Marvel's Black Widow (2021) [Be warned, Open Spoilers after post 11]

Honestly, I thought Taskmaster was some sort of robot until the reveal.

Most fan speculation was on Rachel Weisz was Taskmaster, until Marvel released a shot of them both together.

Don’t forget that Yelena seems to have a Widow army at her disposal now. With a Task Master. Doesn’t seem all that second string to me.

I’ve seen remarks that the plot seemed similar to Winter Soldier, which is interesting.

My plot thoughts: Johannson was given more opportunity to act, which she did adequately, though she does best with someone to bounce off of like Pugh or Chris Evans. Pugh did steal the show.

Re: Red Guardian vs. Cap-there’s some MAYBE comic-book ways they could have met, or he could just be a little mad.

Melina’s turn to “caring” was a little too easy and inexplicable. Made me wonder if she was just using Natasha and the rest to clean up the Red Room (which was a goofy-looking place and a little underwhelming along with much of the plot).

Taskmaster was likewise underused-she could have been so fascinating as a bad guy and difficult obstacle instead of a minor enemy witch far too little screentime. I’d have liked to see her bust out some moves (perhaps picked up from the Wakandans) to fight back in a way that couldn’t be mimicked. I guess Tasky here can’t duplicate on the fly here the way he can in the comics (I think?).

All in all I give it a strong like, but not a love, and I think Pugh will fill the black boots admirably.

I think it was obvious Red Guardian never got anywhere near Captain America and was clearly telling a tall tale. The movie goes out of its way to say so.

Or he’s telling the truth, thanks to Cap’s stay with Peggy, but since that is not common knowledge - no one will believe him.

That shouldn’t be possible, given what we know about time travel in the MCU - changes to the past aren’t supposed to be able to change the present. So Cap’s travel to the past shouldn’t be able to retroactively have allowed Red Guardian to meet him in the '80s while Cap was still in ice in the “original” timeline.

On the other hand, pretty much no franchise handles time travel and time paradoxes particularly well, and the MCU has already been kind of inconsistent on how that all works, and I expect it will be consistently inconsistent going forward. Plus, time is more of a ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff, anyway.

All of that being said, the way Red Guardian reacts, by breaking the arm of the guy who points out Cap was still in ice in the '80s, plus his tone of voice, facial expression, body language, etc., seemed a lot more like a blowhard who’s angry about being called out on his BS than someone who’s used to not being believed. In fact, it seemed to me like he’s expecting everyone to go along with his story, and Random Challenger #23 is exceptional in actually contradicting him.

Maybe not so random

What we know is that Cap went back ‘in our timeline’ (the sacred one) and decided to have a life with Peggy and he did not come back thru the time portal.

This strongly implies that there was 2 Caps during the time period.

That being said

I agree with -

I just think it would be hilariously funny that Red Guardian was actually telling the truth - and its a hint (if so) that Cap wasn’t entirely retired during the timeframe.

Except, again, we know that time travel to the past can’t affect the present. But it does cause divergent timelines to split off. I think that more than implies the “Cap with Peggy” timeline is a divergent timeline - it strictly requires it.

Now, we have to deal with how time travel is handled in Loki [spoilered for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet]:

In Loki, we get the TVA “pruning” timelines that diverge from the “Sacred Timeline”, which does seem to imply that “Cap & Peggy” must be part of the “Sacred Timeline”. But, again, that contradicts all of the rules about time travel that Endgame establishes - indeed, it contradicts the rules of time travel in Loki, where time travel also causes divergences, not retcons (until the finale, anyway). There is a line of dialogue that the Time Heist is scripted into the Sacred Timeline. Honestly, I don’t think the writers themselves really have a solid grasp of how they think this all works. But the only self-consistent solution I can see is that Kang’s script allowed one divergent branch to exist, to allow Cap to grow old with Peggy and for Old Cap bring the shield to Sam, and bring his closure to his story. At that point, I presume the TVA pruned that branch. Maybe?

As you said -

I did like how they just slipped him in.

Having thought about the movie a bit, well, I think it’s a bit of a missed opportunity, even though it wasn’t really bad per se. I don’t know whether the producers or directors or writers should have been the ones to change it up, but the film needed to either makes Taskmaster a more central figure, or drop him/her* entirely. To clarify, the idea for the character is fine even with the so-called “twist”.** But the problem here is that even Black Widow only has an abstract emotional connection there so it doesn’t add much.

