Black Widow

July 19, 2021

Okay, so, I didn’t actually make it to a movie theater for this. Long story. So my friends and I broke down and watched it at the home of the friend who has the 65″ TV. With White Russian cocktails on hand, naturally.

Now, on to the film.

The Short Review:  So wait, is this like Mirror Universe Incredibles?

Yes, the best parts of the movie were very much like a Mirror Universe Incredibles, with this weird dysfunctional superfamily that somehow still manages to come together. I’m really glad nobody got killed off because it would be nice to see the family again at some point.

Other than that, and I hate to say it, but the movie is kind of a mess. A series of McGuffins stringing together a series of action set pieces, which is fine. But you know, we’re going to roll a car in this scene, so a couple of scenes later we’re going to roll a car and have it plunge down the steps of a subway. Action scene inflation.

And the climactic confrontation was so, so very dumb, it just pissed me off.

Spoilers Ahoy!

When Natasha confronts the big bad, Dreykov, the sadistic mastermind behind the Red Room training regime that produces unstoppable women assassins, she discovers she is physically unable to kill him – because of a “pheromone trigger.” The women are all conditioned so that smelling his pheromones makes them incapable of harming him.

Like…that isn’t how that works? That’s not how any of that works? But okay, I’ll give it to you if it goes someplace interesting.

Where it goes:  Turns out Natasha knew about this ahead of time and was told she needs to sever the nasal nerve so she can no longer smell him. So Natasha breaks her own nose, to sever the nerve I guess?

And I’m thinking…you could have just, like, shoved kleenex up your nostrils? Or, I don’t know, you’ve got these super high tech face masks that completely change your face, and tiny ear comms, and amazing weapons, and…maybe someone could have rigged up some kind of pheromone filter that fits in your nostrils? Or picked up high-grade filter breathers from Home Depot? Or shot Dreykov from the doorway before smelling him? But no. Natasha smashes her face into a desk to break her nose. And then fixes it herself later, which I guess unsevers the nerve? I dunno.

This is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in a Marvel movie. I’m embarrassed for whoever came up with this. It’s like the filmmakers went with their first idea and just didn’t think it through. At all.

And now, my deconstruction of this film’s take on kick-ass women.

Every single woman character in this film is a brainwashed/conditioned from childhood assassin. All of them. (With the possible exception of the post-credits scene, which I’m not actually counting, because I mean really.)

One of my least favorite tropes is the one that says that in order to be kick-ass and physically aggressive, a woman has to be traumatized. Every single woman in this film has been traumatized. There’s no alternative.

I mean, sure, it’s about empowerment. Natasha wants to destroy the Red Room to free all the abused women, her sisters-in-spirit. She wants them all to be able to make their own choices, to live the lives they want to live. She says this all the way through the movie.

So what do both Natasha and Yelena do with their freedom, what choices do they make once they’re free of the Red Room? They continue being murderous assassins.

Natasha’s distinctive black fighting togs, and her red Black Widow symbol that has been her own personal trademark as part of the Avengers, for the last decade? Turns out all the Red Room assassins wear similar black fighting suits, they’re all called widows, and they all use that symbol.

Natasha has been wearing the uniform and symbol of her oppressors all this time. Everything we thought was distinctly Natasha’s actually isn’t, it turns out.

I kept thinking about Wonder Woman, which also features a special cadre of amazing kick-ass women, but the difference in tones is…breathtaking. The Amazons of Wonder Woman are joyously empowered, celebrating their strength and abilities, in service to their own cause. And this film shows us other ways women can be brilliant and empowered, through Etta Candy and Dr. Poison.

In Black Widow, the cadre of kick-ass women is tragic, victimized, controlled, oppressed. And as much as I dearly love Natasha, her own tragic character arc raises the question of whether their liberation is even possible.

I wish someone behind this movie had thought some of these things through.

2 Responses to “Black Widow”

  1. Jennwynn Says:

    Loki???

  2. carriev Says:

    Haha, I haven’t said much about Loki, have I?


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