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Blu-ray Review: Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW

Sep 13 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

In 1995, a young Natasha Romanoff was part of a small team of Russian agents posing as an average American family in suburban Ohio. Pretending to be her and her sister Yolena’s parents were super soldier Alexei (David Harbour) aka Red Guardian and black widow Melina (Rachel Weisz). However, after their-three year mission is complete, the “family” is separated, and as a “thank you” for their work, General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) sends Natasha and Yolena off to the Red Room to train as widows, and Alexei is locked away in a Russian prison.

Years later, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) got her revenge, bombing Dreykov’s office as part of her defection to S.H.I.E.L.D.. While she believed she had eliminated Dreykov in that blast, it turns out that he survived, and continued to run his Red Room, training the next generation of young female assassins while staying under the radar of the Avengers. In order to keep his new widows from following in Natasha’s footsteps, Dreykov had developed a mind control serum, and one of his chemically subjugated agents is Natasha’s younger sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh). But when she is accidentally exposed to an antidote, Yolena’s eyes are opened to the truth, and she seeks out Natasha, hoping that she can use her superhero connections to take down the Red Room once and for all. However Natasha is currently on the run herself, being pursued by Secretary Ross (William Hurt) for violating the Sokovia Accords. The two sisters, who haven’t seen each other in over 20 years, must team up with the “parents” they never really knew in order to locate the Red Room and take down Dreykov for good. But Dreykov has another deadly weapon at his disposal, a Terminator-like assassin known as The Taskmaster—a soldier that can mimic its adversary’s every move, and will stop at nothing to get the antidote back.

Black Widow is a somewhat stand-alone film, set between the events of Captain America: The Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. While folks who have seen the full MCU lineup will certainly get more out of this film, the movie can still be fully enjoyed on its own without any prior knowledge of Natasha and her exploits. Her family is brand new to this film anyway. Black Widow strikes an excellent balance between character drama, humor, and big action-packed sequences throughout the movie, making it a really enjoyable, fun ride. In the first act of the film, the viewer is given a glimpse at Natasha’s seemingly normal childhood before the Red Room. However, it is quickly revealed that this family is anything but normal, and the emotional story of this family unit coming to an end is balanced with some tense and exciting action that demonstrates that young Natasha’s training has already begun. The film then jumps ahead 20 years, after Natasha is already part of the Avengers and on the run. It’s now time for a fun, dysfunctional family reunion as this fake family comes back together to take down the villain, but first a hilarious family dinner. Even though they were only a fake family unit for three years, there is still some sense of love and family that exists between them, and the film does an excellent job of exploring this, adding a lot of heart and humor into their exciting and explosive mission. This family is like a dysfunctional version of The Incredibles.

In addition to amazing and exciting action sequences, hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, and interesting character development and backstory, Black Widow also manages to provide a compelling underlying story/mission that never feels forced or shoe-horned in.

We’ve already seen what Scarlett Johansson can do in the MCU when it comes to Natasha, climbing and jumping off of buildings, fighting her way through mobs of enemies, and striking her signature action poses, but here she also gets to explore more of her character’s “family” life, and even poking some fun at herself in the process. Florence Pugh is a pure delight and an excellent addition to the MCU—she really stole every scene she’s in. Yelena has no filter and says whatever is on her mind, which leads to some hilarious, sarcastic comments, especially when she’s calling Natasha out for being a “poser”. There is such great chemistry between Pugh and Johansson—it’s a shame that this is just a one-off movie. David Harbour also brings a lot of humor to his performance as this former Russian superhero who’s now out of shape but still living like he’s in his glory days, bragging about how he could easily take down Captain America. At the same time, there’s also a lot of heart to this character. You can tell that even though they only spent three years together, Alexei still feels like this fake family is real.

Disney’s Blu-ray release features a solid presentation. The picture looks clean and pristine throughout, with an excellent color palette and some breathtaking moments. The level of detail is generally quite good, and even though the picture is really satisfying overall, faces generally looked a bit flat. There were only a few scenes where the level of detail was such that you could make out pores. The audio track provides clear dialogue throughout, and makes excellent use of the stereo and surround channels to provide a fully immersive experience. There is a nice general ambiance throughout, and the viewer is put right in the middle of all the action, explosions, etc. The bonus material consists of 14 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a 3-minute gag reel, a short introduction to the film by the director, and 14 minutes of deleted/extended scenes. The Blu-ray disc comes packed in a red HD keepcase without a slipcover, and includes a sheet with redemption instructions for an HD Movies Anywhere compatible digital copy of the film/bonus material.



