MarvelVision: Black Widow
Black Widow is finally in theaters, and we’ve got a complete, spoiler-filled breakdown and review of the movie. Natasha Romanoff is on her own after Captain America: Civil War, until she gets sucked back into the spy game, thanks to a resurgent Red Room. Along with Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov and Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff, they’re taking the fight directly to Ray Winstone’s Dreykov — as well as Taskmaster. But with over a decade of anticipation, how does the movie hold up? We discuss, plus all the Marvel Easter eggs, from Winter Guard, to ties with Avengers: Infinity War, to that post-credits sequence teasing Thunderbolts and Hawkeye, we discuss it all.
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Full Episode Transcript
Alex: Welcome to MarvelVision, a podcast about Marvel, the MCU, and right now Black Widow. I’m Alex.
Justin: I’m Justin.
Pete: I’m Pete.
Alex: And requisite spoiler warning here, we are going to be talking about the theatrical movie, Black Widow, that has just been released, very exciting. So if you haven’t seen it in the theaters or on Disney Plus with premier access, go do that right now, then come back here, because we’re going to spoil the heck out of it. But a little bit of background first. It was directed by Cate Shortland, written by Eric Pearson, from a story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson, and this movie has been in development forever. Basically our entire lives at this point I think.
Alex: Because we’re 15 years old or so?
Justin: It’s how I mark time. I’m like, “I’m one Black Widow old.”
Alex: Yes. Well, it was one of the movies that was being developed for a really long time, even before the MCU of course, but go in development in earnest, and has been asked for pretty much since Scarlett Johansson’s first appearance as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. Fans have been demanding it for years, and finally it was supposed to come out in May 1st, 2020, but of course COVID delayed it three times and now finally it’s coming out July 9th, 2021. So this has been a long, long journey for this movie. Before we get into it, all the Easter eggs and all the secrets and breaking down the actors and the big moments, broad strokes, what’d you think? Pete, how did it hold up after all this anticipation?
Pete: Saying Black Widow’s solo title and then saying broad, I don’t think that mixes well.
Justin: [crosstalk 00:02:19].
Alex: Sorry, dame. Dame strokes.
Pete: There we go, thank you.
Alex: Gams up to here strokes, awooga awooga.
Pete: I finally got a Black Widow movie, I cannot complain. This is something I’ve wanted for a very long time and yeah, it’s unbelievable action, we kind of got the Red Room story which we’ve all thought was going to be the case, why wouldn’t you. Yeah, thank you. Thank you. It was a long overdue, but thank you for finally giving us this movie.
Alex: You’re welcome, first of all. Justin, what about you?
Justin: Just so many thank yous. This movie was so much more of an ensemble than I… obviously there was a lot of casting news leading up to this, but I didn’t think it was going to be this much of an ensemble and this much of an even-handed Black Widow story from our old Black Widow and what we assume is our new Black Widow.
Alex: I agree, that was to me-
Pete: Oh, jeez.
Alex: No, I’m dying. I’m just getting very chocked up about the thought of a Black Widow movie after so long.
Justin: So happy, yeah.
Alex: Just all this happiness. I loved the ensemble, first of all. That was hands down my favorite part of the movie. I thought they were great, I really enjoyed them all working together, I enjoyed the family aspects of the movie. But my one quibble that I know Pete’s going to yell at me right off is I felt like Black Widow herself was a little underserved by the movie. She got some good stuff to do, but because it was this team movie, I didn’t quite get all I wanted out of it. And particularly when it comes to Black Widow, when it comes to Natasha Romanoff, when it comes to Scarlett Johansson.
Pete: Yeah, I hear what you’re saying, they do give a lot of screen time to other people in this finally Black Widow movie. That’s a fair criticism. You want Black Widow in the Black Widow movie, but I also really thought that-
Alex: One of the big prerequisites.
Pete: I really was also hoping we would get to see her… To me, her at her best is really pushing people to get what they want the way she can talk to people and grill people has been such a cool aspect of this character. Her showdown with Loki, the fact that she can communicate with Hulk and has their own language. I really wanted to get a little bit more of that, but other than that, I can’t complain.
Alex: Real quick, which language was it? Is was the Nell language, right? From the movie Nell?
Pete: Yeah, wow. You nailed it. First guess, and you nailed it.
Justin: [inaudible 00:04:54], they’ve really brought Nell into the universe in a way that I didn’t anticipate. Who do you think she’s going to be in the multiverse of madness?
Alex: I think she’s going to join Thunderbolts, honestly. I think we’re going to see Val show up at Nell’s how and ask her join up.
