"Snake Eyes" stars Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Iko Uwais, Úrsula Corberó, and Samara Weaving. Released on July 23, 2021, the film depicts the origin story of Snake Eyes.
The film is directed by Robert Schwentke, who also directed films such as "Flightplan", "The Time Traveler's Wife", "Red", and "R.I.P.D.". It is the third installment in the "G.I. Joe" film series, which is based on a series of toys and comics of the same name by Hasbro. There are three things that came to my mind whenever someone brought up the Hasbro brand: Transformers, My Little Pony, and G.I. Joe. Even though I'm more familiar with the former two than the military-focused franchise, there's no doubt that I'm more than willing to see the G.I. Joe come to life on the big screen and this latest action film I'm looking at this weekend is no exception. The G.I. Joe made their big-screen debut in 2009's "The Rise of Cobra", which turned out to be a live-action Saturday morning cartoon that's a bit too cartoony and CGI-heavy for its own good. It was then followed by 2013's "Retaliation", with Dwayne Johnson leading the crew. Despite the negative reviews from critics, these two movies managed to become box office hits, although they're not as successful as the "Transformers" films. Less than a decade later, Paramount and Hasbro decided to take the "Bumblebee" route and reboot the franchise with an origin story of one of the team's members; One that is both silent and deadly. "Bumblebee" served as a great reintroduction/spin-off of the live-action "Transformers" film series, so I was inquisitive to see if this spin-off/reboot would do the same to the "G.I. Joe" brand. With that in mind, let's see if this origin story can slice and dice its way to greatness.
The story chronicles the early days of Snake Eyes (Goulding), a lone fighter with a mysterious past who roams around the country and attempting to make an honest living. One day, after saving the life of Tommy Arashikage (Koji), an heir of an ancient ninja clan, Snake Eyes is recruited into and trained by the organization known as the Arashikage. During his training, he finds his beliefs tested when the secrets of his past start revealing before his eyes. Snake Eyes then begins his journey to outsmart his enemies, including an elite terrorist operative called the Baroness (Corberó), and become the hero we know and love. As mentioned earlier, the film serves as a new starting point for the "G.I. Joe" film series with a new diverse cast and plenty of ninjas. That's right. There's no Channing Tatum, no Dwayne Johnson, and especially no Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander. There's only Henry Golding from "Crazy Rich Asians" and some suitable doses of Japanese culture. Oh, and a few references to the G.I. Joe and Cobra organizations, just to let its audience know that it's a G.I. Joe movie. However, even with those helpful elements, the film couldn't acquire the proper skills to restart the franchise with a bang. There's nothing too special about "Snake Eyes" that makes this a must-see event for G.I. Joe fans, but I will also admit that it's enjoyable enough to warrant the big-screen treatment. To the film's credit, it did manage to improve upon the previous "G.I. Joe" films by balancing the action set pieces with an effortful storyline. Rather than showcasing the razzle-dazzle of its big-budget explosions, shootouts, and CGI, "Snake Eyes" offered a character-driven plot that's part revenge story and part ninja film. While the effort for the story and the characters was there, it was sadly bogged down by its genre cliches, the lack of solid character moments, and some mundane pacing. It's a lot less idiotic than "The Rise of Cobra" for sure, but it's also far from a good "G.I. Joe" adventure. One of the things that were able to make its flawed story entertaining for me was its cast. Henry Golding was challenged to showcase himself as a reliable action star and deliver his own representation of Snake Eyes, who Ray Park played in the previous installments. For the most part, Golding managed to conquer that challenge by effectively manifesting the character who's driven by revenge. He was also not afraid to provide some small bits of humor without losing his character's edge. Since Snake Eyes is known for being the silent type, it does feel odd hearing the character speak louder than his actions. Fortunately, the presence of Golding and its plot managed to make this little detail work. Thankfully, it's not as painfully embarrassing as Snake Eyes's mask in "Rise of Cobra". Andrew Koji was also respectable in his role as Tommy, also known as Storm Shadow, and Samara Weaving proved to be a decent addition to the cast as Scarlett. The action sequences were also pretty entertaining, primarily because they're not as overabundant or headache-inducing as the other G.I. Joe films. They're more reliant on sword fights, hand-to-hand combat, and gunfights rather than massive explosions and CGI effects. What kept them from being memorable was not just the direction provided but also the film's poor use of shaky cam. The shaky camera work and editing were highly irritating during the first couple of fight scenes, but they happen to be a bit better as the film went on, but not by much. The people in Hollywood should've known by now that shaky-cam does not always make the action scenes better.
