Black Widow: An Underwhelming Farewell to Natasha Romanoff

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The much-awaited standalone Black Widow struggles to find its footing.Black Widow was released in India on September 2, the same day Shang Chi hit the theatres across the world. A year after the initially planned release, the long-awaited standalone movie proved a disappointment to the fans.

The movie starts on solid footing. The seemingly innocent opening sequence introduces us to Natasha’s family and propels us forward into a thrilling spy adventure. Yet, as the movie progresses, it starts to lose focus.

Black Widow

The Russian spy’s first appearance was in Iron Man 2, released over a decade ago. Despite multiple outings in films, including the Avengers, her story itself was never the central focus. Black Widow, the standalone movie, delves into a history that was teased but never revealed in a decade of films.

The film’s biggest drawback is that it was released too late. Natasha deserved a whole arc outside of her Avengers exploits. Instead, the prequel made after her demise in Endgame feels like a consolation. The film’s primary purpose is not to progress her story but to fill in the blanks.

A chance for Natasha to ‘wipe the red off her ledger’. The film focuses on introducing the characters to her’ family and how she became who she became. Yet, it seems unable to pick a lane.

To Be or Not to Be Serious

The opening titles of the film introduce us to the horrors of the infamous Red Room. The sequence is both enraging and emotional, raising the movie’s themes – human trafficking young girls and turning them into deadly assassins. The film, however, fails to embrace the dark theme fully. It glosses over the dire consequences of General Dreykov’s actions.

The torture and trauma that Natasha and Yelena underwent in the Red Room are used as humour points. The thematic undercurrent of women power and strength systematically subdued by men feels superficial. The fight choreography leaves much to be desired, and lack of insight into other widows leaves much to be desired.

Black Widow had the most villainous of Marvel villains so far, not for his deadliness but for the sheer inhumaneness of his actions. The film, however, fails to make use of the potential of both Dreykov and Natasha Romanoff.

The Most Black Widow So Far

Yes, the film was underwhelming and failed to utilize the potential of its characters and story. Yet, in Scarlett Johansson’s decade long stint as Black Widow, this film is the one that gave us the most of the assassin.

The film grapples with the very things that once oppressed her: sexism and objectification. The film finally reclaimed the superhero from sexism. She finally got to shine for the strong woman rather than an obligatory female representation and eye candy.

Another good thing about the movie is that despite the speculations of special appearances from Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., there are none. The decision might have hurt the box-office records, but it helped keep the spotlight on Natasha Romanoff. The spotlight remains firmly on her in this film.

The best scene in the film comes almost towards the end (Spoilers). A part of the plan to free the widows includes breaking Natasha’s nose. When Dreykov fails to do so, Natasha breaks her nose without a second’s hesitation despite punching her multiple times. That one scene did more to the character than a decade of movies.

She had the discipline and mental strength to harm herself physically. That scene isn’t glorified. It’s not shown as heroic. It’s probably the one scene where glossing over made more of a positive impact.

Black Widow reinforced the need for a female gaze in superhero movies. Cate Shortland made the best of the script and existing storyline and showed Natasha the powerful woman she is.

Overall, the film has its ups and downs but is deserving of a watch. If the film had been released after the Civil War, where the events of Black Widow take place in the MCU timeline, it would have been better.

The most significant drawbacks of the film are the delayed-release and the lack of screen time. Not just the delay because of the pandemic but the delay in greenlighting the movie itself. Most of the problems in the film could be solved with more screen time starting from before the demise of the character in Endgame.

Black Widow: 3.5/5 stars.

Kavya Pragallapati
Kavya Pragallapati
An avid reader with a knack for researching niche issues and topics. Kavya is a writer focused on bringing unheard voices to the light. She believes there are multiple perspectives to everything and is not afraid to step back and reevaluate the larger picture.

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