Marvel’s Black Widow has come in for some criticism for not being a huge entry that moves the overall story arc forward.
Over the last week or two, audiences have been returning in their droves to the cinema, for the long-awaited return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the big screen. Black Widow, a perhaps overdue solo adventure for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff welcomed us back with open arms. A spy adventure all about family, it pays homage to James Bond, it allows Johansson to use her star power rather than just, as Yelena puts it so eloquently, flipping her hair back.
To my mind Black Widow was a success – we got a more fleshed out idea of Natasha as a character, we got to spend more time with this powerful woman and meet some new friends along the way. Hell, we got to see Johansson smash her face in to a table and jump out of a plane, not to mention Florence Pugh running away with every scene. It’s what the summer blockbuster was born to be.
I’m aware that though the film worked well for me, others may not have enjoyed it as much as I did and that’s okay. Opinions and tastes are personal and valid. But there is one take I am already so fed up of hearing: this film isn’t good as it doesn’t move the overall Marvel story forward.
I struggle not to sigh when I hear fans of Marvel films complain in ways such as this. “This film is rubbish as it didn’t tell me what will happen in the next one” or “this was pointless as we already know she’s dead”. A film’s first and only job is surely to tell the story it is telling and no more (okay, lets be honest, it’s probably to sell merchandise, then tell the story, it is Disney, but I digress.)
If the film tells the story it has aimed to tell – where does Natasha Romanoff come from and who is she at her core? – it does not owe you anything more. Propelling a wider, over-arching story is a plus, a bonus, the cherry on top. It’s always fun to get more than we bargained for and a teaser for the future. We even get this with the post credits scene in Black Widow, setting up future adventures for new characters.
Why is this not enough any more?
I remember the same argument when Ant-man And The Wasp came out. Now I love this film, I love Marvel films, I love Paul Rudd, I love Hello Kitty Pez dispensers. Talk all day about not enjoying the villain or the plot, that’s fine, these things don’t work for everyone. But people were up in arms that this film (and Captain Marvel afterwards) came out between Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. What was even the point of Ant-man And The Wasp if it wasn’t showing us what immediately happened after the snap?
Well, the point was getting to spend more time with a fun world with a newer character we didn’t know so well. Infinity War and Endgame are amazing, Captain America: Civil War and the first two Avengers films are great too. But not every film can be a mega star-studded team-up adventure and if they were, they wouldn’t feel special. It took 10 years and multiple solo adventures to get us there.
Is Captain America: The First Avenger pointless? Black Panther? Because these films are isolated solo adventures too.
Whether or not Black Widow plays a larger part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it moves forward in to Phase 4 or not, it should be appreciated and critiqued on its own merits and story. Not it’s place in a wider potential universe. Films can just be films, and surely that’s okay, even in the superhero world.
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