Overall, "Snake Eyes" showcases a noticeable step in the right direction regarding the "G.I. Joe" brand. But it also served as a run-of-the-mill origin story that's not as silent and deadly as its titular hero. It failed to reach the same heights as "Bumblebee", another origin story/solo film based on the Hasbro toy line. Yet, it has enough entertainment value in its action and Golding's performance to please a good amount of G.I. Joe followers and casual viewers. There's a solid installment hidden in its shadow based on the direction it went. It just wasn't able to come out of it. If they manage to continue the franchise with this direction, I think there's a good chance they'll find a good G.I. Joe film sooner rather than later.
"Space Jam: A New Legacy" stars LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green, Cedric Joe, Khris Davis, Jeff Bergman, Eric Bauza, and Zendaya. Released on July 16, 2021, the film is about a basketball player who teams up with the Looney Tunes to rescue his son.
The film was directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who also directed films such as "The Best Man", "Undercover Brother", "Barbershop: The Next Cut", and "Girls Trip". It is a standalone sequel to the 1996 film "Space Jam". The 1990s was a pretty exciting decade that's filled with many memorable events. The World Wide Web became hugely popular, kids were into all things radical, and a sheep was cloned. But there is one 90s element that stood out above the rest. One that genuinely defines the people that were born from that decade, including me. That, my friends, is Michael Jordan playing basketball with the Looney Tunes. "Space Jam" was the type of film that seemed ridiculously bizarre on paper but wound up being something special when it was released upon the world 25 years ago. With its good old-fashioned Looney Tunes charm and impressive blend of live-action and animation, the film became a cult hit for basketball lovers and fans of the classic cartoons alike. It's not an Oscar-winning film by any means, but it did show that some crazy ideas can reward you with success. After the success of "Space Jam", several sequel plans were planned out that would've seen the return of Jordan and starred the likes of Jackie Chan, Tiger Woods, and even Tony Hawk, but all of them were scrapped due to the lack of Jordan and the poor box office performance of "Looney Tunes: Back in Action". Many years later, Warner Brothers put the sequel back on track. This time, with Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James as its primary lead. There were multiple reasons why I was looking forward to this latest sequel. I grew up watching "Space Jam" and the Looney Tunes, and I was interested in the concept it introduced in the trailers, which had the same vibe as Steven Spielberg's "Ready Player One". Not to mention the involvement of director Malcolm D. Lee and producer Ryan Coogler from "Black Panther" fame. If those reasons aren't enough to sell me and its target audience, I don't know what will. Now that it's here, does it serve as a welcoming big-screen return for the wacky characters, or are we better off watching regular basketball instead? Let's head down to the court and find out.
