Wow, is this the first Marvel movie I'm reviewing on this platform? Good Lord, it's been a while. To catch you up on my experience with Marvel, even though I know a lot about how the world has developed over the last couple of years, I haven't seen a lot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I adore the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I thought Doctor Strange was underwhelming, and even though I overall enjoyed WandaVision (which I've reviewed on this website), I definitely didn't fall head over heels for it. In my opinion, this is my least favorite of the MCU properties I've seen so far, but it definitely still has its entertaining and satisfying moments. Let's start with talking about the positives first.
For starters, as usual, the casting for this film is absolutely perfect. Scarlett Johannsson is fantastic here and David Harbour gets a chance to demonstrate his action and comedy chops. However, the most pleasant surprise for me is the fact that Florence Pugh is in this movie. I'm gonna be completely honest, I had seen the teaser trailer for this movie multiple times since it was originally released -- in other words, for over a year -- and I didn't even recognize Pugh in the trailer or realize she was in the film until I was practically told a couple of months ago through one of Chris Stuckmann's final movie reviews. Yeah, she was that unrecognizable to me and blends in so well in this film. At this point, I think Pugh is one of the best actresses working today. She blends in perfectly to every role she plays and she nails every accent she tries, she's just phenomenal, and once again, she is incredible here.
In particular, I adored the last half hour or so of this film, with an incredible final action set piece that kept me on the edge of my seat and satisfying character moments that end up feeling earned. However, throughout the majority of this film, I couldn't help but feel that the characters were either underwritten or inconsistently written. I'm not even talking about Natasha Romanoff's character because I recognize that I don't know a lot about her backstory, since I haven't seen many of the Marvel movies. I also felt in the first half of the film that Elena and the Red Guardian felt like they would say whatever witty thing would come to their heads simply because it was witty. There were times where the characters just didn't seem like they had a cemented personality for a while, and that really bothered me. I didn't really get sucked into the story for a while because there are some STRANGE editing choices. There's an opening montage that is supposed to speed through Natasha's past with what is an admittedly fantastic cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" playing in the background, and it honestly might be one of the worst edited opening montages I've ever seen. I couldn't make heads or tails of what the montage was trying to convey, and in general, the editing feels all over the place with many action sequences cutting so quickly that I felt disoriented trying to figure out what was going on.
I will say this about Black Widow: I feel that movies with a feminist message should take note from this film. There are definitely some overtly obvious moments that feel a bit over the top, but for the most part, I really appreciate that the liberation of various women from the control of someone who believes he is helping feels necessary to the story and isn't something that serves as a feminist message just to be feminist. For the most part in this film, it's the women that fight and stick up for themselves in this film, and it doesn't just feel like some writer is desperately trying to make strong female characters simply by saying "Look how strong we are." The film actually demonstrates their strength and makes its feminist message feel necessary to the story.
Overall, though, I have to say that this film was disappointing for me. I didn't really care about the characters or the situations they found themselves in, the editing was choppy throughout, and it felt like the film was essentially one giant set up before the final action set piece. Despite a thrilling climax, overall beautiful direction, great music, and fantastic performances, I just didn't love Black Widow as much as I hoped I would for a film that has been delayed for so freaking long.
Letter Grade: C+