Black Widow is a solo adventure for the Avenger, Black Widow. It takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Natasha, Black Widow, is contacted by her sister, Yelena to try and destroy the Red Room, the secret organization that raised them to be assassins. They are joined by their comrades Alexei, Red Guardian, who posed as their father and Milena who posed as their mother in their early life. They are beset on all sides by the agents of the Red Room including a powerful new henchman, Taskmaster. The film stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, Ray Winstone, Ever Anderson, Violet McGraw, O-T Fagbenle, and William Hurt. The film has a story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson and a screenplay by Eric Pearson. The film is directed by Cate Shortland. The film is playing in movie theaters, but is available for home viewing for a fee with your Disney+ subscription.
This film should have been shot and released in the chronological order it takes place. I assume future generations will be watching these films in the order in which they take place on the timeline when all of these movies take place in a linear fashion. People discovering these films at that time will have a tremendous, emotion gut-punch when they see this film, watch Natasha's character growth, see her with people who know exactly what she's gone through and then watch her sacrifice herself in Avengers: Endgame. But for me, you and everyone we know, what does it matter?
For us, this film is too little, too late. We don't gasp at the brutal fights Natasha endures, the trauma her body goes through that would have killed absolutely anyone not in a Marvel movie, or the death defying finale. We don't because we know she's dead. This character died and we mourned for her. So, why should we watch this film, which like all prequels, which have no stakes for the characters we know survive, have any bearing whatsoever on our lives because of how the story is shaped?
The answer is Natasha herself. So little of Natasha's background is known that everything the filmmakers wish to tell is is an utter revelation. The opening scenes before the credits are something magical. The tension, the hints of what's to come, the pluck and audacity of knowing that a part of Natasha's life was an all American dream. As the story is revealed we see the sheen drop from the family we saw. We see this dream come crashing down around them and Natasha because she knows what's awaiting her on the other side of the flight. Even as it's obvious after the fact, the needle drop in the car of Don McLean's "American Pie," is a tragedy in the moment as the "family" looks on and poor Yelena sings along blissfully, not remembering what comes next.
This family dynamic is utterly brilliant. Even as we know these characters only spent three years pretending to be a family, they slip into those roles so easily again. These characters weren't just good actors, they found something within each other that made them close and later in life bonded them far more than any programming could. They're messy, broken people and they need each other. They may not want to save the world, but they can save the people like them and bring them into a found family.
I love the interactions between Yelena and Natasha. Their bond is the most interesting. Their bickering and teasing, their care and love for each other, is so incredible. Yelena also never lets Natasha off the hook for anything. She, like a real sibling, and especially a real younger sibling, calls Natasha out on all her bullshit, but not only that, reminds her that the person who needed her most was always waiting for her help and never received it. It's a dynamic I wish could've been explored further in subsequent outings.
I want that sisterly rivalry because I want so much more Florence Pugh. She is so ridiculously funny, charming, cool, dangerous, biting and awesome as Yelena. From her earnest reasons for buying her vest to her perfection of "The Pose," and reaction to having done it in a combat situation are some of the most brilliant sequences in a movie filled with tremendous character sequences. Pugh is so good as Yelena and steals the movie completely, which helped as it distracted me into liking it so much more.
Black Widow is a film that is in the Marvel formula. It hits every beat on the Marvel movie checklist and rarely strays. It should have been placed where it is in the timeline before we knew Natasha dies, because it bares a sense of "let's get on with it," momentum once the family is moved away from. You should see it for the terrific performances, the amazing stunt sequences, and for the impressive eye of Cate Shortland. Maybe if your friends are watching the films in that chronological order, see what their reaction is when Natasha dies. I would like to live vicariously through that person and see what it is like to love Natasha even more and cry even harder at her demise.