Finally, after years of confounding calls by Marvel and a 14-month pandemic-induced delay, Black Widow hit theaters on Friday. It’s one last sendoff for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, the MCU’s first female superhero. So how did it go, and as is always a question with this franchise, how did it do in setting up the future? Let’s talk about all that, plus Florence Pugh, Russian accents, and extremely obedient pigs.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Black Widow?
i enjoyed the majority of Black Widow but maybe i’m just an easy mark who likes watching women beat the shit out of each other ♀️ and if i spend 20 minutes braiding my hair before my workout tomorrow that’s between myself and FloPugh— Kate Halliwell (@katehalliwell) July 10, 2021
Daniel Chin: It’s a fun return to the theaters for the MCU, but it also should’ve happened at least five years ago.
Miles Surrey: What’s the Russian word for “mediocre”?
Charles Holmes: Was Black Widow fun? Sure.
Was it five years too late? Absolutely.
Did it cure my creeping sense of MCU fatigue? Not at all.
Andrew Gruttadaro: Tough look for Marvel to drop a movie that only scratches the surface of its main character at the same time one of its TV shows is hitting new highs every week by going much, much deeper.
2. What was the best moment of the film?
Chin: Natasha smashing her face into a desk to “sever the nerve.” My nose felt that one too.
Surrey: The opening sequence with David Harbour and Rachel Weisz as undercover KGB spies in the United States brought back fond memories of The Americans, the best Russian-related programming we’ve had in the past decade. But even Philip and Elizabeth Jennings never had to escape an FBI shootout on a tiny plane, so that was pretty rad.
Halliwell: Far be it from me to choose a sequence without Florence Pugh in it, but I found the first 20 minutes enthralling—the less Marvel-y, the better.
Gruttadaro: The scene where Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha and Florence Pugh’s Yelena are drinking beers at a rest stop, and then the scene where Yelena proudly boasts about buying a vest.
Adeniran: The vest scene was the best scene. Yelena sharing her love for her new accessory and being so eager to make sure Natasha also loves it was so beautiful.
Holmes: The relationship between Florence Pugh and her vest is the purest form of love left on this desolate planet.
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Gruttadaro: Alexa, NEVER play that moody cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that scored the opening credits.
Halliwell: The giant end-of-movie CGI explosions. That’s always the answer.
Chin: The ending—and Natasha’s final goodbye in the MCU after more than a decade—being a setup to the ending of Captain America: Civil War. I was hoping for a better sendoff than her leaving to take care of something that already happened several years ago.
Holmes: Free my man Alexei the pig! Alexei was minding his own business just to be needlessly abused.
Adeniran: The end-credits scene where Val tells Yelena that Hawkeye killed Black Widow.
HOW THE HELL DOES SHE KNOW THAT???
Who wrote the tell-all book about the time heist? Who was out there on Good Morning America telling people what happened? I don’t understand how that information got out. And what’s worse is that Val thinks that will motivate Yelena to kill Clint, a person so close to Natasha she wears his symbol on her neck.
Surrey: Rachel Weisz briefly tortured that poor pig for no reason—get PETA on her ass!
4. Finish the sentence: “Taskmaster was _______.”
Surrey: … technically, a Bond girl?!
Holmes: … maimed, marred, massacred, and mutilated.
Gruttadaro: … a walking embodiment of Marvel’s villain issues?
Chin: … a little disappointing. The reveal that she was Dreykov’s daughter worked in terms of the story and Natasha’s journey, but a silent, brainwashed villain is not exactly memorable.
Halliwell: … super boring! But I liked her suit.
Adeniran: … underwhelming. My main experiences with Taskmaster are from Spider-Man on PS4 and (don’t laugh at me) Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man series, and in both, Taskmaster is a grade-A douchebag. He’s always being disrespectful and makes sure to let you know you ain’t got what it takes. I wish we could have seen Nat and Taskmaster share some sort of banter throughout the film.
5. Tag yourself as one of the members of Natasha’s “family.”
Halliwell: I’m Rachel Weisz—just here to get an A on the group project and not sure why everyone wants to hang out after we’ve handed in our work.
Holmes: I’d like to think I’m Yelena—healthy distrust of superheroes, questionable fashion sense, gullible when it comes to found families, and a deep hatred of skinning my knee.
Chin: Yelena has that youngest-sibling energy. Despite being a trained assassin who was brainwashed for two decades and didn’t buy her first article of clothing until her mid-20s, she remains deeply relatable.
Surrey: I’m Red Guardian, because I’m also washed and want to convince other people that I was really cool back in the day.
