Marvel has finally been served their comeuppance. When blasting audiences and mega fans with a steady trickle of products for over a decade, the whines, groans and moans of those that drape themselves in capes and collectables are bound to deafen the studio heads trying, so terribly hard, to release something. Spin-offs can only satiate the hivemind for so long, but the freedom usually found in a feature-length film has been absent for nearly two years now. A short, understandable time between films of a different series, an inconsequential sin in the minds of many Marvel maniacs. Here it is now, though, Black Widow. Marvel mark their move back into movie magic with a stagnant portrayal of a character they failed to do anything with when they had the chance.
Despite embodying the eponymous role for the better half of a decade, Scarlett Johannsson still stumbles around the screen, beating up bad guys and boring audiences with underwhelming dialogue. It is no fault of her own. Johannsson has impressive performances elsewhere, but it is not as if she ever thrived throughout these Marvel films, where her bit-part performances in ensemble features never quite realised the potential of her performances. Here, alongside powerhouse talents like Ray Winstone, Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz, everything they do, say and experience feels thoroughly underwhelming. Uncomfortably boring at times, the camera and direction from Cate Shortland linger on nothing of particular interest, for there is nothing here that can bring out any essential, interesting viewing.
No scene or shot is framed with vision or passion. No performance is held with high regard for what the writing wishes to present. Black Widow is the closest Marvel have gotten to ruining their strict, stringent formula of moviemaking, and how not to change it. Their vaguely sighted attempts at humour are dense and poorly timed, as ever. Jolting between swift realisations of action set pieces and slick choreography and moments of harsh, unremitting comedy is the trope Marvel have gathered for their running time, and it is not exactly a winning formula. It is more because the comedy isn’t particularly funny, but also it is due to the setting, style and choices made by Black Widow. Winstone in particular struggles here, never quite keeping up with the fast-paced farcical nature of Johannsson and her Power Rangers designed squad of heroes.
With its action set pieces indifferent, a usual can-can of surprising ensemble draws drag themselves through a torturously uninspired two hours. Flat, lifeless and aimless, the triple for the modern Marvel movie. It is not what Black Widow lacks, but what it does with what little it has, that disappoints so frequently. Bringing in directors with a certain future ahead of them simply does not matter when the products are indefinable as individual pieces of art or entertainment. There is enough within Black Widow to coax a few loose moments of action out of it, and its design there is at least competent. But pockets of brief competency are no real victory for anyone involved, and despite its powerhouse cast, Black Widow is another in the long line of off-hand nostalgia pops for characters well past their sell-by date. It doesn’t help that the final appearance of Johansson in the role is the time Marvel picks to do the most they have ever done with her in the decade she has worked with them.