By Laurie Coker
Summer blockbusters are rolling into theatres – perhaps more slowly than most would like, but popcorn is popping and cinephiles are returning to the comfort of the familiar movie houses. And at a time when we most need the diversion, “Black Widow”, starring Scarlett Johansson storms in, providing an overly action-packed adventure and back story for Avenger Natasha Romanoff. We get insight into a character we’ve seen but know little about and to new characters who fill in the gaps.
While not always necessary, learning a character’s backstory allows audiences to better connect and we’ve waited a long to learn Romanoff’s. Hers begins in Ohio with a young Natasha (a well-cast Ever Anderson) where she and her sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh and Violet McGraw) seemingly have no care in the world until their parents Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Alexia (David Harbour) suddenly bug out of their childhood home. Shockingly, a short time later, the girls are separated and handed off to a complete stranger (Ray Winstone) in a terrifying exchange. Flash forward to 21 years later and Natasha is off the grid, as is her sister, after the break-up of the Avengers. Basically estranged because of the assassination of King T’Chaka of Wakanda in “Captain America: Civil War”, Natasha tries to stay clear. Her sister brings her back into the game with a package and the two pair up somewhat violently – fighting each other and then their mutual enemy.
To say “Black Widow” is action-packed is an understatement. In fact, while the story isn’t lost, the fight and chase scenes overwhelmed me. Director Cate Shortland struggles to balance the action scenes — a prison break is a highlight — with family moments that are sometimes very funny (wait for Yelena on “The Pose”, and Harbour as Natasha’s closest equivalent to a “good father” trying to stuff himself into his superhero costume) and with the story. Certainly, Shortland pulls out all the stops in each and every clash, but to me the story – one that digs into roles of women and controlling me – literally mind control. Women rule in “Black Widow”, but some are ruled by men – with mind control. Shortland digs deeply into the film’s themes and doesn’t hide from them. In fact, she embraces them – issues with family, women’s roles, and covert government dealings. “Black Widow” provides a decent diversion for fans and those hungry for blockbuster movie experiences. The backstory for Natasha works and now we have Yelena to look forward to in her future adventures as the new Black Widow. I did find myself a bit bored by the incessant fight sequences. I would have liked more time with Natasha’s family and more revelations into their lives and roles