Like its predecessor, which centered on a fictionalized version of Michael Jordan, the story in "A New Legacy" focuses on the film version of LeBron James. The plot follows him as a global basketball icon who attempts to convince his youngest son Dom (Joe) to follow in his footsteps. However, Dom only wants to be a video game designer instead. During a father/son trip at the Warner Brothers studio, LeBron and Dom get themselves sucked into a virtual space world known as the Warner 3000 Server-Verse, where each world houses a major Warner Brothers property. LeBron later encounters the tyrannical leader of the cyber world named Al-G Rhythm (Cheadle), who's holding Dom hostage. To rescue his son and return home, LeBron will have to reunite the Looney Tunes, including Bugs Bunny (Bergman) and Lola Bunny (Zendaya), and win a basketball match set by Al-G Rhythm. While the plot is undoubtedly similar to its predecessor, which involves playing basketball with the Looney Tunes, "A New Legacy" introduced plenty of new elements to make it more fresh and exciting for a new generation of fans, most notably the film's setting. Instead of having the basketball action take place in an underground cartoon world like the first film, the sequel took it a step further by placing it in a huge universe inside a computer. It makes me wonder why they didn't call the film "Cyberspace Jam" instead. In my personal opinion, I enjoyed this new setting more than the original because it allowed the film to have fun with the studio's properties and how the characters interact with them, most notably LeBron and the Looney Tunes. Although, it does appear that it's nothing but Warner Brothers constantly saying, "Look at all of the wonderful stuff we owned that you can watch on HBO Max!". Looney Tunes, DC, Game of Thrones, even the flipping Iron Giant! You name it. This film has it. In other words, it's one big advertisement for the streaming service with a father/son storyline stuck in the middle of it. It's the type of universe that I honestly wouldn't mind revisiting via a series of shorts. Putting the setting aside for a bit, how do I feel about the story? Well, I can tell you one thing: the narrative in "A New Legacy" was a bit better regarding its structure. The filmmakers made some effort to make it more than just a full-length commercial of James's popularity and the studio behind the film. However, that doesn't make it a better movie (or sequel, in this case) by default. Like the first film, the story in "A New Legacy" is strictly cliched and featured plenty of moments that were either corny, surreally random, or even both. So if you don't like "Space Jam" because of that, then there's no way you're going to like what the sequel had to offer. There were also some pacing issues that didn't give me enough time to be engaged in the characters' relationships, primarily LeBron and Dom. Since the film is surprisingly longer than the original, that deserves a technical foul. Despite those setbacks, it still maintained the goofy charm and entertaining sports action that made "Space Jam" a hit in the first place. Sure, it's mid-tier family fluff, but it's an enjoyable mid-tier family fluff that's filled with flashy visuals and plenty of blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos. While the plot missed a few three-pointers, it did deliver a very relatable message about the importance of being yourself and allowing others to do the same. It's always crucial to do what you love doing the most in your life and, more importantly, have fun doing it, which played a crucial role in LeBron's journey. It's something that I think should be taught repeatedly to kids so they can find the confidence in themselves to feel the same way, whether a film is great or not. The cast themselves were passable for the most part due to their noticeable efforts in making the film entertaining. LeBron James got a chance to shine in the main lead for the first time after playing supporting roles in "Trainwreck" and "Smallfoot", another film from Warner Animation Group. Unfortunately, much like Michael Jordan in the first film, his acting abilities weren't as memorable as his skills on the court. He was respectable to watch, but there were many moments where his performance as himself came off as bland and unenthusiastic. I would still give the guy credit for making himself known outside of his basketball career, even though his efforts don't go the way he expected. I would also cut him some slack because I understand that he can't be good at everything besides basketball, not even acting. The rest of the cast happened to be a bit better than James, especially Don Cheadle as Al-G Rhythm. Cheadle was one of the best parts of the film, in my opinion, because of the energetic and charming appeal he brought to the antagonist, who will stop at nothing to earn respect. Zendaya also did well as the voice of Lola Bunny, who was previously voiced by Kath Soucie in the original. She was able to bring plenty of spunk to a Looney Tunes character who's not afraid to play with the big boys. As for the voice cast for the other Looney Tunes characters, ranging from Jeff Bergman as Bugs to Gabriel Iglesias as Speedy Gonzales, they're unsurprisingly delightful from start to finish. It's what I expected from those charismatic Tunes, and I was not disappointed. The animation and visual effects were also pretty solid, primarily for the Server-Verse and the video-game-like basketball match in its third act. The 2D animation in Tune World and DC World were eye-catching and vibrant, and the CGI effects were suitably imaginative, albeit a tad overabundant for the senses. Even the 3D designs for the Tunes and the Goon Squad, the film's new opposing team, were quite impressive. The film's brand of humor was unapologetically quirky, random, and at times self-referential. Because of that, it was able to be just as fun and hilarious as its bizarre concept. Some jokes may not be slam dunks, but they worked well enough to provide some harmless laughs.
