How did Natasha Romanoff become the legendary one? BLACK WIDOW, who sacrificed herself to save the world during the events surrounding “Avengers: Endgame”? This question is answered by the prequel that bears its name, which has a story worth telling, but does not develop the greatest emotional depth. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Black Widow (USA 2021)
Since the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” the fate of Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has been sealed. But what actually happened before the tough fighter became an Avenger? What events in your past have had a significant impact on you? What happened to her family? Especially her sister Yelena Belowa (Florence Pugh)? All of these questions are answered by the events surrounding a dangerous conspiracy that young Natasha Romanoff faces in the past. Pursued by a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing and carry out his crooked machinations across the globe to destroy her, Natasha must confront her past as a spy – as well as the broken relationships she left behind long before she left behind joined the Avengers.
A prequel in the Marvel universe – that hasn’t happened yet. Since the first official MCU film in 2008, some events have emerged as not being told entirely chronologically. But indie director Cate Shortland (“Berlin Syndrome”) With their first major big-budget work, they are now presenting the very first real prehistory within the comic universe. The first question you ask yourself is whether this is such a smart idea, because “Black Widow” not only focuses on a character that we have known inside and out since her very first appearance as Natasha Romanoff in “Iron Man 2”. We also know how her journey ended in Avengers: Endgame. Looking back, a prequel almost seems like a handout for her character: now that we know that female superheroes can also make a profit at the box office without male support, we treat her to her solo film after the fact instead of just trying to make a dramaturgically much more suitable one – we would have one Suggested to be released between Infinity War and Endgame; perhaps even as a replacement for Captain Marvel. But now it is what it is and it’s not as if Natasha’s back story isn’t worth telling – on the contrary. Heroin’s career is not only impressive, but also reveals some of the darkest corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. But the great emotional fall doesn’t happen at all – simply because “Black Widow” seems too much like a necessity. Albeit a well-told one and, with the exception of the finale, also a damn well-directed one.
Yelena (Florence Pugh), Alexei (David Harbour) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) have to get used to each other again…
Cate Shortland sets two impressive exclamation points at the beginning of “Black Widow”. In the downright grueling opening credits to a darkly melancholic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a version by Malia J and Think Up Anger, which shows in fast motion the tough recruitment, training and – there is no other way to put it – reminiscent of “Red Sparrow”. – Shows the soul-crushing methods that Natasha Romanoff, her sister and numerous other women had to endure as part of the KGB Black Widow program, is a heart-stopping experience. The brightly colored studio logo feels completely out of place – and somehow you feel too. We haven’t seen a Marvel production this seriously in a long time. Including the opening of “Endgame”! But even in the minutes before, Shortland musters the courage to move the audience out of their comfort zone, which has been influenced by previous Marvel films. From the numerous MCU prologues, we are now used to the fact that it is not always immediately revealed when and where the scenes shown take place, let alone where exactly they fit into the Marvel chronology. The existence of “Black Widow” as a prequel from a time in which only remote details of the MCU could previously be located allows Shortland to make even more use of the full potential. Not only do you not know which characters are actually on the screen. The reasons for the escape scenario shown are also currently unknown. Only over time does it become clear who the enemy is in “Black Widow” – and also that the prologue only has a marginal connection with this. Which also applies to the antagonist, because the focus of the film is clearly the dynamics in Natasha Romanoff’s (foster) family.
“Even the brightly colored studio logo feels out of place. We haven’t seen a Marvel production this seriously in a long time. Including the opening of ‘Endgame’!”
On the one hand, it is commendable that “Black Widow” has become such a personal, character-driven film. After all, what use is it to conjure up a classic good versus evil fight in a film whose outcome (even if it only takes place many years later or, in the release chronology, took place two films ago) has long been known? you ultimately know that there is nothing to fear for the heroines? Marvel has certainly never been known for letting popular characters fall over the edge too easily and has preferred to save such narrative blows until the very end. Nevertheless, there is even less of a possibility here than usual that any of the “good guys” won’t survive. A, to stay in superhero style, “Superman Problem”. An invulnerable hero, an invulnerable heroine – that’s not all that attractive. And that’s a shame, because the head of the torturous Black Widow program who appears here as an antagonist is finally really nasty again and appears in the best “Winter Soldier” style as a villain who also works excellently outside of a comic book film would have. The fact that the bravura, caustic dynamic in the scenes between him and Black Widow cannot fully develop is primarily due to the fact that they are in short supply and the finale focuses less on the fight against him as a person than against the training program itself. And so the blurred film (camera: Gabriel Beristain, “Blade II”), the mediocre finale simply once again saw a huge, CGI-animated building over the heads of the heroes, although various hand-to-hand fights beforehand showed a pleasant physicality à la “The First Avenger: Civil War”. Of a hoped-for psychological war, for the screenwriter Eric Person (“Thor: Day of Decision”) Unfortunately, if you sprinkle targeted breadcrumbs in advance, you won’t see anything.
Yelena in one of several highly staged action scenes.
But as already mentioned, “Black Widow” is – and that’s a good thing! – a film about a mentally very vulnerable Natasha Romanoff and the question of how she became an Avenger over the years. But anyone who expected the film to precisely trace her career, in the best case even to see something like a Black Widow welcoming Tony Starck into his team, might be disappointed. The Marvel fan service here is pleasantly mild (a reference to the fact that Natasha’s apartment in Budapest has arrow marks must suffice as a tongue-in-cheek cross-reference to Hawkeye) – also because the most famous stations in Black Widow’s Avenger career are known anyway. Instead, Cate Shortland shows what’s behind it, which demystifies the main character to some extent. At least the pre-maintained blank spaces in Natasha’s resume were always large enough for the audience to imagine what might have happened to her based on her personal narratives (particularly to Bruce Banner). The horror of her training, but also the family joy in Natasha’s life, are given a face in “Black Widow”. And it laughs, because the interaction in the Romanoff family in particular is, despite all the tragic foreshadowing, the heart of the film, even if it contains one or two empty punch lines. In particular, the gag of the aging superhero who no longer fits into his latex suit now has a beard that is at least as long as “Stranger Things” star David Harbor as the Red Guardian. Nevertheless, he harmonizes with both his daughters and his film wife Melina Vostokoff (“The Favorite”)who strongly disagrees with her aging husband.
“The horror of her training, but also the family joy in Natasha’s life, are given a face in ‘Black Widow’. And it laughs, because the interaction in the Romanoff family in particular is the heart of the film, despite all the tragic portents, even if it contains one or two empty punch lines.
Meanwhile, actress Florence Pugh is likely to be the main topic of conversation following “Black Widow”. The actress, who is no longer unknown after her phenomenal performances in “Midsommar” and “Little Women”, has already made a name for herself in film lover circles and is now becoming known to a larger audience through her role as the tough Yelena – a bit of an alternative to Black Widow. She impresses not only in her tough hand-to-hand combat scenes, but also in how naturally she adopts the typical Marvel attitude. Dry humor and offensive (if somewhat reluctant) heroineism go hand in hand here. And since it becomes apparent over the course of the film that we will be hearing a lot more from her in the future, this new addition proves to be a truly successful one.
Conclusion: With her intimate story about the fate of Avengers member Black Widow, arthouse director Cate Shortland sets her own scent mark. The story told in “Black Widow” is definitely worth a movie. But due to its placement as a prequel, the dramatic fall height is quite low. This time the computer effects are also not high class in the Marvel universe.
“Black Widow” can be seen in USA cinemas from July 8, 2021 and is available as a paid premium stream on Disney+.