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Black Widow

Realizing too late that the farmers’ market hours meant 8 – 11 in the morning, not 8 – 11 at night

Synopsis: Marvel Comic Universe’s Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff tries to reunite her family and take down the villain who forced her into becoming an assassin. (At theaters and streaming on Disney+)

The future has arrived where all movies must be part of the Marvel Comic Universe. All genres must be under the auspices of MCU as determined by the Disney overlords. In this case, Scarlett Johansson is in a dramedy about the dysfunctional family of her character Natasha Romanoff and her former boss-from-hell. It is meaningful because, although she longs for love, she wonders if it is even worth the trouble to reunite with her estranged family. Sometimes her family is so crazy, that we have to laugh. But laugh we do not when it comes to her former boss who exploited and manipulated Ms. Romanoff. Indeed he terrorized her and all of his other workers for his own greed and ego. A James Cameron biopic? No, this boss is even worse and we know this because he is Russian. So, while Mr. Titanic might scream in employees’ faces, this guy uses Stalin tactics like enslavement and murder.

Dreykov (Ray Winstone) is the boss-from-hell who made Natasha train as an assassin at a school ridiculously called The Red Room. He trafficks countless vulnerable girls and forces them into training as his soldiers or “widows.” Natasha’s moniker is Black Widow. Sadly, the widows have no Human Resources Department to file complaints to, so Natasha explored other options and took a job with S.H.I.E.L.D. Hopefully they have a good pension plan.

Once Natasha was feeling more empowered, she became an Avenger and added a much-needed woman’s perspective on policing/saving the world. Black Widow takes place  after the mayhem of the Avengers “civil war.” –Let’s switch to calling Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow  ScarJo– ScarJo goes into hiding in Norway. I was glad she didn’t give in to pressure from her husband, professional funnyman Colin Jost, and have her character hide out in his native land of Staten Island  where she might risk running into Jost’s SNL colleague Pete Davidson.

Whilst living in a trailer in the Norway countryside ScarJo contemplates bleaching her red hair blond and watches James Bond movies. But there is no rest for the weary and she soon finds herself hunted by the robot-human hybrid Taskmaster. This gives viewers lots of opportunities to see ScarJo fighting, shooting, running, jumping, swimming and driving at high speeds.

Taskmaster is after some vials of  mind control antidote that ScarJo has –hopefully she will use this to prevent Disney execs from greenlighting a Hawkeye movie for Jeremy Renner.

Setting a romantic mood for engagement photos with fiery explosions providing a sultry backdrop.

Anyway… ScarJo learns that Dreykov is still alive, having incorrectly believed that he had been blown up. And the bastard is still running the Red Room to assassin train girls! I can’t imagine that he needs so many soldiers to keep making money. I mean, Jeff Bezos seems to be doing fine with world domination without any soldiers. Clearly, the whole “widows” program is just a misogynistic ego trip for Dreykov.

In a bout of righteous fury ScarJo is determined to take down Dreykov once and for all; probably with another, more powerful explosion that will kill him and destroy the Red Room training facilities too. But she will need the help of her wayward family.

This little ScarJo had a placid childhood in Ohio, far removed from making movies with horsewhispering Robert Redford. Instead, her parents would be Russian sleeper agents and she would have a sister who would also be forced to eventually  become one of Dreykov’s assassins.

Her dad Alexei (David Harbour aka Mr. Lily Allen) was a super soldier, the Red Guardian and her mom Melina (Rachel Weisz aka Mx. James Bond) is a scientist. Neither one feels badly about ditching their girls, Natasha and Yelena (Florence Pugh).   Nonetheless, ScarJo tries to guilt them into helping her defeat Dreykov. I think that Yelena helps out just to spend time with her  big sis, which is kind of sweet. Except she is tough as nails, so she plays cool around ScarJo. When they first reunite they fight and point guns at each other. As sisters do.

Lucky for us the erstwhile family careers around the globe, dodging avalanches in Russia (well, green screen Russia) and driving recklessly through Budapest (probably a typical pastime in Hungary) while pursued by a robot driving a tank (probably not typical anywhere outside Japanese dreams). 

I feel like ScarJo’s concocted family could really benefit from some therapy, although finding a therapist qualified to counsel a family of spies would prove difficult.   The mom seems unrepentant, but there may be hope for her because we see her occasionally behaving maternally to some pigs she is studying. The dad makes excuses and seems hellbent on reliving his glory days as the Red Guardian. ScarJo is disgusted by them, but Yelena strives to put together some semblance of family in between dishing out sassy snark to everybody.

In fact, Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh are so beguiling as sisters Natasha and Yelena that I sometimes forgot that Black Widow is yet another cog in the Marvel machinery. Maybe,  just maybe, the two actors could star together in a movie that has nothing to do with comic books. But that would have to take place in a brave new world before Year Zero aka, the beginning of MCU Phase One, ushered in by Iron Man in 2008 CE.

Movie Loon’s Movie Review Shortcut:

Grade:  B+

Cut to the Chase:  Entertainment for MCU adherents and MCU semi-resisters.

Humor Highlight:  Florence Pugh/Yelena’s sarcasm. Eg., calling her  dad the Crimson Dynamo when she knows darn well he was called the Red Guardian. 


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