Black Widow

By Joanna Langfield

Out Bonding Bond, this solo superhero flick is no Wonder Woman.

And now it’s time for Natasha’s backstory. Natasha, in case you have missed it, being the Black Widow of the increasingly gloomy Avengers series. So, I suppose, this super violent, super serious chapter fits in with the franchise. But what an opportunity is wasted here! You can see where star Scarlett Johansson, screenwriter Eric Pearson and director Cate Shortland flirt with bringing the distaff perspective to these kinds of movies, but it almost feels as if they, like the black widows in the story, have been beaten into submission, leaving them to perform their expected duties, even if they feel kind of bad about it.

Maybe taking this road isn’t a wrong decision, if the intent is to bring another blockbuster into the world. Weary audiences might be perfectly happy to sit back and watch a talented cast of primarily women kill, maim, and blow things up with as much strength and gusto as the guys do. And maybe there’s an inherent feminist victory in that alone. But, as happened in the far superior Wonder Woman movie of 2017 (and sadly, not the sequel), there’s no true emotion here, no break in the incessant action, no real stakes that involve us as we pass the popcorn. That’s especially perplexing as this movie is, ostensibly, about family. But, interestingly, the lessons about family are more impactful in The Boss Baby: Family Business, the new animated comedy. Go figure.

There is some good news to report. Johansson is still a magnetic star and it’s fun to watch some top flight actors (Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz and a much appreciated trying-to-be funny-and-is David Harbour) do what they do with some pretty stock characters. And then there’s Florence Pugh, who shows up here as Yelena, and steals the whole shebang. Remember her name. We’re going to be seeing a lot more of Pugh and, perhaps, Yelena. And I will continue to have very high hopes for both.