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Black Widow – Review

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Black Widow Marvel image
Marvel Studios

After years of patience and COVID setbacks, Marvel has finally released their Black Widow standalone movie. The movie is a compelling action story, centring on family and what that means for the titular characters. But while the film is a good one, it is a late one. Here’s our review of Black Widow.

SPOILERS: Be warned there are spoilers ahead.

Plot

The film stars Scarlet Johansson in one of her last, if not the last, portrayals of Black Widow. Alongside her is Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff, and David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian. The film opens on the family in the ’90s, living an idyllic American lifestyle. But after a police chase and a jet over to Cuba, it is revealed that this “family,” is actually just a collection of Russian secret agents. The parents were tasked with taking down a base and retrieving information. The children were just cover, and while Natasha was aware of the situation, Yelena was only six and thought this was her real family. Alexei and Melina then hand Natasha and Yelena over to the Red Room. A Russian organization that kidnaps young girls and turns them into assassins.

Fast forward to the “present” or rather, the events directly after Civil War. Natasha thought she destroyed the Red Room with Hawkeye in Budapest (a call back to the first Avengers movie). But after she reunites with Yelena, who has just escaped their mind-washing, they learn that the Room still exists. Teaming up with Melina and Alexei, this pseudo-family has to work together to take down the organization that has hurt each of them.

All of the performances in this film were stellar, but the one that stands out the most is Florence Pugh. She gives an outstanding and heartfelt performance in the midst of an action film. Playing off the sense of abandonment, of knowing the best years of her life were a lie, wrestling with the harm she’s caused as an assassin, her performance is real and genuine in a way that isn’t seen much in the genre. She’s also incredibly funny, alongside Harbour, who steals the show as comedic relief.

The Red Room

Outside of some particularly sloppy special effects, the film is compelling and interesting. But the film tends to culminate with Natasha facing off against Ray Winstone as Dreykov, the leader of the Red Room. While the scene is meant to showcase Natasha’s ability as a spy and showcases her skills at retrieving information, it comes across as a little icky. It has Natasha face her abuser, and be weak and powerless for most of the scene. Even though all that was a ploy, it still felt uneasy. She takes way too long to attempt to kill Dreykov, and the film almost sets up her emotions as an obstacle, rather than what sets Natasha apart from her past.

The goal was probably to have a bunch of cool and capable women fight each other. But these are also women who had their entire agency taken from them. They were all in need of saving. And while it was Natasha and Yelena who saved them, it was less about female empowerment and more about women in need of rescue. It didn’t have the “Wonder Woman” effect. It didn’t make me feel empowered. In fact, everything to do with the Red Room just made me feel uncomfortable with the ease at which one man could exploit thousands of young girls.

Family and love

The film also gives her another subtle love interest in O. T. Fagbenle as the Agent. She friend-zoned him at the end of the movie, and it’s not central to the plot. But Marvel simply will not let Black Widow exist in a film without romantic tension. First, it was Iron Man, then Hawkeye, then Bruce Banner, and so on. It’s less about this subplot and more about Marvel’s need to make her have tension with someone else. She can’t exist on her own.

It’s also a little strange to give Black Widow a family-centric film when so much of her arc through the rest of the MCU is about her finding her family in the Avengers. Why give her a new one, when she already had one? She doesn’t need to learn to let people in or develop those relationships at this point in her arc; she already has.

A little too late

But the biggest thing that kept me from enjoying the film to its full potential is that it is several years too late. It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Black Widow her own movie, especially since it’s post-mortem. In terms of her arc, Black Widow should have had her own movie after her first appearance in Iron Man 2. Really either directly before or directly after the first Avengers.

This film specifically should have come out directly after Civil War. It’s weird in terms of the timeline that it came this late. Natasha is dead. We as the audience know she’s dead. So it dramatically decreases the stakes. It doesn’t really matter if she makes amends with her Russian family; we know she won’t interact with them again. We know she’s not really in any real danger because she dies later. And it undercuts any character development because we’ve seen her after this and we won’t see that development in action.

Furthermore, the unfortunate events with COVID pushed this film back several months after its original release date. While that was out of everyone’s hands, it sort of deflated some of the anticipations for the film.

Black Widow is a good movie. It’s fun to watch, it has a good plot and fantastic performances. It’s going to be really exciting to see Florence Pugh’s future in the MCU, and it sets her up to face off against Hawkeye in the future. But it doesn’t stand out in the MCU, and it really does nothing to advance Black Widow as a character. At the end of the day, this movie is seven years too late.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 6/10


Thank you for reading our review of Marvel’s Black Widow. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out everything we know about Spider-Man: No Way Home HERE.

Read IMDB information about Black Widow HERE.

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Movie News

Hogwarts Houses For MCU Characters

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MCU Harry Potter houses image
Marvel Studios & Warner Bros.

Since its conception, Hogwarts houses have been a deciding factor in getting to know people. How someone answers “what Hogwarts house are you in?” can tell you a lot about a person. But where do some of our favourite MCU characters shape up when faced with the sorting hat?

