So, I was really looking forward to the Black Widow movie for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, any new MCU movie is a win in my book. Secondly, female representation is woefully lacking in the superhero genre, so it was good to see a woman as the protagonist. And finally, I’ve always really liked Black Widow as a character, and I was excited to learn more about her. Unfortunately, that last point never really happened. I feel like they missed a trick, and Black Widow should have been an origin story.
The trailer didn’t really reveal much about the movie, except that it was pretty action-packed, and that we’d learn about Black Widow’s past. I naively assumed that meant we’d actually get to see her past. However, aside from a brief couple of scenes at the start of the movie, most of what we learn about her past is through snippets of conversation. Because instead of an origin story to clear up the mysteries of her upbringing, we get a standalone story. It’s set between Civil War and Infinity War, meaning nothing that happens during is actually of any consequence. The entire movie is made purely for the purpose of one-off entertainment, and lacks the overarching nature of most MCU movies.
The thing is, much as Marvel has faced some criticism for having ‘cookie cutter’ movies, there’s a good reason for that. The formula works. I don’t think Black Widow is a bad movie by any means, in fact I really enjoyed it. The problem was that it didn’t feel like it fit in the franchise. It was a movie that with a bit of tweaking could have featured any random character that we’d never heard of before, and still had the exact same effect. Hardly anything about it felt like it belonged in Marvel, it was more like a Mission Impossible movie. Whilst the MCU is of course characterised by intense action scenes, which Black Widow did have, the franchise is about more than that. It’s about heart, and showing the motivations of the protagonists. Black Widow didn’t do enough to develop Natasha’s backstory.
With the possible exception of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, every MCU movie has done one of three things: introduced a character, furthered a character’s narrative in the timeline, progressed the overall plot of the phase it was set in. Black Widow does none of those things. We already knew Black Widow as a character, and although we did learn more about her, the movie did nothing to further her narrative. After all, how could it when we already know what happens to her in the future? The best thing this movie could have done is shown us a different side to Black Widow, and helped us understand her motivations. Instead, we just get a cool movie with the already established character. It was good, but didn’t really bring anything to the MCU.
What We Were Denied
Throughout the MCU, Natasha has made a few mentions of her past in the Red Room. She was usually pretty vague, obviously not wanting to talk much about a very traumatic part of her history. Whilst this makes sense for the character, it also meant that we as an audience were denied that chance to learn more about her. Much as it would have been awful for Natasha to experience, especially as a young child, an assassination training facility is a super interesting setting for a movie.
We could have watched her from the very beginning there. We could have seen her resisting at first, before slowly succumbing to the training. They could have let us go through the emotional heartbreak with her when they made her infertile, which I think could have really helped the audience to empathise with Black Widow, and appreciate just how incredible it is that she still became a good person. We got a small taste of what the facility was like with flashes of scenes and images during the opening credits. And honestly, that was one of my favourite parts of the whole movie.
I’d have loved to watch Natasha escape, and to see exactly how she managed to get away from them for good. During Black Widow, she mentions how she and Hawkeye took down the original Red Room. Why was that not the movie? Why didn’t we have the childhood opening scenes that we did get, followed by about an hour of her upbringing in the Red Room, finishing with about an hour of her escaping, then coming back with Clint to destroy it all? I feel like that would have been a much more powerful and meaningful movie.
What We Got Instead
As I’ve already mentioned, I did enjoy this movie. It was a fun and entertaining watch, but the issue was the stakes couldn’t be any lower. We already know most of what has happened thus far, as it’s set between Civil War and Infinity War. We aren’t learning fascinating backstory that reframes Black Widow’s actions throughout the franchise. Nor are we getting an exciting new entry that progresses the current plot. We just got filler. And that’s fine, but it’s not special, and it’s not the level of hype that we’ve come to expect from the MCU.
Also, let’s not overlook how ridiculous the actual plot was. I’m sorry, but mind control chips in a person’s brain? Come on. And to then have something technological overcome by something chemical? Using that red powder stuff to de-condition the girls from the Red Room is like using essential oils to treat a malfunctioning computer. The idea that you could control every aspect of a human being from a chip in their brain, and that they’d developed this entire technology in the space of time between Natasha escaping and her coming back is utterly ludicrous. The lack of believability did somewhat take away from the immersion of Black Widow.
It wasn’t all bad, and I did like the touches of comedy throughout the movie. It was also interesting to see Natasha interacting with her ‘family’. Although they weren’t related by blood, there were clearly a lot of intense emotions there, particularly between Natasha and Yelena. I’m really looking forward to seeing where they’ll take Yelena’s character going forward. The end credit scene was cool, and hit different seeing as Valentina had already been introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier due to Black Widow getting delayed.
On the whole, I thought it was a fun movie experience, I just feel so disappointed thinking about what it could have been instead. Of all the characters, Black Widow’s origin story is the one that has been the least explored. Not only that, but I feel it’s the most unique. She doesn’t have superpowers, or a machine/ suit that gives her extra abilities. Everything about her skills came from her background at the Red Room, and it would have been fascinating to see ordinary humans turned into trained killers.
It’s also sad knowing that this was likely Black Widow’s last appearance in the MCU, and instead of going out with a bang, she just got a somewhat lack-lustre filler movie. They had so many opportunities to really develop Natasha to make her loss all the more poignant. Instead, we just got another action movie.
How about you, what did you think of the Black Widow movie? Would you have preferred an origin story, or did you like the direction that they took? Join the discussion over in our Facebook community!