Black Widow (2021) - Between redemption and a little too late to give Natasha her dues
*this article contains spoilers for "Black Widow" (2021)*
The best part of my life was fake.
Ye of little faith. Finally, the last hurrah of Natasha is here. And for me, it feels a little too late although it's filled to the brim with right intentions and all that Kevin Feige and the Marvel machine can put together for the Avengers constantly forgotten hero.
A friend asked me if this movie is worth his time and as a I type this now, all I can think about is exactly what I told him. I enjoyed: the intro with the cover of "Smells like teen spirit" infused into the tale of young Natasha - played by Ever Anderson aka the daughter of Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson - a cover eternally used on movie tributes on YouTube for the Avengers - David Harbour's take of Alexei aka Red Guardian, so over the top that is perfectly delightful, Rachel Weisz as a the mother figure and older generation of the Black Widow's project and Florence Pugh as new comer Yelena Belova, rehashing the little sister trope she played in "Little Women" and "Fighting with my family".
This is it, this is what I liked and this is what is worth the movie ticket price or the extra payment for Disney+.
Scarlett Johansson is finally given the chance to tell an origin story and a chapter in between the Civil War and Infinity War narrative in order to bring some sort of closure to a character who was so easily discarded in the economy of who lives and who dies in Avengers Endgame.
After many months of pondering, yes, the bargain struck on Vormir feels cheap for one of the original six in the Avengers. Natasha deserved to be part of the big assemble squad during the climatic final act in Endgame. Natasha deserved this movie sooner and Natasha deserved better that the whole "we have to make a cut, who lives and who dies". And this movie acts like the proverbial knife twisted in the gut.
What this movie also offers is the launch pad for Yelena. The future Black Widow for the future whatever the Hell, MCU will put together as Avengers 2.0 generation. What we know so far is that she is part of the Hawkeye mini series and by judging the end credit scene (yup, this movie has one, stick until the very end of the movie), one might know by now the fate of Hawkeye. However, Feige mentioned that the future of MCU will no longer be on multiple movie deal contracts, keeping actors tied to the mother ship until the end of Phase 4 or 5 or whatever. It's a brave new world we're living and there are many unknows ahead.
And maybe you are wondering how the bad guy is faring so far in the movie? The evil mastermind is one Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and if you feel his name has a certain ring to it, it's because it all ties with Avengers (2012) and the whole Budapest insanity. And if many had some hopes of a decent villain, don't get your hopes too high. He is your standard MCU villain, somewhere in between the guy from the first Ant-Man and the Dark Elf of Thor the Dark World (yeah, that bad and that bland). It's a shame because in the context of the Red Room and the promises of wow and omg, he is duller that many villain of the week presences in '90s TV shows. The gimmick when the final act wants you to gasp and say OMG it's so obvious, right under your nose, it loses momentum and it me made lose interest.
The eternal themes of family, sibling, daddy issues and mommy issues are cramped into the script and again, it feels this could have been explored better if maybe Agent Carter had had a third season dedicated to the rise of the Red Room and maybe, just maybe, we have seen Melina trained by Dot (aka the bad ass villain in Agent Carter) but like with so many potentially good plots laid to waste, the Red Room and the Widows program because merely a ploy to tie as many as they can loose ends for Natasha.
One navigates through this movie with sentiments of what could have been and what one hopes it might be offered to Yelena in terms of story development. Because MCU did wrong on Natasha. This movie shows it clearly. It gave her the last hurrah but left behind so many stories that could have been.
So I turn back to the question my friend asked me. Is this movie worthy of our time? It's a decent popcorn movie, with a nice intro (again, I saw plenty of Red Room tribute music videos on YouTube and this cover is well used in many fandoms) and a supporting cast knowing how to play into the eternally played tropes used and delivered by MCU.
It all feels, down to the end credit scene like we're starting this rollercoaster one again and this time, we have movies and limited TV series and we might have another decade ahead of preparing for that big badass final battle. The Original Six had heart and chemistry, what lies ahead...one can only keep them fingers crossed, hope for the best and expect the same formula. Nothing has changed really, it's the same game and for now, for me, it feels it has lost its heart.