Black Widow: The perfect feminism we need right now

Black Widow
(Scarlett Johansson wins)

Warning: Spoilers Black Widow is the perfect amount of feminism we need right now. The movie is almost exclusively female-driven, with only three male characters, two total goofballs, and the other, the evil villain.

The Marvel movie begins with a young Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) in deep cover with three other operatives in Ohio in 1995 pretending to be an average American family. Milla Jovovich’s daughter, Ever Gabo Anderson plays young Natasha with Violet McGraw as her younger sister, Rachel Weisz as the mom, and Stranger Things’ David Harbour as the dad, who also happens to be the super-soldier known as Red Guardian.

Just as they sit down for dinner, Dad comes in and breaks the news to mom that they need to evacuate and return “home.

After an impressive sequence of events, the operatives return to communist land and are all reassigned. The “sisters” are physically and emotionally separated and each goes on to live their own separate lives.

Twenty years later, the younger sister is all grown up and is a “Widow” herself, working with an elite group of female assassins all working together to track down a defected “Widow” and take possession of a case she has.

Natasha’s “sister” Yelena (Florence Pugh) breaks from the group to apprehend the defector on foot and manages to overpower her just before she is exposed to the contents of one of the vials in the case which is an antidote to the mind control she has been subjected to for most of her life.

In the meantime, Natasha is running from Secretary Ross (William Hurt) after the events that transpired in Captain America: Civil War and is attempting to live a quiet life in Norway with the help of her fixit dude, Mason (Handmaid Tale’s O-T Fagbenle), who has procured her a quiet, off-grid camper and brought her all of her personal belongings from Budapest. 

Unbeknownst to Natasha, her “personal belongings” from Budapest include the case carrying the vials of mind control antidote her deep cover sister sent to her so she could pass it along to the Avengers and free the remaining “Widows” who are still under Dreykov’s (Ray Winstone) mind control, not knowing that the Avengers are dealing with their own drama and more than half of them are under arrest and/or already in prison.

While driving into town, Natasha finds herself under attack by Taskmasker, an incredible mercenary with the amazing ability to mimic “his” opponent’s physical abilities and powers.

Natasha assumes Taskmaster is there for her, sent by Ross, but quickly realizes the mercenary is there for a case she was carrying into town to dispose of and quickly tricks Taskmaster for just enough time to remove the contents of the case before she is thrown off the bridge where they were battling. 

When she finally takes account of what’s in the case, she realizes it was sent by her deep cover sister Yelena and decides to go back to Budapest to track her down and find out what she’s supposed to do with these vials.

The reunion between the sisters almost immediately erupts into violence as neither can discern if they can trust the other. They are very quickly interrupted by a swarm of “Widows” who will stop at nothing to get those vials.

Natasha is shocked and disillusioned to discover that the Black Widow program at “Red Room” is still operating after she believed she assassinated Dreykov. After an incredible fight and chase sequence, the two decide to work together to dismantle Red Room, the Widow program, and murder Dreykov and they decide to enlist the help of their deep cover parents to do so. 

The movie is very consistent with all the other MCU films in both action, as well as special effects. While it almost borders on misandry, the goofball Red Guardian is lovable and provides much-needed comic relief. Florence Pugh’s performance dominates the entire movie and Rachel Weisz reminds her fans of why we love her so much. 

While Cate Shortland directs, our eye level is directed towards Scarlett Johansson’s perfect tush in a few too many shots and it’s a little weird that both Scarlett Johansson’s and Rachel Weisz’s costumes were skin-tight while Florence Pugh’s gave her plenty of room for breathing and movement. While the film had a real human trafficking vibe to it, no character seemed over-sexualized. 

There was one specific conversation that occurred between Red Guardian, Natasha, and Yelena that seemed to right a wrong committed by the disgraced Joss Whedon

In Age of Ultron Whedon reduced the highly trained spy, martial arts expert, and assassin to a receptacle for the Hulk’s “zucchini.” He also had the assassin who has killed countless individuals and disrupted countless lives, to call herself a “monster,” not because of all the lives she has ended, but because she had a forced hysterectomy, much to the shock and horror of literally every person with a uterus who watched the film. 

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In Black Widow, Red Guardian jokingly asks Yelena if she’s on her period because she was being snippy with him. She went into relatively graphic detail about how she can’t have a period because she doesn’t have a uterus. No one referred to themselves as a “monster” and instead of making the Widows victims, Yelena’s choice of language made them out to be survivors. 

Black Widow also alluded to the 2012 Avengers. In that film, Natasha was introduced while she appeared to be a prisoner, receiving a phone call asking her to come in, to which she replies that she is almost finished with her interrogation and then quickly thanks her “captor” for his cooperation just before she takes control of the situation.

A very similar sequence of events occurs in Black Widow when it seems like she has been defeated, she was, in fact, the one who was in control the whole time. 

There is a bit of a weird plot hole. In End Game Clint (Jeremy Renner) and Natasha physically fight, to the death, no less, about who should be the one to die in Vormir so they can retrieve the Soul Stone. Natasha tells Clint that she has to be the one who dies because he has a whole family to live for, but at the end of Black Widow, she says that she has two families and even in the post-credit scene her headstone says, “Sister, Daughter, Avenger,” which would mean that she is, in fact, missed by her families.

It just seems really inconsistent to be so vehement about NOT having anyone that she pushed herself off a cliff to save billions of lives when just a few years prior she was saying she had TWO families.

(David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh, Scarlett Johannson)

On the subject of the post-credit scene, it’s fair to assume that Yelena will be a fixture in Marvel’s Phase 4 now that we have been shown she is working with Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who was introduced at the end of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier when she recruited the imposter Captain America as U.S. Agent. We can’t wait to see when and how de Fontaine will be revealed as Madame Hydra! 

Black Widow is now playing in theaters worldwide and on Disney+ with Premier Access where available.

Rating: Marvel’s Black Widow is a REEL SEE


Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.