Black Widow Trailer Review: 8 Ups & 3 Downs

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Black Widow Trailer Review: 8 Ups & 3 Downs

The MCU welcomes back an old friend...

Just when you think Marvel aren't going to do much with Black Widow's marketing this year, they quietly release the first trailer and everything looks very rosey. The teaser seems to promise an action-heavy, full-blooded spy movie taking leads from the biggest action franchises of the time and mashing them into the long-awaited story of a much loved, much missed character.We got introductions to new heroes, new villains, hints at revelations from the past and lots of emotion and it all looks like it's been shot beautifully. What's not to love?Look, it would be easy to complain about the fact that the trailer came out when everyone is asleep (look at the thread of comments under the official post) but that's not reason to complain. Especially when you're in the UK, where we still won't get Disney+ for months. So maybe just suck it up.There are legitimate things to critique though, because though this is a very good trailer, it is not a flawless one.

First the positives

8. A Genuine Bond Feel

Marvel Studios basically sneaking this trailer out at a time that doesn't seem to suit their usual style of teaser release is a bit of a strange one. It's not like the teaser has come courtesy of a big-money spot on a late night talk show or during a football match or something - this feels more like an arbitrary window, particularly with Marvel set to take the trailer to CCXP in Brazil this weekend. But it does make sense when you think about the impending release of the first No Time To Die trailer.With the world waiting for a Bond trailer, Marvel have just released a trailer that gives us everything we want from a typical, modern Bond trailer. We get the opening sweeping vistas, the vast action sequences, the Skyfall-like links to the past and a mysterious villain. It's like it's all been checked off from a list, though that isn't a criticism in the slightest. It's pretty genius when you think about it.This film being the MCU's answer to a Bond film, given Natasha's past as an underground assassin and spy makes a lot of sense and they've captured the right feel perfectly without it looking like a paint-by-numbers copycat version.

7. The Promise Of Answers

Ever since we met Nat in Iron Man 2, the mystery of her backstory has loomed large without us ever really knowing too much about her. We've had breadcrumbs since then with the hints at what happened in Budapest with Hawkeye, flashes of the Red Room and her training in Age Of Ultron and then the briefest mention of her father in Endgame, but that's all it's ever been.Marvel have guarded her story and that loaded "red in my ledger" comment, while drip-feeding the fact that she has some things in her past that she needs to protect as well as others that need to be resolved and it's all been a clever path to this point. As long as the answers were coming, anyway, and now they finally seem to be.With Widow's future wiped out (though rumour has it that might end up being undone too at some point), we HAVE To dive back into her past and that's definitely where the most interesting story opportunities are. This trailer confirms as much, adding characters who mean a lot to her, a villain with an obvious vendetta (which implies history) and a whole nefarious organisation for her to battle.

6. A Lack Of Spoilers, Mercifully

Look, it's fair to say we know how this plot goes because it isn't the most complex framework Marvel have ever put together. The trailer confirms the entire plot in one line "we need to go back to where it all started" or words to that effect. This is about Natasha going back to the Red Room and where she was conditioned. We don't know why, but the fact that she turned on them and defected to SHIELD suggests she was disgruntled and the conditioning we saw in Age Of Ultron suggests it was all very traumatic, so there's motive already there.We now know that she pulls together other Widows - specifically Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova and Rachel Weisz's Melina Vostokoff - and David Harbour's Red Guardian (who appears to have been locked up in some sort of gulag prison) to help her take down the organisation that created them all. And that there's a villain and an army of other bad guys to face, but none of this counts as spoilers. It's just story seeding.The best thing here is that the inevitable spoiler that COULD have been hinted at - the mystery of the villain - WASN'T overtly teased in any way at all. Anyone coming to this completely fresh wouldn't necessarily see the links and that's pretty key to protecting valuable secrets when the plot appears so incomplex.

5. The Music

It's a simple thing, but Marvel often get a lot of flack for their musical choices in trailers - and indeed in their movies - as they tend to choose somewhat one-dimensional scores for things over making musical statements for the most part. There are obvious exceptions, inevitably, so don't scurry to the comments to say "dId YoU eVeN wAtCh GuArDiAnS?!" but generally speaking, it's a criticism that comes up time and again.Thankfully, the music here has real personality and suits the agenda to sell the action and what looks like a pretty blistering pace. Added to what we see on-screen - particularly the heavily Bourne-influenced "welcome home" meeting between Natasha and Yelena and it's a great marriage that also hints at the sort of John Wick/Atomic Blonde end of the modern action spectrum too.And we can all be thankful that they didn't take a pop song, strip it down and give it some "ethereal" e-girl vocals to add mystery and drama like so many current trailers do, because - politely - f*ck that trend.

4. The Right Blend Of Comedy And Seriousness

Given all of the action in there - more of which soon - it's good to see that there will be some levity and it feels like the right move to have David Harbour probably leading the charge on that front. As much as Hellboy was a total bust, he has emerged pretty much unscathed (his casting was perfect, it's not his fault the film was sadly awful), thanks in part to his beloved performance in Stranger Things.And by the look of it, his Red Guardian is going to occupy the space between Hopper - a man slightly past his best who is still nevertheless a physical threat AND a loveable, perhaps slightly broken bear of a man who becomes the butt of affectionate jokes - and Hellboy - a charismatic tank monster. And if you can't get hyped by seeing him all excited in his "Russian Captain America" costume, you might as well just quit on movies altogether, frankly.Having him playing off against the Widows who will have had that sort of charm stripped out of them as part of their conditioning (their whole point is very much that they are finding themselves again DESPITE the conditioning) is inspired and it feels like the right blend of tones.

