Black Widow – Review
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.
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.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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