BY MATT TUCK
While not anything you haven’t seen, Black Widow hits all the right marks and fits nicely into the MCU pantheon while introducing characters that can take the franchise to new heights.
Black Widow is a spy thriller that is more Jason Bourne than James Bond mixed with a heaping of Captain America, and that is not a knock against it. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.
Fans of 1980s sci-fi will surely pick up on the sprinkling of Robocop and Terminator. While there was nothing particularly original with Black Widow’s elements, exploring the mythical “Red Room” was an entertaining ride that shied away from becoming another cookie-cutter Marvel action-comedy.
A LITTLE BIT OF THIS, A LITTLE BIT OF THAT
The biggest praise for Black Widow is that it gave the MCU something different. It’s hard to necessarily call it unique since the spy/espionage theme has been done three times already between Winter Soldier, Civil War, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The plot and the action sequences, particularly the long car chase scene, heavily borrowed from The Bourne Identity; just replace Natasha with Jason Bourne, and they are almost the same movie.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, there is a twist with the MCU’s Taskmaster that seemed rather obvious from the first fight. By the time the big reveal came, personally, I was underwhelmed. Still, Taskmaster was a decent villain that served the purpose and will give you Terminator vibes, which I assume were intentional.
Kudos to the director, Cate Shortland, for filming fast-paced action while also developing the family bond that is at the heart of Black Widow. Also worthy of praise is the film’s usage of the Red Room and the Black Widow program as a metaphor for human trafficking. Young girls across the world being kidnapped, brainwashed, surgically altered, and forced into a life of servitude is all too real in today’s world climate.
A PROMISING FUTURE
As the Black Widow character and now franchise moves forward, it is in good hands with Yelena. Throughout the movie, she was given more personality and humor than we typically see from Natasha. After the end-credits scene, it is clear that Yelena will be part of the Hawkeye Disney+ series and likely more shows and movies in the future. Whether or not she will join the Avengers remains to be seen.
The real show-stealer was David Harbour’s Red Guardian. The recent news is that the actor is soliciting for a solo Red Guardian film, and that could be a great idea.
In Black Widow, the character takes cues from The Incredibles’ Mr. Incredible. He’s been taken off the battlefield and put into suburban life as a Soviet spy, pretending to live a family life that he never wanted. It causes turmoil that reverberates throughout the film and becomes a central theme. Like Mr. Incredible, he is only complete when he wears his suit and becomes Red Guardian again. He spends his time in the shadow of Captain America, fantasizing as being Cap’s equal.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In all, Black Widow is everything that you would expect from a Marvel spy caper. It has all the pulse-pounding action of a Captain America entry with sidequests and swerves galore while the film’s familial heart keeps things grounded. It had its Easter eggs and ties to the larger MCU, but it firmly stood on its own. Maybe there is nothing necessarily groundbreaking, it nonetheless an enjoyable thrill ride.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.