Monday, August 2

Black Widow: Girl Power, Bond Movie Styles, Gender Change: Spoiler Debate | Superhero Movies

WWhat an unusual yet seductively brilliant Marvel movie Black Widow is. The USP of the Disney-owned saga is that everything is interconnected: each episode ignites the next, like nodes lighting up on a superhero circuit board. However, the Cate Shortland movie exists almost entirely outside of this continuum.

The prequel takes place after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and acts as a standalone adventure for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. This is probably a good thing, as Black Widow has a small window of opportunity for adventure before suffering a tragic disappearance in the events of Avengers: Endgame. But it does mean we’re in entirely new territory for the Marvel Cinematic Universe: an episode that goes nowhere, but in a dazzling, feminine, and power-fueled way.

A trip to the past

In Black Widow, Romanoff reconnects with his family, Florence Pugh’s Yelena, a hilarious David Harbor as Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff, as we explore the backstory that was never allowed more than a glimpse. in the other Marvel movies. We even find out why the character never adopted a Russian accent despite being a highly skilled graduate of the infamous Red Room before defecting to the United States and joining the Avengers. It turns out that Natasha was a teenage girl living in Ohio as the unwitting daughter of Russian sleepers when Mom and Dad were forced to rush back to Moscow. She and her younger sister, Yelena, appear to have been immediately installed in the Red Room upon reaching Russian soil, but it appears that Natasha had never been taken away from that excursion to Ohio. Did meeting Romanoff’s strange nuclear family help you see Black Widow in a whole new light?

James Bond styles

Black Widow comics lean heavily towards the spy genre, and Marvel’s big screen adaptation has everything you’d expect from one of 007’s cold war outings; As if to make the point clear, Moonraker is even fleetingly shown on a background television. There’s a big bad villain with a dodgy accent, Ray Winstone’s Dreykov, with an ambitious and appropriate plan to take over the world using Red Room agents fueled with mind-control drugs. It even has a crazy floating base. Additionally, Natasha herself has been given a handy Q-style gunner in the form of OT Fagbenle as Rick Mason (though she tends to be more useful for acquiring heavy military weaponry than wrist dart guns). Some of the spectacular pieces of Black Widow were more than worthy of the Bond saga, but did you buy Marvel’s transition to spy territory?

David Harbor in Black Widow
David Harbor in Black Widow Photograph: Landmark Media / Alamy

Controversy! Gender change and accents

Can anyone give us an expert verdict on all those Russian accents? Pugh, Harbor, and Weisz sounded pretty good, but Winstone’s seemed to drift dangerously east of London at times, as if Dreykov had a wasted youth on the streets of Homerton. Perhaps more controversial, if this sort of thing bothers you, was the reveal that the villain’s scarred daughter is the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the evil classic Taskmaster. In the comics, the character is male, Anthony “Tony” Masters, and has been around since 1980.

Given that we’re about to get a female Thor and that Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is the current King of Asgard, we should probably be used to Marvel’s gender swap. I was even more disappointed by the underuse of Olga Kurylenko’s film, who could barely get a word out. That you thought?

The surprising absence of Iron Man

Were you a bit upset that we didn’t get a chance to see Robert Downey Jr one last time in the Iron Man suit, despite reports to the contrary? I kept waiting for Tony Stark to swoop in and take down all the baddies’ ghosts at the optimal time, before taking on a paternal partner role similar to the one he plays in the Spider-Man movies. But the reports of Stark’s return (it’s a prequel, remember) were greatly exaggerated. We can only assume that there were plans at one stage to bring back Downey Jr, as reported by Deadline and others in 2019, but that Marvel finally took another path. Or perhaps the studio decided to keep the two superheroes apart to avoid what Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts once described as “a potentially very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit”? Stark seems to be incapable of interacting with any female character without engaging in some form of flirtation, after all, and perhaps this would not have been the right look for a film that is so focused on women. Fortunately, Black Widow is such a spectacular movie that Downey Jr was hardly overlooked, right?

The continuing adventures of Black Widow and that cryptic end-credits scene

One problem with the absence of Romanoff’s fellow Earth defenders in Shortland’s film is that there are no clues to suggest future exits of Johansson’s assassin-turned-Avenger. If Marvel chooses to make a sequel, the studio will work from scratch, as there are few obvious starting points for a second outing.

Instead, Shortland offers an end-credits sequence in which Yelena de Pugh meets Valentina Allegra de Fontaine from Julia Louis-Dreyfus at her sister’s grave a few years later. We’ve already seen Valentina doing fun business with Wyatt Russell’s American agent in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Now it looks like he recruited Yelena to take out Hawkeye in Jeremy Renner’s next turn in the Disney + spotlight. Does the studio’s decision to focus on a new Black Widow, even though she appears to have lost her moral compass, suggest that this is the last time we’ll see Johansson in a Marvel movie? The actress herself seems to think so.

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