‘Black Widow’ Is a Regression for the MCU—Figuratively and Literally

The post-Endgame MCU landscape has been all about exploration, with the studio that’s become famous for their uniformity of quality and style attempting to find a way to keep viewers interested by breaking from that very style. It’s worked to varying degrees: WandaVision started strong before faltering, Falcon and the Winter Soldier failed miserably, and Loki has been interesting and (fingers crossed) might remain so. As such, it’s a bit odd to see Black Widow, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, revert to the same old Marvel style. It’s fine; with a mix of laughs, touching moments, and action. But it’s already been done, and now that we’ve seen Marvel toy with its format, it feels less like a continuation and more like a regression.

The movie is also a regression in an even more literal sense: taking us back in time to a pre-Avengers: Infinity War MCU, in which the Avengers are split and the titular Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), is on the run after getting on the wrong side of the world’s governments during the events of Captain America: Civil War. She finds a mysterious package of vials sent to her by her adopted sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), and discovers that the Soviet “Black Widow” program that kidnapped her as a child and turned her into an assassin was not destroyed but has gone even deeper underground. Romanoff and Belova team up with former Black Widow Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and the USSR’s Captain America, Red Guardian Alexei Shostakov (David Harbor), who had posed as their parents during an undercover mission in the 1980s, to take down the Black Widow program.

To Marvel’s credit: Big budgets get you great actors and actresses. The cast is phenomenal. The actors are wonderful individually and have great chemistry together, bringing to life an odd little dysfunctional family; Johansson and Pugh form the emotional heart of the film as comically bickering estranged sisters who reconnect.

But it’s all the same. Natasha and Yelena bicker and crack jokes like Tony Stark and Captain America, Gamora and Nebula, and almost every other Marvel property to precede them.

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