By Jason Delgado
Casablanca is my favorite film of all-time because it’s got it all: drama, romance, humor, memorable music, a little bit of action, and stellar performances with iconic lines (and Nazis to boot). Marvel does much of the same by incorporating many different genres (except heavier on the action and usually light on the romance), and Black Widow is no exception.
Scarlett Johansson returns as Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow, finally starring in a movie of her own after over a decade of playing a supporting role in other Marvel films. Black Widow is a prequel, with the plot taking place mainly between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Her character’s traumatic and mysterious past has been teased before, and this movie finally shows us what it’s all about.
Black Widow is emotionally satisfying, full of fantastic, top of the line action (both in large scale set pieces and small scale hand to hand combat), and surprisingly funny. It’s got everything that I felt was lacking in another recent blockbuster release, F9.
The Avengers became a de facto family for Romanoff over the years, but why did she need a family? Also, what role does the age old question of nature versus nurture play in who she is? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Marvel comics ever since I was a kid because of the human elements of both the heroes and villains, dealing with their own problems and vices, on top of the superpowers (such as Peter Parker being bullied by Flash Thompson at school, while dealing with late homework, Aunt May, and the Green Goblin). Stan Lee knew that it’s much more fascinating to make characters relatable, even in extraordinary situations. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has continued on that tradition, and in Black Widow, we get to peel back the curtain of Natasha’s personal life, to see what informed the evolution of her character throughout the years.
Speaking of characters, David Harbour (Stranger Things) is hilarious with his deadpan humor as the Red Guardian. He’s overweight and out of shape, but in his mind he’s still a legend on par with Captain America.
Florence Pugh (Midsommar) who plays Yelena Belova, is a standout in this film as a trained assassin with her own issues (it’s a big theme in this movie, and something that Pugh is used to in underrated films like Fighting with my Family), but she delivers jokes too. The way that she makes fun of a certain hero’s poses are spot on funny, but Pugh also adds an emotional depth that compliments Black Widow nicely.
I never cared much for Black Widow in the comic books, but Scarlett Johansson has breathed new life into the character and made it her own. Her performance and character arc are pitch perfect. If this was indeed Johansson’s last appearance as Black Widow (there has been no confirmation either way), then this movie was a fitting send-off, so “here’s looking at you, kid.”
I give Black Widow five out of five hot sauce packets. I was craving the fire, and this movie brought it!
P.S. – I really dig Think Up Anger’s (featuring Malia J.) hauntingly melodic cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit during the opening credits. Also, make sure that you stay through the end credits of course; it’s Marvel!