3. No "Woke"-Bashing Opportunities

Let's get this distasteful one out of the way immediately. There has been an unfortunate trend, at times recently, that has seen any movie even remotely looking to "be woke" in marketing - see Ghostbusters, Terminator: Dark Fate and Charlie's Angels for just a few - being tanked online by a certain kind of movie-goer who gets all hot and bothered by any challenge to the current order of things and "traditional" power dynamics. It's a tired, boring discourse, but hey, as long as it continues to burn and destroy films before anyone has even seen whether they are any good, it deserves mention.Thankfully, there's nothing overt in here that could attract that sort of trigger-happy attention. That is not to say that the movie might not explore those sorts of ideas inherently, or that it would be wrong to do so, but not going with a "girls do it differently" marketing line and feeding the wrong people ammunition is a smart move in the current marketplace. Or the current online hellscape, if you'd like a more pertinent term.Call it unwelcome pandering if you like and criticise the mention of it all you like, but it's a conscious decision that would have probably gone differently if those three mentioned films had fared better.

2. The Comic Hints (And The MCU Links)

As this is a Marvel film, you already know that it's going to know its lore and where it came from and the hints in the trailer suggest that we're going to get lots of references from Black Widow's comics.On the surface, the appearance of Widow's alternate white costume, Taskmaster being involved and the broader hints at the Black Widow programme are all deeply rooted in the comics (and so is Red Guardians' appearance), which is what we all live for as Marvel fans.And then of course there are the reminders that this is also an MCU movie with the briefest flashes of Nick Fury and Hawkeye in there. But crucially, the links in that respect are quite subtle and not distracting. It's existing footage, hinting at it all being memory and the film not over-relying on cameos to sell it. They might be in there, of course, but if it's all too heavy-handed it will be a mistake, because it will be a betrayal of the idea of Black Widow getting her own movie.

1. The Action Looks Insanely Good

Director Cate Shortland might not have a reputation for action movies yet, but this trailer is a hell of statement of her ability to make them. What we're looking at here is something that seems to blend the best elements of Bourne, Bond and Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible - Fallout - with a liberal dose of GI Joe (hey, you can't knock the action set-pieces in it, okay?).The teaser has gone big on action, with hints that we'll see one big jailbreak and a major airbourne set-piece, plus an attack on the modern equivalent of the Red Room facility (we see Red Guardian fighting inside it). And there's more in there as well that suggests that we're going to get a fairly break-neck pace right the way through. And considering the need to deliver a closed-ended story that can't really inspire a direct follow-on sequel because of where it falls on the MCU timeline, that makes sense.In the space of 2 hours or so, we need to see Nat dealing with the fallout of Civil War, then finding a reason to head back into her past, bring her team together, bust one of them out of prison, encounter Taskmaster, plan the big assault and then somehow get to the position that we find her in in Infinity War when she reappears with Cap and Falcon. That's a lot to ask of any single film and the answer is a hurtling pace, which means lots of action to cover the inevitable lack of exposition.

And now to the negatives...

3. There's No Time Qualification

There's a bit of a problem here for slightly more "mainstream" fans of this franchise, because there's no overt statement of when this film is actually set. We know from the pre-trailer marketing - all of the interviews and information released out of cons - that it's set immediately after Civil War, when Tony tells Nat to go underground and crucially, before Infinity War.But, your general audience member - the ones who are the key to hundreds of millions at the box office turning into billions - don't get that information UNLESS it's in the trailer. That's their first encounter of the movie, so seeing someone who is dead in an obviously modern setting will cause confusion. It's as simple as that, and adding even the slightest qualification of setting would have avoided it.Perhaps it's a case of Marvel not wanting the entire thing to be overshadowed by the fact that Nat is currently dead and that leading the emotions of the marketing. But the genie is out of the bottle and it's a little difficult to do anything about it other than embracing it, regardless of the fact that Nat's death probably would have . been even more impactful if her backstory had come BEFORE it.

2. Some Clunky Dialogue And Everyone Has An Accent... Ish

The Bourne-like sequence that introduces Yelena and reveals that she and Nat are "sisters" is great and seeing them wrestle both with each other and with their contradictory feelings of love and hate (which is what we're supposed to take from it, at least) is going to be a ride. But what is slightly less impressive is the things they're actually saying to each other at the time.This is not good dialogue. Having Nat respond to her challenge of "I know you're there" with "I know you know I'm here" is massively clunky and their whole interaction around the fighting is cheesy and jarring. It might be that they've rather awkwardly trimmed out the meat of the conversation to have a little exposition in there to set up their relationship, but it is not strong writing at all, in its current form.Sure, it might seem like nit-picking, but writing dialogue is a big part of film-making, kids.Also, why does Natasha have an American accent and literally all of the rest of her crew have thick Russian ones? Weren't they all brought up in the same place and in the exact same way? What gives?

1. The CGI In The Skydive

And here we are once more with a movie trailer whose CGI might not be finished, but which includes said CGI in the footage shown as a means to sell the film. And we have to hope that the CGI behind Nat's skydive at the end of the trailer is unfinished, because if it's not, that's a big yikes.While she's only on screen for a few seconds, it's obvious that Scarlett Johansson's face has been added onto a body double - and pretty badly by the look of it. Let's hope the final film will do it a little better and not try and hide it with motion blur.There's also a slight question over what appears to be a younger General Ross. I say "appears to be" because it's hard to tell whether they've de-aged William Hurt or are using a stand-in for him. Either way, they've somehow managed to make him look both 25 and 50 at the same time, which is remarkable work. Plus, his suit is at least three sizes too big.

If that's the biggest issue though, you can count this as a big winner of a trailer.

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