Justin: That’s [inaudible 00:05:07]. That’s the dream. Light that up fan base. I mean, I agree with you, Alex, that it does feel like we’re sort of like, “Oh.” Only because our expectations were what they were. But as far as this being a pivot point in the MCU, I think they a great job with that, like setting up Yelena as the new Black Widow and giving her… we know her now. This movie was less of the send off to Nat, and more of just the passing of the torch.
Pete: Yeah. And I thought-
Alex: And she was great. Florence Pugh, favorite part of the movie, so much fun, so much life to her. Just the action was great, the character was great, it feels different from Natasha and she’s somebody, to your point, that I’m very excited to follow, as we’ll get to probably towards the end of the podcast, directly into a Disney Plus series next, if not somewhere else.
Justin: Yeah. And then the rest of the ensemble cast was just great too. The very American style set up of it all, I did not see that coming, and that was very fun and very direct.
Pete: Yeah, the worst dad ever was so enjoyable and so well casted, and the moment he had where he was like, “Look at you, top assassin. I’m so proud.” Hysterical. Absolutely hysterical.
Justin: It was very funny, the movie was very funny, which I did not expect at all. I thought it was going to be pretty Borne Identity style action, where is was just like racing between different things-
Pete: Which there was a ton of that.
Justin: And there was, but the tone I thought was… to combine that spy thriller with a larger cast and have it be funny and sort of weird throughout…
Pete: That’s Marvel sprinkled a little bit of what they’re good at in there.
Justin: A little magic Marvel dust on there.
Justin: And superhero team as family, that’s what the Fantastic Four is, and we got to see that here in a totally different way, sort of like the more fucked up family version. And I thought it really worked.
Pete: Well, what’s very interesting is we have this very much, this is all about family, and then also came out the same time as F9, which is also [crosstalk 00:07:20]-
Alex: Thank you for using the correct name of the movie, Pete. I was about to get very upset.
Pete: Yeah, so [crosstalk 00:07:24]-
Justin: Oh, F9 is short for Fast and the Furious? That’s crazy. [crosstalk 00:07:28].
Alex: Yep. Yeah. I believe it’s actually called F9: The Fast Saga, but whatever you want to call it.
Pete: Okay. All right.
Justin: I’m curious which F is the F9? Is it the fast or the furious?
Pete: Guys, you’re missing the point. [crosstalk 00:07:38]-
Justin: These are the questions-
Alex: There’s a smaller F. There’s a really tiny F inside the other F, so [crosstalk 00:07:42]-
Pete: Big family is pushing us hard right now and nobody’s noticing.
Justin: Oh, the F is… it’s Family 9.
Pete: F is for family.
Alex: Yeah, it’s a sneak campaign for F is for Family on Netflix, that’s what it is. This whole thing.
Justin: That’s where you’re spending the big money.
Alex: Check it out, man.
Justin: Which family would you rather be a part of, the F9 family or the Black Widow family?
Pete: I don’t know, Corona is delicious, so I might have to go with F9 on this.
Alex: Bad time to be saying that, but I understand what-
Pete: Oh, right, yep. Okay, I see what I did.
Alex: F9 family. Just to answer-
Justin: Wrong, wrong, absolutely wrong answer. Absolutely could not-
Alex: You want to be part of the Black Widow family?
Pete: Yeah, they rip out your uterus. I don’t know man, it’s not a good thing to do.
Justin: Well, let me say, they seem to have a lovely dinner parties, I feel like they really get each other. F9, I don’t… I’m more of a passenger. I don’t want to drive.
Alex: Sure. Well, the question is, do you want to go to space, which is the F9 family, or do you almost want to go to space, which is the Black Widow family?
Justin: Yeah, I just want to get close to space.
Alex: All right.
Justin: I’m pretty close now just on Earth, and I’ll get a little closer now and again.
Alex: You’re friends.
Alex: You’re no Bezos.
Justin: Yeah, I’m not Bezos. I’m in the space race though, it’s me, Bezos, Branson. I’ll tell you what, I’ve been a little lazy about it. I don’t have any rocket planned yet, I’m sort of saving it for [crosstalk 00:09:04]-
Pete: Do you still have that model you built in your back yard?
Justin: Yes, the plan is in place, I just need the right amount of dynamite. I’m sort of Wile E. Coyote-ing it.
Pete: Smart. Smart.
Alex: To get back to the family dynamic. I agree with you. I thought that was so well done. I loved the scene at the dinner table. It was an obvious touch, but just such a smart, little touch that they all sat down in the same places that they sat when they were younger, and that’s such a family thing to do. I don’t know why that happens. I don’t know why psychologically everybody chooses the same places. And you do it at home, you do it at a restaurant, you do it where ever you go, always sit in the same order.
