David James’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review will take the form of scattered thoughts I remember having while watching. Suffice it to say that I think it's a fun entry in the MCU, kinda refreshing in its relatively lower stakes and (mostly) closed-ended story, made me laugh several times, and offers a great sendoff for Scarlett Johansson's marvel character even if it comes a few years too late.
- wow these Stranger Things vibes going on in the intro scene set in the early 1990s
- I can't imagine why they picked this sadgirl cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the credits, aside the fact that the original song helps cement the time period. Maybe it's a meta knock on the ossifying MCU formula this late in the game: "here we are now, entertain us!" Probably not, but a man can dream
- speaking of Stranger Things, Russian Jim Hopper has “KARL” and “MARX” tattooed on his knuckles and it rocks. He's super fun despite the accent, especially his flustered face when reconnecting with Johansson and Pugh
- the fights seem to have a lot of that John Wick ragdoll verve to them, bodies clanging and banging around the scenery, with our heroes receiving it at least somewhat in proportion to how much they dish it out. there's still a vast gap between this and actual Wick action, but it helped raise the stakes for a group of superheroes with basically no superpowers fighting regular dudes
- speaking of what makes the regular-human bad guy cool: FLYING CASTLE IRL action going on here!! It's shallow and silly but I genuinely enjoyed the fact that the bad guy's lair was a literal flying fortress hidden in the clouds. So impractical, such cold war era aesthetics, it was awesome. I wish they leaned harder into this 80s cartoon aspect of the production.
- the Russian accents are hilariously bad, like why bother? or are they actually doing some sort of meta commentary on how these stratospheric blockbuster productions flatten culture while trying to appeal to audiences everywhere? again, I wish so!
- Florence Pugh rocks, and I don't even care how blatant of an ad for her future career as a Black Widow surrogate in the MCU this movie was. I'm going to watch them lol
- Olga Kurylenko was underused, holy cow. She's not an amazing actor or anything but jeez, what a tease
- it's weird seeing Rachel Weisz with the de-aging technology looking roughly as she did when I first caught her on screen in the early 00s. Somehow both more realistic in that my brain doesn't reject the younger image so instantly, but also uncanny since I've watched her age over the past two decades and I know The Fountain wasn't made yesterday.
- my favorite thing about Black Widow is that has actual themes, with a bad guy who comes across like some weapons magnate crossed with Harvey Weinstein, obsessed with controlling the bodily autonomy of an army of brainwashed women for his... I guess just general capitalist goals? Dude just wants to be the most profitable player in his market, offer his weapons to the highest bidder, make some money. Who cares what it costs to these women? It's obviously nothing deep nor does the movie foreground this stuff in the final act when there's kung fu and explosions to be had. But even just centering its plot on an actual theme puts it above a lot of visually pretty but empty comic extravaganzas.
Overall I thought this was good enough that I wished it came out in 2017 or so, when it takes place in the timeline. I feel like the ending would have more interesting stakes, and the whole thing would have just made more sense. Sure, it wouldn't get to have that post-credits stinger, but IMO that'd be a good thing. These movies work better when they function better as singular experiences. They're more like movies when they work this way, rather than 2+ hour TV episodes that many of the MCU entries felt like after awhile.