Black Widow

Posted on July 5, 2021 at 4:44 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 Some Language|Intense Violence/Action|Thematic Material
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic book/action-style peril and violence, references to torture and abuse of children, characters are assassins, chases, explosions, guns
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: July 7, 2021

Copyright 2021 Marvel Studios
We’ve waited a long time to find out how Natasha became the Black Widow. While we got to know the male Avengers through individual origin stories about Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant-Man, and Spider-Man, Natasha was different. We first saw the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) tied to a chair looking very much the victim as she was confronted by some vetough and powerful-looking men. But we learn, as they do, that she is very much in control of the situation. We also learn that unlike the other Avengers, she has no special powers from a radioactive spider-bite or government potion, some fancy equipment, or being born a god. She has her wits and courage and some of what Liam Neeson might call a very special set of skills. Through the Avengers films we saw that she was the heart of the group, kind, empathetic, willing to sacrifice herself out of a sense of integrity and, perhaps, redemption.

We wanted to know more. But it took time to persuade Marvel Studios, and then, just as we were all ready to get Natasha a film of her own, its release was delayed in the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic, so it was not until now, a year later, that it is finally here. Even with all that has gone on, “Black Widow” quickly puts us back in the world of the Avengers. And, it continues Marvel’s cleverest strategy, allowing each character to inhabit a world that is distinctive in tone and atmosphere as it maintains a clear, strong central sense of its world.

Who could have guessed that we would find Natasha in 1995 Ohio? But that is where we start, a young girl with blue hair (Ever Anderson, a believable young Johansson) riding her bicycle home at dinner time. She greets her younger sister affectionately, and then, when the littler girl hurts her knee, their mother, like mothers since mothers began, kisses it to make it better. But this mother does something a little different. She tells her daughters that pain makes you stronger. And then what seems like a typical suburban family dinner turns out more than a little different. The father comes home and tells the family something they have clearly prepared for has happened and they have to leave right away. And they do leave, the house and the country, in an exciting, if improbably escape. We will soon learn that this may not meet any traditional definition of “family” at all. Indeed, questions about what is family and what we need from families is as central to this film as the chases, fights, exotic locations, and fight scenes.

We skip ahead 21 years from that wild escape. Natasha is living off the grid following the “divorce” of the Avengers. She is considered an enemy following the assassination of King T’Chaka of Wakanda in “Captain America: Civil War.” But a package from Yelena (Florence Pugh) brings her back into the fight. Starting with a fight with Yelena herself, one of the film’s highlights. The scenes with the two of them crackle and bolster hope that the rumors of a Yelena affiliation with the Avengers.

Director Cate Shortland balances the action scenes — a prison break is a highlight — with family moments that are sometimes very funny (wait for Yelena on The Pose, and David Harbour as Natasha’s closest equivalent to a “good father”) and sometimes touching (Rachel Weisz as the mother equivalent, a pig-experimenting scientist who takes time to add a dramatic smokey eye when she dons a jumpsuit for action).

And of course there is a powerful adversary with a high-tech lair and a private army that holds the key to Natasha’s persona. It tells you all you need to know that those scenes are fine, but will likely leave you waiting a little impatiently for the next moments with the family, reminding us again that family may be frustrating, may even be dysfunctional, but those we are born into and those we choose are still where home is.

Parents should know that as with all superhero movies, this included extended peril and action, which characters injured and killed. There is some strong language and references to forced sterilization.

Family discussion: Why did Natasha take a different path than other people around her? Is there a key to unlocking fear?

If you like this, try: the Avengers movies and some of Johansson’s other films like “Jojo Rabbit,” “Her,” and “Hail, Ceasar”

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Marvel/Disney — Where are the Natasha Dolls?

Posted on May 1, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Jenna Busch and the wonderful folks of Legion of Leia and Heroic Girls are asking an important question: #wheresnatasha?

Remember last year when the #WheresGamora hashtag called out the lack of Gamora toys in the Guardians of the Galaxy toy line? Well, it’s happening again. Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is a huge part of the Avengers team and one of the only women in the Marvel films. At the moment, she’s also the only female Avenger. With Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron coming out, you’d think we’d get to throw our money at them and walk home with a Black Widow toy. However, of the 60 products that Marvel and Disney have out for the film, only three feature Black Widow. Not exactly a great percentage. If you’re a Natasha fan, you can head to Target and purchase a tote bag, a men’s t-shirt and a figure that’s part of a LEGO set.

