Black Widow

Florence Pugh and some great fight choreography help make this mashup of spy thriller and family story feel very different from most Marvel movies in a the most refreshing way.

The movie takes place somewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline, but don’t worry too much about that. The movie doesn’t. It follows Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanov, aka the girl Avenger played once again by Scarlett Johansson, as she tracks down the secret spy program that turned her into a killing machine all those years ago.

But before that we meet her surrogate family. When she was a kid she was sent to Ohio on an undercover mission as part of a typical suburban family. This includes as a mom and dad played by Rachel Weisz and David Harbour, and a kid sister played as an adult by the ever-wonderful Florence Pugh. After their mission this makeshift family was torn apart which damaged everyone to various degrees.

Years later Natasha has to reunite this family in order to bring down the evil organization that causes them so much trauma.

There’s a lot to like here. David Harbour is a delight as an aging super soldier obsessed with his glory days and the nemesis he never got to face, Captain America.

Florence Pugh I’d stellar as the snarky younger sister picking at her big sister as they go on their super heroics. She also brings a real emotional to the pain and trauma her characters endured.

Scarlett Johansson is wonderful carrying the film. She can of course ha she the action, but it’s her emotional reserve and the slow thawing of her icy edges that make the character something special.

I liked that the movie is structured more like a Mission Impossible spy film than a superhero action extravaganza.

I loved the fight choreography. The action is fast paced and often thrilling. the movement is balletic at times. Huge credit goes to the stunt performers.

I realized something about these Marvel movies that I don’t like even though I could never articulate it. They never give their characters clear moments of choice. When two paths are laid out before them and they are forced to choose a or b.

Toward the end of the movie two characters are in a jet. One says “we have to go back for them!” Then they do. There is no choice they just do. They don’t have a moment that tests them as characters in which they can choose between saving themselves and saving others. They automatically go back to save the others. The characters in Marvel movies are never challenged in that way. They never have to make a choice that shakes their fundamental selves, their beliefs, or their goals.

Now this isn’t the worst problem in the world. It doesn’t kill the movies. James Bond isn’t fundamentally challenged at the end of his adventures. But it can lead to a flat character arc or a story feeling like it’s stakes don’t really matter. If everything is a foregone conclusion, what’s the point?

So the movie isn’t perfect, but I still had a lot of fun with it. I loved the performances and the action. It was a good summer action movie that doesn’t feel too beholden to the Marvel formula. It’s worth your two hours. Check it out.

It was my cup of tea. B+

Is anyone else tired of post credit scenes? They’re either entirely inconsequential or they’re so consequential they should just be included in the body of the film itself.

My real issue is that they make the movie feel like a commercial for the next movie or tv show or product that we need to buy.

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