Who remembers the comic book, back in the day, called Marvel Team-Up? It was a series from Marvel Comics that usually had two or more characters join forces and battle a common foe. I’m taking that idea and giving a team-up of sorts. Two movies. One Review.
When it comes to watching entries in the MCU, I prefer to see them in the theater. But as we all know, a certain pandemic put a damper on that. I had to be patient. That is until I saw it was going to be $30 for Premier Access on Disney Plus. Then I had to be EXTRA patient! Because I’m already paying a monthly subscription. I’m the one supplying the snacks. I’m the only one in my household watching. So, by MY calculations…carry the two…nope, not gonna do it!
Finally, when the price tag got down to a reasonable amount (free dollars), I was ready to watch. Black Widow takes place after Captain America: Civil War but before Avengers: Infinity War. And knowing Natasha (Scarlett Johansson)’s fate in Avengers: Endgame, there aren’t really any stakes for her in this outing. However, the same doesn’t go for any of her costars.
We’re introduced to Alexei/Red Guardian (David Harbour), Melina/Iron Maiden (Rachel Weisz) and Yelena (Florence Pugh). You at least have one or more people to latch onto to make it compelling. And the filmmakers do that. Rachel Weisz kicks ass as the girl’s matronly guardian. Intelligent and deadly? What a combo! David Harbour is a standout as the father figure to both Yelena and Natasha. His presence on screen brings levity along with the action. It’s Marvel! You know how it works. They got that formula.
Let’s talk some truth. Black Widow’s story should’ve been done years ago. If it had been done shortly after her introduction in Iron Man 2, it would’ve been something different. It wouldn’t be the same film. I don’t know if that’s a missed opportunity or if we should be thankful with what we got. What we DID get was an Avenger’s backstory that fleshed out her character but also put a spotlight on her possible replacement. At this point, you should all have watched Hawkeye’s series on Disney+. You’ll see what Yelena’s been up to since we last saw her in Black Widow’s post credit scene.
Speaking of jumping off points, with Shang-Chi’s entry into the MCU, I thought it would be appropriate to pair this review with Black Widow. Both films seem to be standalone adventures with thin ties with the other MCU properties. Much like BW, Shang-Chi uses characters we know (The Mandarin) and liberal use of name drops. Characters from previous entries make brief cameos (Wong and Emil “The Abomination” Blonsky as you’ve seen in the trailer). Both BW and Shang-Chi displays have great action set pieces and stunt work. Sure, you can point out the bus fight as a favorite in the latter but more than that, I loved the scaffolding fight scene. A real nail biter! Simu Liu is charismatic and talented with his portrayal of Shaun/Shang-Chi.
He makes those scenes look effortless. And his pairing with Aquafina is entertaining. She keeps it light enough to balance the action that surrounds her and Shaun. Even the third act, for as grand of a display that was, it worked for me.
There’s not too much I didn’t like from either film. I get accused of being a shill for Marvel. I assure you, they don’t need MY recommendations to get people in seats. I’ll call them out for things I don’t like. Little nitpicks here and there for these two but that’s it. In a nutshell, both Black Widow and Shang-Chi are very similar. Both aren’t short on action. Their protagonists have something from their past come back to haunt them. Family. Specifically, where you come from and how that defines you moving forward.
Also, as entries into the MCU, what it means for the characters in the future…Whoa. Stop right there. Not you, Natasha. Shaun and Yelena, YOU can go…And YOU can go to Disney+ to watch these movies whenever you want. There’s no shortage of content or entertainment from the MCU. That’s a promise…a Promise Ring, if you will.