit to being surprised when she betrays them. Then being equally surprised when it turns out to be a ruse. Clever.
- And here is the part of the movie where things drag on just a little too long. I mean, I understand the need to have some emotional back-story in the movie... that keeps it from just being a soulless action flick... but it really wasn't critical to go this hard, because it's quite a lull going on.
- Interesting that Yelena calls Red Guardian "Crimson Dynamo." Just like Red Guardian is the Russian Captain America in the comics... Crimson Dynamo is the Russian Iron Man.
- Recycling MCU ideas by having The Red Room be a copycat SHIELD helicarrier is actually kinda cool here. It certainly makes for a thrilling conclusion to the film.
- Okay... this supposed "twist" of Taskmaster ending up being Dreykov's Daughter is kinda... well... bad. And mostly predictable. Not just because it's sheer lunacy that Natasha would let her out of prison knowing that she's a zombie who will kill her, but because the character could have been so much more. My only hope is that Tony Masters (Taskmaster from the comics) eventually takes on the identity and makes him a villain worthy of the name. Maybe fighting Daredevil?
- The Red Room destruction and subsequent escape may be hugely absurd, but it's also hugely entertaining and fun to watch.
- "God this is stupid." — Me, both times watching the movie when Natasha lets Taskmaster out of her cell.
- Did I miss something? Where was The Red Room located that General Ross and crew can just roll on up to the crash site? Was it hovering above his house? This is the kind of nonsense that they really, really should at least attempt to explain in these things.
- There's a monumental gap here. Natasha obviously somehow escapes from the entire US Army, dies her hair as a disguise to go back on the run, and meet up with her supplier-friend to get a stolen quinjet so she can meet up with Cap and Falcon... but it just seems so odd that they offered up no explanation whatsoever as to how that might have happened. Which is to say they set up a confrontation with Ross, then immediately abandoned it like it never happened? Lazy.
- The after-credits scene pretty much assures us that Yelena will be the new Black Widow and a big part of the MCU going forward. That Julia Dreyfus's "Valentina Allegra de Fontaine" is involved is one of the worst-kept secrets of the movie. Since Black Widow was supposed to be released before The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is weird for her character since she wouldn't be explained until after she was introduced. But anyway... does this mean that Yelena will be a part of Hawkeye when it comes to Disney+ later this year? Fingers crossed. Hopefully it comes with an explanation as to how Yelena ended up employed by Val.
- Natasha died on Vormir. So the tombstone is obviously symbolic. But where would they put it? Who put it there? What do people of earth know about her death? Do they know she sacrificed her life to save the universe? I guess those are unnecessary details, but... odd that they would put in this scene when so many questions come along with it (that we'll likely never get the answers to).
Like I said at the beginning, I honestly feel that Black Widow was a bit short-changed in her own movie. The whole "Team Black Widow" thing obviously worked... because I enjoyed the film... it's just that since this is her last MCU movie, it would have been nice to have more Black Widow in Black Widow than making her share the stage in order to set up a new Black Widow. If that makes sense.
And I'm still furious that nobody else appeared in her movie when she appeared in theirs. WTF?!?
So... time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard...
Ant-Man and The Wasp... A-
The Avengers... A+
Avengers: Age of Ultron... A
Avengers: Infinity War... A
Avengers: Endgame... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice... D
Big Hero Six... A+
Black Panther... A+
Black Widow... A
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Captain America: Civil War... A+
Captain Marvel... B+
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Deadpool 2... A
Doctor Strange... A
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl... B-
Fantastic Four (2005)... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Fantastic Four (2015)... D+
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2... A
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Justice League... F
Kick-Ass 2... B-
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher War Zone... C
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... B
Amazing Spider-Man 2... B-
Spider-Man: Homecoming... A+
Spider-Man: Far From Home... A
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse... A
Suicide Squad... D
Superman Returns... C+
Thor: The Dark World... B
Thor: Ragnarok... A+
The Wolverine... B
Wonder Woman... A
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: Apocalypse... D+