Watch Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh Spar in ‘Black Widow’

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In “Anatomy of a Scene,” we ask directors to reveal the secrets that go into making key scenes in their movies. See new episodes in the series on Fridays. You can also watch our collection of more than 150 videos on YouTube and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Two characters reunite, and start up a fight, in this scene from “Black Widow.”

It has been two decades since Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) has seen Yelena (Florence Pugh). The two were part of a makeshift family unit headed by two Russian undercover agents (David Harbour and Rachel Weisz) before they were sent away to become trained killers. So the trust level is low when the two come together in a Budapest apartment.

Discussing the scene, the director, Cate Shortland, said she wanted to weave elements of the set design into the action, from kitchen knives to curtains.

Black Widow Is a Good Film, but It Has Flaws That Need Addressing

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To get an in depth analysis of the film as a whole, read Germain Lussier’s review for Black Widow.

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Black Widow is at it’s best when it feels smaller.

Before the Red Guardian (played by David Harbour) prison break, Black Widow feels like a spy thriller comparable to The Bourne Identity or Atomic Blonde. The fight scenes are brutal and violent. After not seeing each other for decades, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) viciously fight. The hard-hitting choreography here is some of the best I’ve seen in the MCU and some of the best I’ve seen between two women.

With Black Widow sandwiched between two huge blockbusters, Avengers: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, I hoped that Marvel would take some risk to give fans something more grounded. At least something on par with Captain America: Winter Soldier—a film I consider to be the perfect balance between grounded and spectacle.

It is at the prison break I realized Black Widow was going to be another superhero movie filled with things we’ve seen again and again. Don’t get me wrong, I love a big bang sky threat, but in this film, the spectacle overshadows some of the critical themes Black Widow tries to address with CGI overload. This is what I should have expected from a superhero film, right? Maybe my expectations were too high, but it’s not wrong to want something different from these films, especially the first and last for Natasha Romanoff.

The movie never goes deep enough on how Natasha was and is still affected by what the Red Room did to her and her real family. There are plenty of scenes of Scarlett Johansson just staring off into the distance and flatly delivering one-liners, but nothing memorable from her to latch onto.

What the audience should have seen from Natasha, we get from Yelena. In the scene where Red Guardian, Natasha, Yelena, and Melina (Rachel Weisz) reunite and have dinner, you feel Yelena’s anguish having gone through indoctrination by the Red Room and how real their family felt to her. Natasha is just sitting there.

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The Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), is the films weakest component. The character never feels like an imposing threat. From the trailers, I knew Taskmaster was a woman, but the reveal is anti-climatic. If anything, the ferocious Red Room assassins feel more villainous because they seem deadlier, and they are everywhere.

The more I process it, the more I understand Black Widow isn’t so much a send-off for Natasha as it is an introduction for Yelena. The film is more invested in her and her struggle. This makes sense because the character will be in the MCU for the foreseeable future.

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In addition, Florence Pugh is excellent and having the time of her life in the role. Johansson and Weisz sleepwalk through their performances until the end. Almost like the actresses can’t wait for it all to be over. Black Widow has remained one of my favorite characters since Iron Man 2, and to see her going out like this is unfortunate.

Despite all these complaints and all the squandered potential, I STILL LIKE BLACK WIDOW! Cate Shortland has a sharp eye for directing action and understands how to shoot a fight scene by using timing and space as leverage so the audience can see everything. Black Widow is mostly entertaining and staunchly dramatic—which I thought was a nice touch.

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So let’s talk about it! For those of you that saw the film, leave your thoughts on the movie below!

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“Black Widow:” An action packed story of family

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A&C Reporter

Krista Kroiss writes for the Arts and Culture desk. In her free time she loves playing guitar with her rock band, watching movies, and reading books. If you have a movie you want her to review, send her an email!