The blockbusters are back, sisters. Even better news: with Black Widow, superhero factory Marvel ventures into the territory of James Bond and Mission: Impossible and that turns out surprisingly well.
Who has not missed them? The films that are more funfair than art, approaching the gross national product of a poor country in terms of cost but which, if they are made well, turn the ugliest multiplex into the most enjoyable place on earth for two hours. Because of the pandemic, the big studios kept them under lock and key for months. Today, the biggest blockbuster champion of all is making a comeback: Marvel. Disney's lucrative superhero division made over twenty billion dollars by spinning out one story, the so-called Infinity Saga, over eleven years and twenty-three films. That unprecedentedly large-scale, lucrative and audacious undertaking, which peaked with the Avengers double-ticket Infinity War and Endgame, now continues: the so-called Phase Four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The first cinema film is Black Widow. Confusingly, it is an adventure set in the time before Endgame and responds to fans' almost decade-old plea to know more about one of the few female members of superhero club Avengers. Black Widow, or Natasha Romanoff, has no superpowers but was trained by the Soviets to be a deadly super spy. Film star Scarlett Johansson has been playing the character since 2010 and is now leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe with her first solo.
Black Widow somewhat bluntly presents Johansson's successor: Florence Pugh. The rising star of Midsommar and Little Women shines as Yelena, the younger sister estranged from Natasha and also mercilessly trained as a deadly spy.
Fortunately, you can certainly enjoy this blockbuster even if the entire Marvel mythology is all Greek to you. The direction was surprisingly entrusted to Cate Shortland, an Australian director who just under ten years ago delighted the world with Lore, an intimate arthouse gem about Nazi children on the run at the end of the Second World War. This time, too, Shortland does not miss an opportunity to insert moments of pure beauty, for instance with shots of her actresses against wonderful backdrops of dusk or dawn. In the second half, her film suffers from typical Marvel ailments such as a finale that is too loud and too long.
But the first hour surprises with action scenes that can stand comparison with those that made James Bond, Jason Bourne and Mission: Impossible beloved spy series. Hunted heroines crawling alive from an exploded sports car that came to a halt in a metro station. Stunt work in the skies. Escapes through factory chimneys. Motorbike rides through Budapest with no regard for the rules of the road. Beating each other half to death and then saving the world together. Who has not missed that?
US, dir.: Cate Shortland, act.: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz