Despite the film’s theatrical fighting sequences, and exaggerated armor it gave to its non-superhuman heroes, the film did an excellent job in creating a warm dynamic between orchestrated sisters Yelena (Florence Pugh) and Marvel’s beloved Natasha (Scarlett Johansen). Florence Pugh can be given dark, twisted and uncomfortable horror like her work in Midsommar, and still rise triumphantly as her portrayal of Yelena, a ruthless angel of death whose comedic relief served as my favorite part of the film.
As Marvel necessitates the use of comedic dialogue and light-hearted banter to build character relationships, Black Widow used its dark and underdeveloped plot to strengthen the relationship between Yelena and Natasha as they trauma bond over their shared subjugation. This film helps audiences learn the sinister meaning behind being a black widow as “widows,” are trained assassins under the control of an ominous kingpin Dreykov (Ray Whinstone). Such a control includes forced hysterectomies, implanted trackers, and a mind-control substance that strips away any agency or autonomy. As runaway widows, Yelena and Natasha’s unresolved pain and estranged relationship forces them to take action and take down Dreykov while free all widows.
In the process, the film asks audiences to exceed the limit when suspending their disbelief. It is too much to ask audiences to believe that Natasha can survive a rollover collision and a 50 feet drop into dangerous waters with just a bloody nose. The film later shows Natasha and Yelena flip in a compact car as it is squished and set on fire colliding inside of a train station. Both women seemingly walk off with only a minor wound on Yelena’s right arm. As much as I love seeing Marvel push feminist themes into their films, having audiences suspend their disbelief when portraying the strength of their female characters feels counterproductive. Attributing armor and ridiculous superhuman strength to their heroes that have never been attributed to have these features creates plot holes and inconsistency within the franchise. However, they successfully portrayed feminine strength when portraying Yelena’s and Natasha’s ability to continue fighting for others despite the psychological warfare they endured. Marvel should steer clear from these exaggerated healing abilities from its human characters. If not, Marvel may find themselves more aligned with the ridiculous fighting sequences and plots found in the Fast and Furious franchise.
Lastly, Marvel’s underdeveloped plot only scratched the surface on the huge story it decided to take on. Most of the plot was not fleshed out for its eerie similarities that the Red Room had to human trafficking rings that plague the globe. Marvel created a villain that was not explored and failed to brush upon time gaps within Natasha’s background. It is frustrating to see Marvel use yet another female standalone film to fall flat with lazy storytelling. Although I was disappointed with the plot’s misdirection, I was thrilled to see Florence Pugh yet again, scene steal with every line she delivered. Whether it is her leading role, or supporting roles as Amy March in Little Women, it is clear to see Florence’s career is on the brink of its potential.