If they don’t want to use Taskmaster, that’s perfect - Ray Winstone’s Dreykov is a fine villain the audience will love to hate. With more time to slime it up he’d be a great addition. part of what makes him interesting is that he has more interesting schemes that just WORLD DOMINATION (dun Dun DUN!), and Black Widow gets a chance to completely dissect his ego in front of the audience. And from an action standpoint, he’s got a small army and a dozen super-spies at his command, and we get about one decent fight scene from it.

But, if they wanted to use Taskmaster, he/she/it needed a bigger screen presence. Frankly, putting a smooth-fighting villain up there who can pull out a mix of attacks and moves from all the Avengers is a fantastic idea. But in the movie almost nothing comes from it. I was rather hoping to have a big showdown with the leads battling it out to stop a foe who can copy their every move, but we don’t get much from it.

*Taskmaster is obviously played by a man. That is not the physique of Olga Kurlyenko and she looks visibly smaller than Andy Lister. Frankly, Lister should have been credited fully for the role since I think he’s on-screen much more than Kurlyenko, who I think give us five words and single menacing stare.

**I have no idea why this surprised anybody. I figured it out the moment they made Drakov’s Daughter a Significant Emotional Event for Romanov. It’s obvious emotional manipulation for cheap drama.

Well, as you point out right before that,

In addition, as I mentioned upthread, I personally was fooled by my own knowledge of the comic book source material. I “know” that Taskmaster is a man. As you point out, the physical actor is clearly a man. It never even occurred to me it was a woman. I thought that was a good misdirect for comics fans, but it was probably a lot less effective for folks that had no idea who Taskmaster was going in.

I agree with the rest of your post, though.

The only problem I had with the film was its release date. It would have been better to release it in the year it was set, before Infinity War. I was expecting a justification for it, some kind of set-up for the future MCU, but there wasn’t one. Post-credits notwithstanding. It wouldn’t have carried any weight on its shoulders and could just be a one-off with no baggage

I watched Black Widow last week but I wanted to think about if for a few days before posting. Having done so, I feel this has perhaps been the weakest movie in the MCU franchise, depending on how you rank them.

In my opinion, the action scenes didn’t work. There were too many of them and they weren’t all that well made. (Although the fact that they weren’t that well made may be why it seemed like there were too many of them.)

The theme was too heavy handed for me.

The character arcs were essentially non-existent. Dreykov was not some charismatic anti-hero like Loki or Killmonger or somebody who had a legitimate grievance like Ivan Vanko or Adrian Toomes; he was absolutely evil throughout the movie. The minions like Taskmaster, the other Widows, and those other people around the Red Room were interchangeable and anonymous. Alexei, Melina, and Yelena all changed sides so quickly and they reformed their family unit so easily, there was no real tension involved. Mason appears to have been brought in as a romantic interest. But then they forgot to have a romantic subplot.

In terms of the overall MCU timeline, it’s like the events of this movie never happened. This movie is set between Civil War and Infinity War but you wouldn’t know it; no mention of the events in this story were ever mentioned in Infinity War. And Natasha’s character didn’t change between those movies. It’s not like they were planting seeds for future character growth; we’ve already seen how the Natasha Romanoff ends. This story had no impact.

I remember how the vision scenes in Age of Ultron had no apparent purpose in the plot of that movie and a lot of people questioned why they were including in the movie. The explanation was that they were setting things up for future movies. In this case, that explanation appears to be the entire reason for the movie. The only purpose Black Widow appears to have served was to introduce Yelena so she can be brought in as the new Black Widow in some future movie. Natasha, the supposed protagonist, was essentially a supporting character in her own movie.

When I heard the early reports that Black Widow was going to be set in Natasha’s past, I had assumed that the movie would be about the events that led her to join SHIELD. Seeing her transform for an evil villain working for Dreykov into a SHIELD agent working for Fury (and seeking redemption for the crimes she has committed) could have been the basis for an interesting story. This movie was not that.

And this is what happens when you can only hire disgraced, unemployed or outright evil engineers to design your Secret Flying Fortress - one engine blows up and the whole thing fails. And fails SPECTACULARLY! How much gasoline are they storing unsecured around that place anyway? No one thinks to isolate important systems?

He’d have been better off with a submarine.

This movie is set between Civil War and Infinity War but you wouldn’t know it; no mention of the events in this story were ever mentioned in Infinity War

What about the jacket? This whole film was the back story of how Natasha got the jacket she wore in Infinity War.

That makes Black Widow the Solo of the MCU.

I didn’t remember she was wearing that jacket but I did think to myself “I guess she was wearing that in Infinity War; that’s why they kept mentioning it.” So we have a jacket no one remembers and Jack’s tattoos on Lost for list of origin stories no one asked for.