Right now, you’re either a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or you’re sick of it, but if you have a little freedom, I’m here to tell you that “Black Widow” is entertaining on its own. without a million prerequisites.
“In itself” is the key phrase. Somehow, the MCU has convinced us that it’s appropriate that most of his movies are related to two dozen others, with debuts that require research, “stories” that consist mostly of blowing things up, and endings that don’t end anything. There are a few exceptions, obviously, but “Black Widow” feels like a new beginning for the MCU because it has an actual beginning, middle, and end, rather than a middle, a middle, and a middle.
It starts off particularly well, driven by something we hardly ever find in Marvel movies: suspense. Two girls and their parents (played by Rachel Weisz and David Harbor) live in a small American town when they find out they need to pick up some things and run. Director Cate Shortland, who has worked on movies whose full budgets would never cover Rachel Weisz’s salary on “Widow,” gives the family a sense of intimacy and reality, so their desperation in their escape makes sense. Although we notice your accents sliding into mysterious territory, we believe in them. We want them to be safe.
We can also ask ourselves: Where are the Marvel people? One of them, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha / Black Widow, appears as the action progresses. Sa Natasha was one of the girls (the other, Yelena, is played as an adult by Florence Pugh, who is just as fierce as in her Oscar-nominated performance in “Little Women”). Cold with her Avengers friends, Natasha tries to cope with her childhood, when her parents were Russian agents with secrets so deep that, 30 years later, she cannot overcome them.
There seems to be drama in the air. And, when family complaints arise, “Black Widow” sometimes sounds like “Long Day’s Journey into Nyet.” But “Black Widow” is also very funny. The sisters, both members of a “black widow” mercenary team, reluctantly reunite with their parents Alexei and Melina, now high-hope farmers, to get over the psychodrama. It is livrent également à des plaisanteries qui font allusion à la fois à la bizarrerie de leur famille et à la tendance russe à la litote amusante (“Tu as tué tant de gens”, said Alexei à Natasha. “Je ne pourrais pas être plus proud of you”).
But the family that kills together does not stay together. “Black Widow,” whose action takes place after the devastating events of “Captain America: Civil War,” Natasha must make sense of her life as she welcomes her family to the MCU. All four main actors are given interesting and recognizable human characters, with Johansson playing more than in the previous nine Marvel films combined.
The upshot is that “Widow” doesn’t skimp on fun (Ray Winstone is charismatic as a spit-up villain) but is guided by the awareness that movies are better when they focus on people.
In the end, things go wrong. You’ll want to stay until the end of the credits to witness the introduction of a delicious new Marvel movie actor, but the emergence of suspense defies the idea that “Black Widow” is self-sufficient. I understand. This year there will be three MCU movies coming out and they should fit into everyone’s universe.
But, the rest of the time, “Black Widow” is proof that Marvel’s Avengers are more interesting when they aren’t wasting their time getting revenge.