Overall, "Space Jam: A New Legacy" delivers plenty of entertainment values to keep the crowd cheering, but despite its noticeable efforts, it failed to live up to its intended legacy. Like its predecessor, the film embraced its energetic silliness to carry its flawed story to victory. Although, it can also prove to be a product-heavy headache for those who didn't want the sequel in the first place. The supporting cast, visuals, and humor have enough charm and giggles to please a new generation of Looney Tunes fans, young and old. However, its corny by-the-numbers screenplay, inconsistent pacing, and LeBron James's so-so performance prevented this family-friendly follow-up from being a perfect big-screen comeback for the beloved cartoon characters. As expected, it's not an award-winning masterpiece like "Casablanca", but it's also not as terrible as some critics make it out to be. It's another film that's only made for entertaining its audience and nothing else. If you enjoy the Looney Tunes and liked "Space Jam" for what it was, you might get some enjoyment out of "A New Legacy". Otherwise, you're better off playing basketball in real life.
"Escape Room: Tournament of Champions" stars Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, Carlito Olivero, and Isabelle Fuhrman. Released on July 16, 2021, the film has Zoey Davis competing in another series of deadly escape rooms.
The film is directed by Adam Robitel, who also directed "The Taking of Deborah Logan" and "Insidious: The Last Key". It is a sequel to the 2019 film "Escape Room", which was also directed by Robitel. We may have escaped the torture, but the games are just beginning. The first weekend of 2019 saw the release of one of the very few horror films that I admittedly enjoyed. While far from a masterpiece, the film delivered plenty of frights and tension in its atmosphere and death traps to entertain any fan of the genre. With its successful box office run and cliffhanger ending, it's no surprise that we're getting another chance to survive the deadliest escape rooms known to man. Since I enjoyed its predecessor, I had no problem seeing what happens next to the remaining survivors. Was it as appropriately dangerous as the escape rooms it offered or was it another unnecessary horror sequel that's only made for money? Let's find out.
The film takes place after the events of "Escape Room". Zoey Davis (Russell) and Ben Miller (Miller) are the last two survivors of a series of dangerous escape rooms designed by the Minos Escape Rooms Corporation. They're determined to find the ruthless organization in New York City and take it down for good. During their journey, Zoey and Ben become trapped in another set of escape rooms, with each one being deadlier than the last. They must join forces with the other survivors to solve the riddles, escape with their lives, and bring Minos to justice. If you're new to these movies, the best way I can describe them effectively is that they're PG-13 rated versions of "Saw" minus the gore. So there's a good chance that you can stomach your way past those dangerous traps instead of the ones by Jigsaw. What I liked about its predecessor was its use of tension, its entertainment values, and the concept. "Escape Room" provided a horror twist to the purpose of the escape rooms. Rooms that force people to solve puzzles within the time limit to advance. Adding the life-or-death scenario to these puzzles made the rooms more challenging, more stressful, and even more hazardous than the plain ones. As I mentioned before, the execution of this concept wasn't perfect, but it was a solid, tension-filled ride regardless of its flaws. Unsurprisingly for me, the same can be said for "Tournament of Champions", a decent follow-up that maintained the original's strengths but also retained some of its weaknesses. One of those strengths, in particular, was Adam Robitel's direction. While the escape rooms in the sequel didn't improve the stakes from the original, Robitel managed to consistently blend the psychological atmosphere of those rooms with the suspense and mystery aspects. He provided a good amount of anxiety and urgency in the death traps and the characters themselves to make the audience feel like they're in those situations as well. The cast also did their part to follow suit with the film's tension thanks to their tolerable performances. Taylor Russell and Logan Miller were the only members to reprise their roles from the first film since they're the only ones who survived the last game. They're both respectable as usual in their roles as Zoey and Ben, respectively. The new supporting cast was also decent as the new survivors, but they're not worth remembering that much like the ones in the first film. As for the weaknesses it had, they're a tad less forgiving than the ones in its predecessor. Despite a couple of differences, "Tournament of Champions" is a carbon copy of the first film, so if you've seen "Escape Room", you've practically seen the sequel. The story was tolerable for the most part, but it can leave a puzzling expression on the detractors' faces after the first 30 minutes. The film also had a few pieces of bland dialogue and a noticeable urge to hint at possible follow-ups. However, what kept this puzzle engaging for me was its intriguing surprise during its third act, its theme of trauma, and the execution of the suspense angle.
