‘Black Widow’, Marvel’s big farewell to Scarlett Johansson

He’s one of the most formidable members of the Avengers around, able to adapt to any situation. It is at the crossroads of spy films of the XXe century and a medley of modern action films. Still dressed in her battle suit, she is also the second heroine of a Marvel movie. Instead of leading to a whole new narrative arc, it feels like it’s a big goodbye that the studio is sending to its heroine.

A long gestation

Black Widow hasn’t been the best-treated character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It had started rather well, when Scarlett Johansson had played for the first time the heroine created by the studio, passed from the camp of the Soviet spies to that of the New York superheroes that are the Avengers.

She had even held the face-to-face with the Hulk. She will call herself a monster under the leadership of Joss Whedon before he died in Avengers Endgame, sacrificing himself because “His life is worth less than that of Hawkeye who has children.” On screen, only Tony Stark was entitled to a funeral worth the trip. In fact, Black Widow has been the least consistent member of the Avengers. The heroine has always been written in a different way from film to film, with Scarlett Johansson as the only guarantee of a certain consistency. Popular despite the decline in the production of derivative products (a phenomenon that does not affect the other characters), his solo film is only released now, after a very long gestation. You have to believe that it was more complicated to make a film about her than soon to be three Ant-Man.

The plot of the film Black Widow takes place just after the events of Captain America: Civil War. The latter’s team, considered to be made up of criminals and renegades, is being chased by the US military. Natasha Romanoff, alias Black Widow, or Black Widow for those who appreciate the French version, continues a run which leads her to a mobile home in Norway where she kills time by watching James Bond Roger Moore period.

Only here, she lets herself embark on another adventure. Yelena, the one she once considered her sister when she was just a spy apprentice, resurfaces. She aims to dismantle the Red Chamber, a place where all Black Widows are formed. For Natasha, it is also about finding the people she considered to be members of her family, the time of an infiltration on American soil when she was only a child.

The family in all its forms

The family is the general theme of Black Widow. The one we choose and especially the one that is recomposed. It speaks a lot about family units dislocated by time, redemption and inevitably, a little revenge. But for once, Marvel defines rather clearly the issues of its heroes – of its heroines in this case. We know the reasons that push them to fight. You might even find what tends to be missing in MCU movies: drama and real story arcs, instead of following a character from point A to point B, where the studio’s next film begins. This is not the trailer for another film but a story «stand alone», fairly independent from the rest of the franchise.

Scarlett Johansson may be the only veteran of this film, but the real subject of this story is the character of Yelena, served by the energy of Florence Pugh. The actress has no equal for throwing valves that fall flat, a recurring gimmick that is found in many Russians in the cinema. The aim of the “spy but nice” operation is also to put her in the ranks of a probable succession. This is what we see taking shape as the Marvel series broadcast on Disney +, with US Agent in Falcon et Winter Soldier or Wanda’s children in WandaVision.

A succession of clichés

It’s a real festival of forced Russian accents like in a movie from the 1980s. Sometimes it’s legitimate, since we now know that Black Widow spent part of her childhood elsewhere than in Russia. David Harbour in Red Guardian delivers a very personal composition, between the caricature and the sitcom. Rachel Weisz brings the right amount of maternal figure, which leads to think that she would have made a very good James Bond girl while duplicity. You have to see them, all together, in combat suits (an important point for uniform and costume fetishists) but bickering like a dysfunctional family. Thanks to this truly unusual quartet for the MCU, Black Widow brings a form of lightness and, let’s say it, a little personality, undoubtedly the result of a work in the image of Cate Shortland, an Australian director who is taking her first steps in the great Marvel family.

Let’s not kid ourselves. A film controlled by this studio must comply with a kind of charter, not to say formatting, and the person in charge of the realization abandons all authority as soon as it is necessary to put the fight in scene. The action sequences are in this case quite functional and, for once, not too loaded in CG. We feel the influence of Mission Impossible and of Jason Bourne light version, sometimes a little confused especially when the enemy of the day, Taskmaster, whose power is to imitate his opponent arrives. We still stay in a setting where people are just breaking their mouths. We do not move from galaxy to galaxy. The clichés of the MCU quickly come back at a gallop as soon as it is the last third of the film where all the dramaturgical ambitions fail: little quasi-humorous break on a farm followed by a battle in a flying fortress, inevitably brought to collapse. Leaving aside the drama, we tell ourselves that this is just one more Marvel.

The fans will not be fooled. The film is clearly produced to occupy the space and the cinemas while the phase 4 du MCU falls into place. Not only was he delayed for a year due to an epidemic, but we also have the feeling that he arrives at the ball completely late. Difficult to keep the spectators in suspense. The only stake, in the long term, consists in propelling “the little sister” Yelena as the heroine who will succeed the character of Black Widow. In any case, the film does it. For the rest, we really feel like we have received a note of apology because this film is only coming out now. When you think that we were no longer expecting it and that his heroine had died two films before, it is already not so bad.

Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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