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  Black Widow Accents Reaching Critical
Year: 2021
Director: Cate Shortland
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, Ever Anderson, Violet McGraw, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Olga Kurylenko, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Liani Samuel, Michelle Lee, Lewis Young, C.C. Smiff, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1995, international assassin Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) was plain little Natasha (Ever Anderson) and living in Ohio with her family. However, they were not all they seemed, for they were sleeper agents from Russia who one day had to make a break for freedom when agents of SHIELD finally tracked them down and tried to capture them. In a mad dash for the airport, they managed to escape and end up in Cuba, but their clan was split up, and Natasha did not know if she would ever see father Alexei (David Harbour), mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) and sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) again. Not that they were blood relations...

The much anguished over Black Widow was released over a year after it had been supposed to arrive in cinemas, because, you guessed it, of the pandemic that scuppered the theatrical roster for blockbusters and indies alike for around eighteen months. Although it was in the top ten of its year, it was still making disappointing numbers thanks to audiences being reluctant to return to the cinemas, but there was another problem too: while Marvel movies had been a big draw for some time, it was questionable whether the character could support her own movie given she never displayed any personality previously, and worse than that, was dead.

When Black Widow died in Avengers: Endgame, it didn't register anything like as much as Iron Man's sacrifice in the grand finale; she did not even exit at the end, bowing out part of the way through and you could be forgiven for forgetting her demise by the point the credits rolled. Captain Marvel had shown that the MCU could deliver a hit female superhero movie, but this one was at a disadvantage seeing as how Natasha never came across as a crucial member of the Avengers, and it was difficult for most audiences to get enthusiastic about Token Woman: The Movie when anybody but the least casual fan imaginable would have trouble recalling anything significant about her.

But Johansson had been angling for a solo outing for a while, though that backfired when it was not as big a hit as hoped, and her deal with Disney suddenly included a simultaneous release to streaming, another element that harmed the box office since subscribers were merely going to wait till they did not have to pay extra to view the film. Then there was the resulting piracy, couple that with word of mouth that damned it as mediocre at best and it was probably unfairly landed with the reputation that it was a total turkey. It was not as boring as the first two Thor instalments, however, and Marvel by now could muster a basic level of competence that meant what you saw was at least professionally made, it was just that Black Widow herself came across as so inessential.

Not that they did not try to bolster her paper-thin characterisation, therefore on one hand you were offered tedious whingeing about her family that wasn't, a nostalgia for the past that rendered her sentimental, or as far as you could tell, anyway, but there was another aspect they introduced to do with Natasha's background as part of a supersoldier programme. This had been hinted at in the other films she appeared in, but here took centre stage as the Russian top secret spy plans were revealed as more or less what the Nazi scientists would have got up to had they been successful in their experiments, and those allusions were not fun, they were sick, sick as in unpleasant. The reveal that Natasha and Yelena had had their reproductive organs removed, Olga Kurylenko as the horribly scarred prime example of baddie Ray Winstone's schemes, the brainwashing which makes one Widow mutilate herself to death, it added a truly nasty tone that begged you to take it seriously when it was more likely to turn you off. Decisions like that didn't help a movie that floundered in concept anyway. Music by Lorne Balfe.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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