Overall, "Escape Room: Tournament of Champions" didn't improve its game that much, but it's still a gripping sequel that's just as intense and fun as an actual escape room. While its flaws from its predecessor remain, such as its familiarity and the lack of strong supporting characters, the film succeeded in delivering precisely what fans of the original (including me) wanted. The cast was decent in their roles, Adam Robitel's direction was superb, and the tension-filled sequences were eye-catching. This is another puzzle that's worth solving, especially if you enjoyed the first film for what it was, and yes, I would prefer these films over the recent "Saw" installments any day.
“Gunpowder Milkshake” stars Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Chloe Coleman, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, and Paul Giamatti. Released on Netflix on July 14, 2021, the film has a team of assassins assisting a mother-daughter duo.
The film was directed by Navot Papushado, who also directed “Rabies” and “Big Bad Wolves” with Aharon Keshales. This is probably the type of drink you don’t want to order at a diner. With one female-led action movie done, another one is set to entertain its audience. The next film I’m looking at today features another dose of female empowerment and R-rated violence. It also sees Israeli film director Navot Papushado directing a movie independently after helming several projects with co-director Aharon Keshales. Something that we usually see from the other directing duos. Plus, the presence of Karen Gillan in the main lead could test her ability to hold an action film on her own, especially after making herself a household name thanks to her roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the “Jumanji” sequels. With that in mind, let’s see if this milkshake is good enough for action fans to drink.
The story follows Sam (Gillan), a woman who grows up to be a cold-blooded hitwoman after being abandoned by her assassin mother, Scarlet (Headey). When her latest mission resulted in her accidentally starting a gang war, Sam is forced to go on the run with a young girl named Emily (Coleman), who’s caught in the middle. She then has to join forces with her mother and her league of female assassins to protect Emily from those who wronged them. The film has plenty of elements that should satisfy the appetites of several genre fans: bloody violence, neon-infused visuals, butt-kicking women, and a couple of milkshakes to boot. It can’t be “Gunpowder Milkshake” without the “Milkshake” part, after all. If those things are what you’re craving for, you’ll easily walk out of this diner feeling refreshed. However, if you want a side of impactful storytelling to go with that order, you’re pretty much out of luck because the film is fresh out of that stuff. By following the simple basics of any other action thriller we’ve seen countless times, the screenplay failed to be as delicious as its stylized presentation. There were several moments that could’ve worked well in its plot and themes, most notably the relationship between Sam and Scarlet and even the bond between Sam and Emily. Unfortunately, the filmmakers got a bit too distracted by their goal to make it the next “John Wick” rather than make a compelling story to match the visuals. I don’t want to say that the plot is terrible or anything, but I will say that it fell short of what I think it’s attempting to portray. The film also had a few attempts at providing some “comedy” into its tone, which I thought were tolerable yet a bit awkward to witness. Aside from the story and some cheesy dialogue, was everything else suitable enough to warrant a watch on Netflix? Yes. Yes, it was. The well-deserved cherry on top of this milkshake was the visuals. Ranging from its neon lighting to the stylized cinematography, “Gunpowder Milkshake” quickly resembled something that could’ve been set in the same universe as “John Wick”. There were also a few scenes that took the pages right out of the books of Quentin Tarantino and even Zack Snyder. While the storytelling wasn’t his most vital asset, I would give props to Navot Papushado for representing some impressive shots, even though they didn’t outmatch the style of the “John Wick” movies. The rest of the drink was also quite tasty, especially the cast and action scenes. Karen Gillan managed to pull through as the main lead in terms of her respectable performance as Sam, and Chloe Coleman continues to make herself known thanks to her role as Emily. Bassett, Yeoh, and Gugino were also solid in their roles as the female assassins, although they only shine in the film’s third act. As for the action sequences, they’re nothing too special, but for the most part, they’re enjoyable…and bloody, which was expected regarding its R rating. At times, the hand-to-hand choreography and CGI blood in some scenes looked a bit rough and not in a gloriously violent way. Still, the gunfights and visualized backgrounds managed to overshadow those issues for a reasonable amount of time.
