• Platform: Disney + Hotstar
  • Release Date: 3/9/2021
  • Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone          
  • Director: Cate  Shortland

Black Widow takes place just after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D after the legendary showdown with Iron Man, Black Panther, and the superheroes who agreed to sign the Sokovia accords. About the same time, her sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), a gifted Black Widow herself is freed from her chemical-induced control of the organization known only as of the Red Room by another rogue Black Widow. It is done by a chemical antidote that her fellow black widow detonates on Yelena’s face. Once out of the Red Room’s control and free to use her own will, Yelena goes rogue herself. In the bid to keep the chemical antidote that brought her out of the control of the Red Room safe, she sends it to a safe house in Budapest that is also frequented by Natasha Romanov.

The chemical lands up in the hands of Natasha when she receives some supplies from Budapest in her new safe house. She is soon attacked by a super-soldier knows as the Task Master and narrowly escapes death. During the fight, Natasha learns that the Task Master is in fact after the chemical antidote and not her. To understand what the chemical was and why it had the picture of her and her sister in its packaging, Natasha travels to Budapest where she meets her long-lost sister.

Their meeting reveals that the Black Widows and the Red Room that Natasha believed that she had destroyed still existed and were stronger than ever before. She also learns that General Dreykov (Ray Winstone), who she believed she had killed as per her deal to defect to S.H.I.E.L.D was still alive and was controlling more Black Widows than ever before. The two sisters have another close shave with the Task Master who is visibly after the chemical antidote before they decide to go after the Red Room and destroy it together. However, they first need to find out where the Red Room is, and for that, they have to reunite with the two people that they absolutely don’t want to. The rest of the film is about how Natasha and Yelena find the Red Room and destroy it. It is also about how they connect with the only family that they have left if at all it can be called so and its impact on their mission and future.    

Black Widow is a film that is 5 years too late. It would have been a good idea to make this film right after Captain America Civil War. Now that we all know what happens to the protagonist in Avengers: Endgame, the plot of this film not only becomes irrelevant but also lacks any sense of novelty or surprise. I also felt that whatever happens in this film in no way affects the outcome of the film that either came after it in the Marvel Universe timeline or would arrive in the next phase. The only good thing to take out of this film is the character of Yelena played by Florence Pugh. In the final end credit scene we see her getting recruited by Val (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who earlier got the new Captain America, John Walker at the end of Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Not just that, she points her in the way of the Hawkeye and that could definitely be an interesting showdown if it does happen in the future.

I just loved Florence Pugh’s rendering of Yelena. She is not only funny but exceptionally warm and cute when she has to be. Her camaraderie with Scarlett Johansson has an infectious charm that transcends all the lacking of the script and the screenplay and makes its way to the audience. Even simple chit-chats between the two grabbed my attention as there was so much warmth underlying comedy in them. The drama between the two felt very real and it seemed like they were two estranged sisters who genuinely loved each other and yet did nothing for one another. Pugh looks a tad bit on the heavier side to pull off the kind of action she is shown pulling off but that is just a minor hiccup. Scarlett Johansson disappears into the shadows in the film behind the comedic charm of Florence Pugh and the over-the-top mannerism of David Harbour. While she is present in almost every scene of the film, she makes absolutely no impact whatsoever and that is one of the biggest issues that I had with the film. For a film titled “Black Widow,” there was nothing to rave about Black Widow here.

David Harbour and Rachel Weisz are good actors and they do as much as they can with whatever little is given to them in terms of character development and dramatic moments. Ray Winstone is a huge letdown turning into the most generic of generic villains that huff and puff and shows himself to be the biggest and meanest baddie in the world only to succumb to the protagonist in the most inane manner possible. I have seen him done much better in films like The Departed and with a little more care; his character could have been made better.

The problem with Black Widow is its predictability and mediocrity. There isn’t a single twist or turn in the film that I couldn’t see coming from a mile away. If that was not enough, the film’s action is surprisingly lackluster and has absolutely nothing that we haven’t seen being done better in some other film. The fact that both the actresses didn’t do their own stunts only made it that much more difficult for the director to shoot and edit the stunts in a certain way that would be impactful. One of the best examples of the actors doing their own stunts and how it can benefit a film is that of the Rurouni Kenshin films. The film also lacks a proper villain that would effectively threaten the safety of the protagonists and evoke tension. Add to that the lackluster logic and a complete lack of realism and you have a film that is increasingly difficult to take seriously and contrarily be entertained by it.

Overall, Black Widow is a forgettable outing for Marvel. It seems as if the creativity at the studio took a day off on this one. The constant struggle between Scarlett Johansson and the studio also didn’t do it much good. Poor action, predictable and hackneyed plot, and lack of a proper antagonist along with lackluster execution resulted in this film becoming one of the weakest Marvel films in recent memory.

Rating: 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

Also read: The Ingenuity of the Househusband: Skippable but chuckle-worthy

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