When I heard that this movie was coming out, I had to ponder the question ‘What’s it for?’ I mean, was it really gonna offer anything new, anything that hadn’t already been done in Marvel movies? Turns out, I should have had more faith. Where the Captain Marvel movie has similar themes to Black Widow, to be sure, Captain Marvel is quite confused in terms of genre, and the plot sees the lead become ludicrously omnipotent at the end (leaving it nowhere to go after that). By contrast, Black Widow seems much more grounded and authentic. I know, it’s an odd thing for me to say such a thing, especially when the movie’s full of impossible action sequences, and so on, but there’s more integrity and continuity to the emotional trauma and character development in Black Widow that makes the SFX of far less immediate concern. Indeed, there’s nice humour ridiculing the very choreographed, ‘posed’ and voyeuristic (‘male gaze’) style of action sequence that’s typical of Hollywood and traditional Marvel movies.
There can be little argument that Black Widow might/should be described as a feminist movie. It revolves around the central relationship between two sisters, exploring the nature of ‘sisterhood’. They’ve been stolen, emotionally neglected and physically abused by an evil patriarch (General Dreykov, played by Ray Winstone, with a very dodgy Russian accent indeed) who is hellbent on producing an army of obedient female super-soldiers so that he can rule the world. Yes, it’s a very cliched scenario (hence the movie doffing its cap bigtime to the Bond movie Moonraker). And, yes, the way I’m describing its themes risks making it sound like a very dogmatic or preachy affair. BUT fear not! The movie has a light touch (not much clunky exposition or lecturing at all), typical Marvel bantz (Joss Whedon style) even in emotionally fraught moments, and some nicely arranged fight sequences (ironically/knowingly done).
The ‘male’ tradition of superheroes is affectionately mocked – the Red Guardian character is an anachronistic scream. There’s no soppy hetero love story getting in the way. There’s only female drive and a lack of apology. And the story of the wider MCU is actually moved along. This movie pulls off a lot (with style) and represents a valuable contribution to the oeuvre. 8 out of 10 from me! Hurrah!