Overall, “Gunpowder Milkshake” is a delectable treat for the eyes, but when it comes to its substance, the taste is far from ever-lasting. Its visual style was easily the main highlight of this watchable action thriller, and the cast managed to follow suit. Sadly, its execution towards its storytelling and tone lacked a strong punch needed to rival the films it inspired from, primarily “John Wick”. It’s a fine drink to order for those who enjoy the genre, but if you’re hoping for it to be the next “John Wick”, don’t waste your breath because it’s not happening. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to order myself a milkshake because talking about the film made me thirsty for one.
“Black Widow” stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz. Released on July 9, 2021, the film has Natasha Romanoff confronting her past.
The film is directed by Cate Shortland, who also directed “Somersault”, “The Silence”, “Lore”, and “Berlin Syndrome”. It is based on the Marvel character of the same name created by Stan Lee, Don Rico, and Don Heck. It is also the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2010, the world was introduced to a follow-up of the action blockbuster that kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe called “Iron Man 2”. The film, which continued the adventures of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, featured the big-screen debut of another Marvel hero named Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. Since her first appearance, Black Widow, a highly trained assassin and a member of S.H.I.E.L.D, has become a highly notable presence in the MCU thanks to the character’s history and Scarlett Johansson’s near-perfect portrayal. Despite that, she hasn’t had a chance to headline a solo film like Iron Man and Captain America…until now. After taking a year-long break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Marvel Cinematic Universe is officially back in full swing this year, and it’s much different than what we’ve seen in the past. The massive franchise began its fourth phase this year with three television shows on Disney+: “WandaVision”, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”, and its recent one “Loki”. If you haven’t watched them yet, I would highly recommend them, especially “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”. The fourth phase continues with the long-awaited solo film based on Black Widow, and let me tell you, it is seriously long overdue. Everyone has been asking for a Black Widow solo film since her debut in “Iron Man 2”, especially after what happened to her in “Endgame” two years ago. Now that our prayers have finally been answered, was it worth the wait? Let’s find out.
