Ever since the Geekiary was first founded back in 2013, it’s been a running gag that everyone involved in the website would review Black Widow since we were all looking forward to it.
Now that the film is finally here, we decided to make that running Black Widow review gag a reality and have no specifically assigned person scheduled to review it. Anyone that could go see it would be welcome to review it. It just seems fair. So without further ado, here is the Geekiary’s collective Black Widow movie review.
Meet Your Black Widow Reviewers
Angel – Admin of The Geekiary: I’ve been a fan of the MCU since the first films premiered back in 2008. I’ve seen every one of them multiple times, and at least half of them on opening night in theaters. I don’t have the comic book knowledge that others have, so I can’t compare the two, but I live and breathe MCU.
Khai – Admin and Editor of The Geekiary: I’m another long-time MCU fan like Angel. I’ve enjoyed Marvel properties in general for a long time, and as the movies have come out I’ve seen them all in theaters more than once. (Best not to talk about how many times I watched Winter Soldier in the theater, it’s just going to embarrass… well not me, but maybe someone.)
Farid – Admin and Editor of The Geekiary: I consider myself more of a casual fan who knows what occurs across the MCU but isn’t too invested in every character arc or story beat. I still haven’t watched a single Ant-Man movie to completion. Also, where the heck are the queer characters in the MCU films, Mickey?
What parts of the Black Widow film lived up to your expectations?
Khai: I deeply loved how they use the plot – taking care of an old debt – to showcase all the things we love about Natasha Romanov. Her physicality, her troubled relationship with her past, her diehard loyalty that’s so striking in a spy’s spy, her patented “oh no you got me I guess I have no choice but to listen to you spill your master plan”- really, it’s a highlight reel of Natasha Romanov’s Greatest Hits.
Angel: Nothing ‘met’ my expectations, per se, but Yelena exceeded them. I can honestly say that without Yelena, I would not have enjoyed this film as much as I did. If the point of this film was to set her up as the next Black Widow, or at the very least a more permanent part of the MCU, I am very excited and looking forward to it. Based on the post-credit scene, it seems that this may be what is happening.
My expectations for the film itself were tempered somewhat by the fact that it was coming after Natasha’s death in Endgame. I knew this wouldn’t be like the other original Avenger movies, so I kept my expectations lower than I had hoped accordingly. Had this film come out earlier in the MCU, I’d have expected something different.
Farid: I agree with Angel. Casting Florence Pugh as Yelena was spot-on. This film felt like a way to pass the baton to Yelena. I liked that because I immediately became a fan of Yelena. But I was also a bit sad because Scar Jo FINALLY got her Black Widow film but it wasn’t a “solo” and was more focused on setting up the next chapter after her death.
The film didn’t meet my expectations because again, it wasn’t actually a “solo” Black Widow film certain MCU fans had been waiting for years to watch. I do feel an actual “solo” Black Widow movie would have gone in a very different direction.
Which parts of the film fell short?
Khai: I am annoyed to find Yelena working for Valentina at the end. Okay, sure, that sets up Hawkeye coming up…. But it seems disappointing that she’d make that choice. It seems jarring. I hope we get an explanation.
Angel: I didn’t care much for the Taskmaster, but probably not for the reasons a lot of people are mentioning. I don’t have a strong attachment to the character as a lot of comic fans do, but I was not incredibly intrigued by her either. I kept forgetting that they were supposed to be the scary antagonist and was surprised each time they popped back up in the plot.
The overall plot to take out the Red Room was interesting, but I just didn’t care much for the obstacles to get to that point. I appreciate what they were attempting to do with it – making the character the same one that Loki references back in the first Avengers film, highlighting Nat’s red in her ledger, and tying it all back to human trafficking and abuse – but the presentation just didn’t strike the right note for me.
Additionally, bringing us back to the theme of removing reproductive organs so they can be focused assassins brought up a lot of bad memories from Age of Ultron. That was a really messy theme that was handled fairly clumsily in Ultron. The only saving grace here was that the concept was framed by Yelena, who made it way less clumsy for us this time around (but a million times more uncomfortable for Red Guardian). It was interesting that this element of the Widows was brought back in response to a sexist joke, however, so it has that going for it.
Farid: Why the heck was Taskmaster being paraded around as “male” presenting? One would think, with the villain being all about making women his killing machines, he would be proud to have someone like Taskmaster doing his dirty work while looking like a woman. And as certain reviewers have also brought up, having him make the Taskmaster outfit look like a man’s costume felt as if deep down he wanted a son… which kind of made no sense because he loved his daughter enough to keep her alive after the blast.
