This isn’t intended to be a movie review, but I suppose it’s inevitable that many of you will read it and see it as such. After all, we’re talking about Disney’s latest entry into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Let’s just tear off the Spongebob-themed Elastoplast plaster. Is it good? Is it bad? Should you watch it? Should you avoid it like the plague? If you’re a MCU fan, you’ll be happy to know that your uncle Jim enjoyed the movie. I should probably mention that I’ve liked most of the MCU flicks so far, and in the great Jim MCU ranking system, I would put it squarely somewhere in the middle of the 30 or so movies that have been released over the last decade (and a bit). The only one that I couldn’t stomach (or hated with the fury of Red Skull’s loathing of Captain America) is Captain Marvel.
But that also leads me to one of my greatest annoyances of the movie, a “Natasha Romanoff movie” is well overdue. In a just world, we should have seen this movie (or at least a version of it), soon after Avengers: Civil War, or even right after the first Captain America. It’s one of Marvel Studio’s greatest mistakes, because while Black Widow is an action-packed romp, packed with levity and near-perfect direction (by Cate Shortland), it feels out of place, especially given the events of Avengers: End Game.
It’s also a movie where I can’t fault the performances of Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, or even David Harbour as a hilarious version of the Red Guardian (Soviet Russia’s answer to Captain America). However, there are a few issues, and I’m probably not the only one who was a bit annoyed by this movie’s version of Taskmaster.
I think I’ve made it clear on many occasions that I wasn’t a Marvel fanboy growing up; I didn’t collect Marvel comics. I collected DC, DC Vertigo, Impact, Valiant, Fleetway and a bunch of other European and British comics. For some reason, the Marvel comics didn’t resonate with me, but I would read a few of them from time to time, and Taskmaster was one of those villains (like Red Mask, Magneto, Dr Doom, and others) that would easily stand out. I think one of the reasons I loved the original Taskmaster because he reminded me of Skeletor from He-Man, but it was his “superpower” that intrigued me. Anthony Masters didn’t have super-strength, nor was he particularly intelligent, but he had the uncanny ability to mimic (and even improve on the fighting style of) whoever he was battling. In some cases, even defeating Spiderman and Black Widow, because he could anticipate what their next move would be. Of all the Marvel villains, he felt the most like he could (or at least should) have been in a DC book, facing off against Batman.
In the Black Widow movie, the character is retconned (i.e. reimagined), and this version is definitely not Anthony Masters. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but while the general blueprint of the character is there, it’s not who you think it is. It’s a real shame because I would have loved to see a standalone Taskmaster movie because even though he’s a supervillain, he sometimes finds himself in the same position as the Punisher and other anti-heroes. Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.
But what exactly is the movie about you’re probably wondering? And the general premise is that after Avengers: Civil War, Black Widow is on the run from Shield (because if you remember she sided with Captain America against Tony Stark). This leaves her exploring her past and encountering a few individuals from her past, and even the very organisation that was responsible for turning her into the assassin and badass that she would make her one of the best Avengers. It’s also why I mentioned that we should have seen this movie earlier because it explores some of her origin story – which is briefly touched on in previous movies. It also explores an even darker conspiracy that could have an even deeper impact on the greater MCU.
On the other hand, it’s also a handing “over-of-the-torch” movie, which in a way is bittersweet, primarily because Scarlett Johansson could easily –still– play this character for the next 10 years, and as I said, she really should have gotten her three movies (even if it meant a team-up series of movies with Hawkeye or even a buddy-cop style movie with Nick Fury).
In summary, though, there’s a lot to enjoy about Black Widow, and as an MCU movie it ticks all the boxes: it’s fun, funny, action-packed, with great action scenes. The script is a little flimsy, but I think that can be overlooked because it does what it’s intended to, and that’s to keep you entertained for the duration of the 2-hour runtime.
As I said, I’m not a movie reviewer, and I’m reluctant to put a score down, but I think Black Widow deserves a well-deserved 7/10. I would have scored it higher, if not for the treatment of Taskmaster, a few odd story decisions, and the omission of a cameo from either Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark or even Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. If you can, watch this movie on the big screen. I wasn’t too impressed by Disney Plus, and essentially renting it through the service, but at the end of the day, your uncle Jim enjoyed it, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too. It gets a double thumbs up from me.
Last Updated: July 21, 2021