The story centers on Natasha Romanoff (Johansson), an Avenger who finds herself on the run from the authorities after the events of “Captain America: Civil War”. She later discovers a dangerous conspiracy related to her early days training in the Red Room as a Black Widow. With no one else to turn to, Natasha will have to rely on the people from her past to help her out, including another Black Widow trainee Yelena Belova (Pugh) and a Russian super-soldier named Red Guardian (Harbour). Her globe-trotting adventure will force Natasha to face the demons of her past and a force that threatens to take her down. Instead of moving forward in the MCU, the film travels back in time to the events between “Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” to further explore Romanoff’s character. You know, before she met her unfortunate demise in “Endgame”. This strategy was somewhat similar to “Ant-Man and the Wasp”, another MCU film that takes place between “Civil War” and “Infinity War”, except this film was a bit less light-hearted than the “Ant-Man” sequel. Not only does it take some inspiration from the other spy thrillers like Jason Bourne, but it also appeared to be a bit more grounded regarding its themes and tone. So there’s a lot of potential for this latest solo film to reach the high standards set by the other superhero films like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and even “Iron Man”. Unfortunately, in terms of the execution, “Black Widow” is more along the lines of a standard, big-budgeted superhero thriller rather than a colossal blockbuster event. Maybe it’s the timing of its release that affected my experience, or perhaps I was expecting too much out of it. Whatever the case may be, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit disappointed with the final result. It got off to a promising start in the first act, but after that, it had a difficult time maintaining the emotional depth it was going for amid its typical MCU formula. However, it offered plenty of action, visual flair, and chemistry in its cast to inject some enjoyment and thrills into its core. Cate Shortland becomes another lesser-known indie director to helm a big-budget action film, let alone a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. Even though I haven’t seen any of her other films, I was curious to see the direction she’s taking for the film. After watching it for myself, I must admit that she handled this approach quite well. Her direction towards the action sequences lacked the profound intensity that the Russo Brothers provided in “Civil War” and even “Endgame”. Nevertheless, Shortland made a noticeable effort to deliver a more dramatic side to these characters and some female empowerment. Scarlett Johansson managed to carry her film alone without the Avengers’ help thanks to her suitable performance as Natasha. It’s a shame that this would be the last time we get to see this character, but I’m glad that Johansson managed to make this bittersweet farewell a decent one. Florence Pugh, who has been impressing me since seeing her in “Fighting with My Family”, makes her MCU debut as Yelena Belova, a Black Widow who is also a sister-figure to Romanoff. I thought this character worked well as a driving force for its themes of sisterhood and as an enjoyable partner for Natasha. With the mixture of humanity and humor and Pugh’s magnetic performance, this was an encouraging sign of good things to come for Yelena in the MCU. David Harbour was also highly enjoyable as the Red Guardian regarding the comedy, and Rachel Weisz delivered a respectable performance as Melina Vostokoff, Romanoff’s mother figure. There were a couple of action scenes that I found to be entertaining, such as the skydiving sequence that was shown in the trailers. Sadly, the rest of them didn’t stand out as much as the ones from the past couple of MCU properties regarding Shortland’s direction and a couple of quick edit maneuvers. As for the other flaws besides its flat execution towards its themes, the film somehow lacked the high-stakes storyline it was going for, especially since the film was released after “Endgame”, so the sense of danger for these characters was pretty muted. The film also suffered from its mediocre antagonist Dreykov, played by Ray Winstone. A flaw that still plagued most of the installments in the ever-lasting superhero franchise. At first, I was worried that Taskmaster would fall prey to that mistake as well. But the character turned out to be all right. The costume design, his abilities, and his big surprise during the third act made him a worthy opponent for Natasha. He’s far from a memorable villain, but for the most part, Taskmaster’s debut in the MCU was tolerable.
Overall, “Black Widow” continues the fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a small pop instead of a big bang. The cast and its thrilling action should be enough to please a good amount of Marvel fans. However, it’s a step down from some of the high-standard MCU installments due to its average storytelling, a weak villain, and underwhelming execution towards its themes. I managed to enjoy plenty of moments in the long-awaited solo film featuring the last appearance of Natasha Romanoff. Unfortunately, after experiencing “Endgame” two years ago and the recent MCU shows on Disney+, I wasn’t able to regain the awe-inspiring spark from this one. I guess I only have myself to blame for setting the bar a bit too high for “Black Widow”. Maybe if I watch it again in the future, my viewpoint towards it would change. Until that happens, all I can say about it is that it’s an enjoyable yet noticeably flawed thriller that’s worth seeing in the theater. Of course, like many other Marvel films, there’s a bonus scene after the credits, so make sure you stick around for that.