CRITICAL – Second knife in the fresco, the heroine played by Scarlett Johansson is featured in her own film. A necessary epilogue but a very dull cinema proposition
It has been a long way. Eleven years after its introduction in Iron man 2, the oldest superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, takes off in a feature film dedicated to her. Postponed for a summer due to the Covid, Cate Shortland’s film is about to land on July 7 in theaters, exactly ten years after the first adventures of Thor and Captain America. To mark the occasion, the Russian spy adventurer Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), alias Black Widow, takes the reins of a tailor-made story, closer to the spy thriller than to the superhero film. This cocktail, less kitsch than the latest fantasies of Marvel Studios, is also much more worn out.
Some time before the events ofAvengers: Infinity War , Natasha Romanoff sees demons from her past appear after her as well as a troop of assassins sent by an occult organization that she knows only too well. Reuniting with her adopted sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), she then follows the thread of a vast global conspiracy. A tribute – or pale imitation – to the blockbuster thriller, the screenplay of Black widow swaps the outbidding of a traditional Marvel blockbuster for that of a James bond or a Impossible mission, better in tune with the character register, just like Captain america was eyeing the historic war film. In the absence of futuristic machines, magical illusions, galactic journeys and parallel universes, the film is content to take an amused look at the clichés of the superheroic genre from which it proceeds. Stripped of its fantastic sound, Black widow thus looks like any action film and unfolds, without much daring, the expected recipe of the spy story: secret agents on the run, Russian accents to cut with a knife, postcard hook in Europe ( here, Budapest), secret base and predictable reversals. A modus operandi could not be more used which, unlike the supercharged frescoes of Tom Cruise, is not even saved by seductive action sequences.
An agreed action movie
Difficult to find its account in an alignment of scenes of fist or chases without much flavor, where one takes more in sympathy the car park than the combatants. The finale, even, of the film is lost in an endless digital ballet, between flames and skies, which never ceases to explode and form the cinégénique backdrop of the pirouettes of the super-spy. It is paradoxical that the most striking elements of this story which takes itself very seriously are – apart from a breathtaking scene with a pig – the two most clearly exogenous figures in the film: the hyperbolic muscular jester Red Guardian ( David Harbor), and Taskmaster, a relentless armored pursuer. In a different register – humor for one, drama for the other – these two characters so typical of the world of comics form the rare reliefs of a very dull cinema proposition.
What good is it then? The film, which is dispersed between family stories and chronicle of a cold-eaten revenge, fulfills its primary mission: Natasha Romanoff wins the makings of a heroine on the same level and Scarlett Johansson a headliner after ten years in the shadow of his marvelian cronies. This Black widow additionally enjoys a post #MeToo approach that swears like night and day with the easy sexualization of the character’s first appearances. How not to see in the sinister antagonist of the story (Ray Winstone), untouchable cabaleur in a suit and tie surrounded by manipulated young women, a junk Harvey Weinstein? Both survivors of a system of oppression, Natacha and Yelena are all the more active in bringing down this powerful man and his criminal empire. A plot to which we can only subscribe, even though the rest of the feature film is struggling. We understand then that this solitary adventure of the Black Widow was necessary, given the importance taken by the character in the last films of the Marvel saga. But it may be too late. Well composed, the canvas of the Black Widow struggles to hit the mark.