Sunday, July 11, 2021

Black Widow

Movie Name:
Black Widow
Year of Release: 2021
Director: Cate Shortland
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, Ray Winstone, William Hurt, Ever Anderson, Violet McGraw, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, Michelle Lee, Lewis Young
Genre: Action, Thriller, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Delayed by a year due to the pandemic, Marvel's crop of 2021 commences with a film solely devoted to one of the longest running characters of their phases, who thus far never had a film of her own. Directed by Australian film maker Cate Shortland, the film follows the story of Natasha Romanoff, right after the events that took place in "Captain America: Civil War". Currently being hunted by Secretary Ross, Romanoff hides in Norway, until a package sent by her long absent sister, makes her a target for a foe she may already know. She travels to Budapest in order to meet with her sister, whom she hasn't seen in years, upon which she knows what the content of package is and what it does. It's essentially an antidote which manages to deprogram all the young women who were forced into the Black Widow program, and who are under the direction and power of Dreykov, her former mentor, whom she believed she had killed in the past. In order to bring down that criminal structure, she and her sister have to seize whatever remains of the "manufactured" family they were, including the father figure Alexei now in prison, and their mother figure Melina, who they thought was dead, but is in actuality still conducting research on her own in a somewhat isolated area. The 4 of them unite efforts in order to bring down Dreykov's sinister empire.
Unlike Joe and Anthony Russo's "Captain America: Winter Soldier", which was essentially a 70s conspiracy thriller, under the guise of a super hero film, "Black Widow" for some reason, with very similar ingredients, never manages to reach those heights, both in terms of narrative development, nor in terms of  a gratuitous action spectacle. The film has an interesting preamble, reminiscent in tone to the TV show "The Americans", but once we catch up with the grown up Natasha Romanoff, the tone and rhythm shift, becoming a bit more dour, since Natasha is dealing with the pain of the disintegration of the Avengers family, which marries and brings back memories of the disintegration of her previous family which she experienced as a child. While Cate Shortland manages to capture the easy rapport between Johansson's Romanoff and Pugh's Elena, it's somewhat of a rushed engagement, considering these characters have not seen each other in decades. The plot is somewhat straightforward, with some rushed and rather uninspired action sequences in between (which fail to even be as compelling as any of the chase scenes from any of the "Bourne Identity" films). The second chapter of the feature, where the characters get to have some breathing room to exist, is surprisingly shallow, with both Rachel Weisz's Melina and David Harbour's Alexei, remaining cyphers, without much insight nor depth, the same going for the villain, the enigmatic Dreykov, who also remains a very cutout James Bond type of villain. By the time the third chapter comes along, the set piece is somewhat anti climatic, with some questionable special effects, and a general cacophony of visual debris which adds nothing to the film. The cast, filled with great actors, sadly has very little to do, with Scarlet Johansson, Florence Pugh, the underused and wonderful Rachel Weisz in particular, making a presence, but not a very memorable one (and the casting of Olga Kurylenko is also a bit puzzling, unless she's supposedly playing a character who is 20 years younger than the person she's supposed to be playing). Of all the Marvel films released thus far, it may be one of the most forgettable ones, where the personality and point of view of its director is almost non-existent.