Adeniran: My older sister is a lawyer. I make jokes on Twitter. I’m just gonna go ahead and slide right into Yelena’s role.
Gruttadaro: I’d love to say I’m Rachel Weisz, but I know deep down I am Alexei the pig.
6. Who had the best Russian accent?
Gruttadaro: Definitely not Ray Winstone.
Chin: David Harbour wins it for me, and seeing him bring out some Chief Hopper to start out the film before going full Russian accent in prison made it even better. I’d watch a whole Disney+ series of the Red Guardian telling war stories about his fights against Captain America, all of which are super believable.
Surrey: All the Russian accents were hilariously bad, but you gotta hand it to Ray Winstone for not even trying and Florence Pugh for channeling Jodie Comer’s Killing Eve energy.
Adeniran: It’s David Harbour, everyone else, a massive gap the size of Moscow, and then Ray Winstone.
Holmes: This question feels like a trap, so instead I will pose my own question: Which character from this film will get rid of their accent ASAP in subsequent films? (The answer is Yelena.)
7. Would Black Widow have been better as a Disney+ series?
Halliwell: No! Not everything has to be a TV show now!
Surrey: In hindsight: yes. It couldn’t be the exact same story without a Black Widow show feeling like an [insert hour here] movie, but a different approach would’ve given the character-driven moments more time to breathe. The film barely scratched the surface of Natasha’s backstory with the Red Room. (Then again, considering that would involve hitting on a ton of mind control, torture, and assassinations, perhaps that was intentional.)
Chin: The big action scenes felt better suited for the big screen, and I’m not sure how much sense it would’ve made to take an extended look at this story line largely due to the fact that Natasha was already, you know, dead before the movie even started. But a full Disney+ series would’ve given more space for Johansson to reprise her role one last time, and probably would’ve served as a better goodbye.
Gruttadaro: 100 percent yes. As more MCU movies drop, it’s going to be interesting to see which ones actually work better as films … because more and more I’m convinced that these stories are better suited for six- to eight-episode miniseries.
Adeniran: Oh God, no. Six episodes of that?! I liked the movie but dragging out that plot line for four more hours would have been rough.
Holmes: The Disney+ series aren’t better as Disney+ series. If the past seven months have taught us anything it’s that the MCU was great when it made movies more like television, but is rather uneven when it tries to make TV as good as its movies.
8. What is the legacy of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow?
Holmes: Well, thanks to this movie, probably the poses.
Halliwell: A trail of bad wigs punctuated by the occasional dope fight scene. Also, I enjoyed when she broke her own nose.
Gruttadaro: A true original who Marvel truly never unlocked.
Adeniran: Let’s give respect where respect is due: Black Widow is one of the GOATs. She should have had a solo film years ago, but her character’s impact throughout the MCU is impressive. She was the connective tissue between the first two phases, showing up in both Iron Man’s and Captain America’s second installments, before people showing up in multiple films was common. She will be missed.
(It still should have been Hawkeye, though.)
Surrey: Natasha got the short shrift, objectified by the MCU for more than a decade, and by the time Marvel actually gave her character a stand-alone movie, she was already dead. I’m inclined to agree with Stephen Dorff on this one.
Chin: It’s still wild that it took 21 films in the MCU to introduce a solo female lead, and when it finally happened, it wasn’t even Johansson’s Black Widow. After starting as little more than a sexist stereotype in Iron Man 2, it took far too long for Natasha to get the spotlight to herself. Yet despite the problematic issues with her character throughout her early roles especially, she’ll still always be the MCU’s first female superhero, and she helped pave the way for more of them.
9. How do you feel about Florence Pugh taking up the Black Widow mantle?
Surrey: Me to Yelena until the end of time:
Holmes: My ledger is gushing with blood at the thought of a Devil Wears Prada–type film where Florence Pugh tries to make it in the cutthroat fashion media industry but is stopped at every turn by a magazine editor who hates vests.
Chin: After that debut, pretty great. Pugh stole some of the best moments in the film. I just hope Yelena brings her dog and military surplus vest back with her next time.
Adeniran: It sucks that her accent will be gone by the next movie, but she’s got the chops to be a long-standing member of the MCU going forward.
Gruttadaro: I mourn the Midsommar-esque movies Florence Pugh will have to pass on because of the MCU. But she gave Black Widow far more than it deserved—this franchise is ridiculously lucky to have her.
Halliwell: I feel great about it. I would watch 100 hours of FloPugh trying to kill people, especially Jeremy Renner.