Dudes. Black Widow is awesome. She is every bit as much of a superhero as the other Avengers. Girls want to buy her. And guess what, boys do, too. What were they thinking?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjMdFf8vKqA
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The Avengers

Posted on May 2, 2012 at 1:00 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout and a mild drug reference
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Brief reference to "weed"
Violence/ Scariness: Constant comic-book style action violence and peril, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 4, 2012
Date Released to DVD: September 24, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B0083SBJXS

“The Dirty Dozen.” “The Bad News Bears.” “The A-Team.” “The Expendables.” Stories about a mixed group of badass tough guys who have trouble with authority but learn to work together are second only to stories about loners taking on The Man in their enduring popularity. Writer-director Joss Whedon, who revitalized science fiction and fantasy with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” makes “The Avengers” a smart, exciting, and engaging superhero story that deftly balances seven larger-than-life characters (some literally), their personal and inter-personal struggles and their interplanetary battles. The film does not take itself or its characters too seriously but it takes entertainment seriously, serving up plenty of popcorn pleasure.  There’s a light dusting of politics (secret WMDs) and character (sibling rivalry, making peace with oneself), and some humor pixie dust to break the tension and add sparkle, but this is about fighting the bad guys, and it does that very well.

There are two super-geniuses. The enormously wealthy businessman Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) gets his super-powers mechanically. Scientist/humanitarian Dr. Bruce Banner (newcomer Mark Ruffalo taking over from Eric Bana and Edward Norton) has somehow become credentialed as a medical doctor and is providing health care to the poor while trying to maintain his equilibrium to avoid turning into an enormous green rage monster. There’s a demi-god: the Norse deity Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who swings a mighty hammer. The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is a former Russian spy and assassin. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has super-archery skills, shooting a near-endless supply of high-tech arrows with a Swiss Army knife’s worth of super functions. Super-soldier Captain America (Chris Evans) is still adjusting to modern life after having been frozen for 70 years. For him, defeating the Nazis was just months ago and the discovery that the world is still so unsettled and violent is disturbing.  But he perks up at a flying monkey reference — that one he recognizes.  Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is the guy with the eye-patch from S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) who brings this group of “remarkable people” together, explaining that they might not be able to save the earth, but they can certainly avenge it. If they can stop fighting with each other in a sort of rock-scissors-paper that has them matching strengths and weaknesses to see whether an immortal deity outranks a guy in an iron suit that flies and which is stronger, the hammer of Asgard or a vibranium shield.

When Thor’s brother Loki (a nicely demented Tom Hiddleston, pale as a vampire) steals the tesseract (a glowing blue cube that has the kind of powers you don’t want in the hands of the wrong people), it is time for the Avengers to assemble. Only the most completist fanboys will think that they could not have cut out about 20-30 minutes of the opening sections of tracking everyone down and having them battle each other until they develop some respect and the ability to work together. Some of it is necessary as an introduction to everyone’s powers and vulnerabilities, but we all know they’re going to get on board, so it slows things down too much.  Do we really need the “This is not a drill” evacuation sequence?  And why must every summer action movie feature a black tie party with a string quartet?

Once everyone is on the team, though, things pick up nicely as Loki’s warriors with long, creepy teeth show up in Manhattan and there is plenty of battle to go around.  The bad guys bring all kinds of nasty stuff, including enormous sea-monster-type flying ships.  And we get to see each of the Avengers do what he or she does best as they struggle with their own issues to be the heroes the world needs them to be.  The Hulk is not the only one who has to make peace with his darker side.  “Aren’t the stars and stripes a little old-fashioned?” Captain America asks, wondering what his new uniform should look like?  “People might need a little old-fashioned,” says Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who proudly owns a near-mint (light foxing) set of Captain America trading cards.  The idea of heroes sometimes seem a little old-fashioned in these cynical and compromised days, and it is good to see a story that brings that idea back.

NOTE: Stay ALL the way through the credits.  It will be worth it.

DVD/Blu-Ray: There are some lovely extras including commentary by writer-director Joss Whedon, a gag real, and behind the scenes features.

Parents should know that this film has constant comic-book peril and violence, chases, explosions, characters injured and killed, and a brief joke about “weed.”

Family discussion: Why was it so hard for the Avengers to learn to work together?  What was the most important thing they had in common?

If you like this, try: “Iron Man,” “Thor,” “Captain America,” the X-Men movies and the original comic books

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