What’s Included:

Film: (2:13:46)

Blu-ray:

  • 1080p / Widescreen 2.39:1
  • Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Digital (code subject to expiration):

  • Movies Anywhere-Compatible HD Digital Copy

Extras:

  • Filmmaker Introduction (:57)
    Director Cate Shortland provides an optional introduction before the movie, discussing her overall vision for the film.
  • Sisters Gonna Work It Out (5:24)
    The cast and crew discuss the role of family in the film, the relationship between Natasha and Yelena, working with Scarlett & Florence, the physical training for the fight scenes, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with executive producers Brad Winderbaum & Victoria Alonso, director Cate Shortland, co-producer Brian Chapek, production & development manager Kyana Fazeli, writer Eric Pearson, fight coordinator James Young, and stars Scarlett Johansson (“Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow”), Florence Pugh (“Yelena”) & Rachel Weisz (“Melina”).
  • Go Big If You’re Going Home (8:50)
    In this making of featurette, the cast and crew discuss how the film delves deeper into the backstory of Natasha, the filming locations and sets, balancing the practical and digital effects, the stunts and fight sequences, making a female-centric action film, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director Cate Shortland, writer Eric Pearson, production designer Charles Wood, set decorator John Bush, co-producer Brian Chapek, visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Baumann, visual effects producer Lisa Marra, fight coordinator James Young, executive producers Brad Winderbaum & Victoria Alonso, stunt coordinator Rob Inch, and stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour (“Alexei / Red Guardian”) & Rachel Weisz.
  • Gag Reel (2:54)
    The cast and crew have fun on set, flub their lines, crack up, deal with a scene-stealing pig, and more.
  • Deleted Scenes (14:11)
    While the menu says “deleted” scenes, these felt more like small extensions to or alternate versions of existing scenes already in the film. Collection of 9 scenes. Play All, or select from:

    • Grocery Shopping (1:12)
      Natasha heads into a grocery store in Norway where she hears her and Steve Rogers’ names on the radio. After a long, winding drive, she arrives at her destination…an abandoned trailer in the middle of nowhere.
    • Bike Chase (:43)
      Natasha and Yelena speed through the city on their motorbike, pursued by assassins trying to kill them.
    • Gulag Fight (1:26)
      Alexei fights some fellow prisoners & guards in the courtyard as Natasha and Yelena watch from a helicopter above, before heading down to lend a hand.
    • Smile (1:39)
      The General activates the Taskmaster protocol, sending his soldier on a mission.
    • Come After Me (1:20)
      Secretary Ross and Mason discover a GPS unit and note Natasha left behind at a fast food restaurant.
    • Walk and Talk (1:49)
      A playful discussion between Alexei and Melina is interrupted by the arrival of The Taskmaster.
    • Widows in Training (3:19)
      Yelena awakens strapped to a table, while Alexei finds himself locked in a cell. Meanwhile, Melina roams the compound as the widows train.
    • Kiss (1:25)
      In the battle aftermath, Natasha grieves over a loss, while Alexei and Melina reunite with a kiss.
    • Ohio (1:16)
      Natasha rides her motorbike through a suburban neighborhood, watching children getting to have fun and behave like children. (This scene mirrors the opening scene of the film.)

 


Final Thoughts:

My Rating
Film:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:
Recommended

Black Widow is a thoroughly-entertaining addition to the MCU. It combines an excellent blend of action, humor and drama with an interesting story that fits seamlessly into the established timeline, while also expanding upon Natasha’s backstory. Scarlett Johansson is great in this role as usual, but Florence Pugh and David Harbour often steal the scenes with their hilarious moments, in addition to some exciting fight sequences. Disney’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great, and includes a small but entertaining assortment of bonus material. Highly recommended for any fan of the MCU, or anyone looking for a fun action film.





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