Unsurprisingly, Black Widow is another very good Marvel movie, albeit a frustratingly compromised one.
“So, a Marvel film has fun action, strong characters, just affecting enough drama for the big beats to land mostly as intended, and great performances – in addition to Pugh, David Harbour also runs his own campaign to steal the movie out from under Johansson with a delirious sad-clown turn as Alexei/Red Guardian. In other news: fish swim, birds fly, and Boris Johnson is a cunt. Like I said at the start, this is all pretty much a given when it comes to Marvel movies. Now here comes another surprising turn-up for the books. The very good new Marvel movie is, get this… fundamentally hobbled from being truly great by the rigidly-enforced brand.
And I’m not talking about how a specific auteur and story identity eventually gets drowned out by the standard Marvel third-act setpiece miasma, either, although in this case that’s a symptom rather than the underlying fault. Black Widow is hobbled from being the truly great movie I can see it has the bones of largely because, at almost every turn, the edges and uncharacteristically dark and heavy avenues that the film wants to go down have been sanded off in enforced subservience to the 12a/PG-13 four-quadrant family blockbuster which is the Marvel brand. A lot of the film’s more unique strengths and strongest passages can be found when everyone gets to lean in to the mature and uncomfortable truth of its story, so the fact that they can’t be seen through fully due to The Brand ends up being frustrating even if it’s understandable. And, frankly, this is far more interesting to talk about than rehashing the same positives one can find in most every Marvel movie. So, let’s talk about them.”