In a way, it did nothing for the actual plot and came across as more of a way to confuse the viewers… which, meh! It looks like Disney PR is currently looking at a certain part of the fandom dragging such a “creative” decision on social media. Disney just gave certain people another excuse not to like this female-led movie.
Making the Taskmaster’s powers be technology-based immediately reminded me of those special glasses the bad guy wore in the Dead or Alive movie. And the last thing I wanted from Black Widow was to remind me of 2006’s Dead or Alive movie.
Also, I’m tired of certain female-led narratives giving women another villainous woman to fight, as if that’s the only option they can handle. Let Natasha fight an incredibly powerful main villainous dude and win!
And, the big climax just being them trying to run away from a crashing facility… very anti-climatic. Let Natasha have an epic fight sequence! It’s her big movie, where’s the stunning final action piece?!! If the not-so-expensive John Wick franchise can give us awesome action sequences, MCU’s Black Widow could have at least tried to reach such a level when telling a story about trained assassins.
Was the Black Widow film worth the long wait?
Khai: Every scene of this movie shines in a way that shows how much the cast and crew love and respect the characters. For me, it was worth the (very long! And kind of unnecessary!) wait.
Angel: A complicated question, to be sure. It didn’t feel like an MCU film to me, and I was hoping to feel like I was stepping right back into my 13-year-long pattern after a two year hiatus. I didn’t get that from this film, so I’m moderately disappointed. But at the same time, this film wasn’t meant to be a broader MCU piece, but a character study on Natasha, closure for her past as we say goodbye to her, and possibly an introduction for what else is to come. In that regard, it was satisfying.
Farid: Hmmm. Actual Black Widow fans would have a better answer to that. As a causal viewer, I enjoyed the movie taking the time to study Nat as a character, but it made me think of how a Disney+ show would have been a better avenue to better explore Nat, her guilt, trauma, and family. A 2-hour long movie just couldn’t do it justice. I’m interested in seeing what the rewatchability numbers, in theatres, will be for such a movie in the coming weeks.
I do think that the Disney+ shows handling MCU character studies a lot better might just make a portion of viewers have certain expectations – wanting every upcoming MCU movie to be BIG and FLASHY while the more Talk-y/emotional stories can be a Disney+ show.
What scene stood out to you the most and why?
Khai: Choosing one is going to be a chore. Let’s see… I will call out two. One, the dinner scene with the “family” reconnecting, pulling apart, then realizing how much their brief time really meant to each other. That was the happiest time of all of their lives, even if Alexei didn’t realize it until Yelena’s hurt shoved it in his face. I was also moved by Dreykov’s monologue about “the only resource we have too much of” and how that affected Natasha. I wonder if she went back to help Yelena find the girls later, or if the Snap made that impossible?
Farid: There were certain moments where I thought Nat should have been dead. Or has the MCU given her enhanced durability and I didn’t know about it? Ha!
The opening sequence of the film and then going into the human trafficking sequence hit hard. That’s the movie I wanted to see more of!
So, Nat’s going to fix her broken nose just like that, huh?
Angel: Pretty much every scene Yelena was in was absolute gold. Her doing the superhero pose and being disgusted by it. Her graphically describing reproductive anatomy in an attempt to push back against a sexist joke. Her deciding which ways to die are “cool.” I’m basically on Team Yelena.
Final Black Widow thoughts.
Khai: I’ve heard a lot of talk online about how this movie was so, so good that it’s a tragedy we’re not getting more Black Widow on screen. Why did they have to wait until she died to make such a gorgeous movie? After thinking, I feel like the movie is better because it comes after her death. We see her find closure for some things in her past, we know she was loved by other people than the Avengers, and we get the long-delayed graveside mourning scene. I openly cried when I saw how many flowers and toys and keepsakes were on Natasha’s grave. It’s good to see how much people miss her after how she was overshadowed in Endgame.
Farid: Yup. At least, she died happy and was in contact with her previous family for a bit before her death. She got the closure she wanted. As for the future, I’m interested in seeing what Yelena will do next (Clint better be ready). Also, let’s see where Taskmaster and the army of Black Widows pop up. Greenlight a Disney+ show, Mickey!
Angel: I’m surprised to see an MCU film acting as a sort of commentary on the very real issue of human trafficking. MCU has dealt with heavy topics before, but this seemed dark even for this universe. That said, it was an interesting re-contextualization for elements Whedon clumsily introduced in Ultron. If we’re going to revisit the issues such as the Red Room and the weaponization of reproductive rights, and choose to focus heavily on them, I appreciate that they were handled with more gravitas than they had when they were introduced.
I am also – if you couldn’t tell by my responses – I absolutely adore Yelena. I’m going to be rooting for her in Hawkeye. And I feel only mildly bad about that. Sorry, Clint. I’m on Team Yelena.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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