Tony Stark/Iron Man- Ravenclaw

While Tony could be argued for almost any of the houses, Ravenclaw suits him best. Most of his development comes from the pursuit of knowledge. Aside from being one of the smartest characters in the MCU, he is constantly learning and improving upon his technology. He tends to approach large problems from a strategic and pragmatic standpoint, especially in his later films. Admittedly he can be brave and somewhat self-servingly ambitious. But who he is at the end of his arc and the way that he solves problems points to Iron Man being in Ravenclaw.

Steve Rogers/Captain America- Gryffindor

Is it even a question? Steve Rogers is definitely a Gryffindor. From day one, he has always strived to do what’s right. And he subtly wants a bit of glory for it too. He’s a natural leader and has always rushed into danger without a thought. He is undoubtedly driven by bravery and righteousness and is through and through a Gryffindor.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow- Hufflepuff

Natasha is tricky. She could truthfully swing in any direction. It may seem strange to put a spy in Hufflepuff, but if nothing else, Natasha is loyal. She cares deeply for those close to her and has shown that she’s willing to die for them. Her characterization throughout the MCU has been lacking, but her solo film has shown her to be fiercely loyal.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk- Ravenclaw

Another Ravenclaw. Similar to Tony, Bruce is very intelligent. While he seems to be less inclined to want to fight battles than Tony is, he is constantly learning. His relationship with the Hulk can even be characterized this way. By a desire to learn how to control him, then to understand him, then to become him. His arc is one that is driven by knowledge.

Thor- Gryffindor

Thor is always looking to prove himself. Even though he can lift the hammer, he is constantly looking for validation that he is worthy. He’s not usually afraid of much, and when he is, he faces it anyway. What makes Thor a Gryffindor though is his desire to be the hero. He’s not in Slytherin because he doesn’t desire to rule. He’s not ambitious, he just wants validation.

Peter Parker/Spiderman- Gryffindor

Peter is another hard one. He’s intelligent like Bruce and Tony, which could throw him into Ravenclaw. He’s loyal to his friends, which could put him into Hufflepuff. But at his core, Peter is in Gryffindor. The proof is in one of his first lines in the MCU. In Civil War, he tells Tony, “if you can do the things I do, and you don’t, then bad things happen because of you. (paraphrased)” He feels that because he’s special, he has to act. And unlike Steve and Thor, Peter is almost always afraid. He faces his challenges in spite of that. And while he wants to have a normal life, and a typical High School experience, he selflessly puts himself on the line. Once again, Peter is not looking for recognition, he’s just trying to do the right thing.

Dr Strange- Ravenclaw

Lots of Ravenclaws in the MCU. For Dr Strange, there really isn’t any other option. He is completely driven by the pursuit of knowledge. And while recognition came with that, we see with his journey into the mystic arts that his true motivation comes from learning. He’s a very similar character to Tony Stark, and both of them are textbook Ravenclaws.

Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch- Hufflepuff

Like Natasha, Wanda is driven by her relationships. She is faithfully loyal to her brother, then Vision, then her family. She is definitely motivated to protect and care for those she loves. Including creating an entire alternate reality to be with them! Wanda is brave and intelligent, but at her core, she is loyal.

Loki- Slytherin

Finally, a Slytherin. Once again, was there any other option? Loki is characterized by his cunning and ambition. He wants to rule. And he doesn’t get there by rushing into battle. He gets there by being sneaky and clever. Loki is a Slytherin through and through.

Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel- Slytherin

This may not feel like the obvious choice for Carol, but she definitely portrays characteristics of a Slytherin. She’s the best, and she wants people to know it. She’s confident and clever, and she likes attention. We don’t know her very well yet, but from what we’ve seen, she seems to relish in the attention her efforts provide. She is good, helpful, and ambitious.

T’Challa/Black Panther- Hufflepuff

T’Challa is also driven by loyalty. But while he is protective of those he loves, his true loyalty is to Wakanda. He’s not king because of ambition, he’s king out of duty. Everything he does is through the lens of “what is best for Wakanda?” While it’s a bit unconventional, his loyalty to Wakanda characterizes him as a Hufflepuff.

Scott Lang/Ant-Man- Gryffindor

At first, it appears that Scott would be in Hufflepuff. After all, he is very motivated by his relationship with his daughter. But if he were truly 100% driven by that, he would have made different choices. He would not have betrayed Hope and Hank and teamed up with Captain America without their permission. He also would not have stolen from his company and landed in jail in the first place. But both of those above decisions do characterize him as a Gryffindor. He wants to be in the action, and he doesn’t always consider the consequences. Scott isn’t really looking for recognition and is not that ambitious, but he does want to be involved in the big events. He wants to help people, and he bravely faces battles. Sometimes without discretion.


Do you agree with our picks for these MCU characters in Hogwarts Houses? If not or if we’ve missed any out, leave us a comment below.


Check out our review of Black Widow HERE.

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