Justin: Really? It’s funny, I’m trying to think-
Alex: Wait, do you guys not to that?
Pete: I do that.
Justin: I don’t think so. No, I don’t think I do.
Alex: Interesting. You like to shake it up a little bit? Always sitting in a different chair?
Justin: Exactly. Sometimes I’m like, “I’m sitting in the center of the table.” We’re a family like that, always trying to one up each other.
Alex: I legitimately, every time I go home and visit my parents, it isn’t even a conscious thing. If I’m there, my brother is there, my parents are there, we sit in the same exact places that we sat when we were kids.
Justin: They’re like, “Alex, that’s a high-chair. You need to grow up.”
Alex: And then-
Pete: But his little feet, they swing, and he has fun.
Alex: Yeah, my feet swing, and I get to say, “Feed me baba,” and then my mommy feeds me baba.
Pete: Oh wow, that got weird.
Justin: Now I sort of understand a lot of the fetishes you’ve put on display for us.
Alex: It’s all about family, you know?
Pete: Oh boy.
Justin: That’s the family you want to be a part of.
Alex: The dynamic was great here. David Harbour was great. Rachel Weisz was great. Rachel Weisz was sneakily funny in the movie, which I was very surprised about.
Alex: Her character was much weird than I expected.
Justin: Very weird.
Alex: And I think a lot of that was her delivery of the lines, which I really liked but it was fun. It was fun to watch. And I think, not to keep harping on the same thing, but maybe part of the reason that Scarlett Johansson didn’t really pop for me, is she was the straight man of the movie. Everybody else got to be funny and weird, and she was the one saying, “Okay, we got to get down to business. We got to attache the Red Room, we got to do these things,” and then they get to spiral off in other directions.
Justin: Well, and I think that’s a function a little bit of where this has fallen in the whole run of the MCU, where it’s like she’s dead. So it’s like, she’s like, “I got to finish up these couple of things,” and everyone else is like, “Ooh, fun, I’m part of this movie, great.” And she’s like, “I’m out of this, this is later, I just need to get my homework done and then I’m going to college.” The rest of the people are just getting into high school.
Alex: Yeah. They’re new. They get to be in more movies, she gets to be in less movies.
Justin: That’s 100% true.
Alex: Potentially. What did you think of the placement in the timelines? Because I’m really starting to feel like a dissenting opinion here, but I also did not love how this felt like… this felt like almost one of the least stand alone Marvel movies to me. Because it started right after Civil War, went right into Infinity War, there were a bunch of other things you need to know just about Black Widow, things that you needed to remember from Avengers and other things, and it’s not too difficult, it’s not too deep of a dive. But it certainly, to me, felt like a deeper dive than usual for a Marvel movie.
Justin: Well, and I agree with you. Because it felt like it wasn’t essential, all the things they were referencing, they just kept saying-
Pete: Yeah, it was like…
Justin: … they kept bringing it up. It felt like almost a product placement of these other Marvel movies, when it’s like, just tell the story. We don’t need to have it be constantly reminded like, “Oh, remember, we just came from here and now I have to go deal with this other stuff in the future.” It’s like we know all about that, just tell this story.
Alex: I mean, the big question out of Infinity War, that I think everybody had was, how did Natasha get her vest? And then we finally found out by the end of the movie.
Alex: That was satisfying.
Pete: The vest has pockets. I love the pocket discussion. I mean, that’s just fun.
Alex: That was fun. Again, that comes back to Florence Pugh just having a great time. The best bit in the movie in my mind was the Natasha/Black Widow pose thing?
Pete: Oh, yeah, that was so fun.
Alex: The scene where they’re at the gas station and she sort of reached down and can’t quite bend that way. So funny.
Justin: Very fun.
Pete: Yeah, and then she tries to do it. Yeah, that’s fun. And she’s like, “This is ridiculous.”
Justin: Want to give a shout out to early in the movie, the Aria knife drop move that Yelena does. It was dope.
Alex: That was very cool. Pete, what was your favorite bit in the movie?
Pete: I mean, it’s tough. I really liked a lot of the horrible dad bits, you know what I mean? Where he was like, “What? No, I do for you, come on,” and he’s like, “Suit still fits.” That kind of stuff was very, very enjoyable and just his reality versus their reality was just a fun, go-to moment. But yeah, I don’t know, I felt like the bit that I called out earlier was my favorite bit.
Alex: Don’t specify which one that was.
Pete: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Justin: Just reel heads will go back and listen to it.
Pete: Yeah, exactly.
Justin: Hang on Pete’s every word.
Alex: Great. David Harbour was really good in this movie. I enjoyed him quite a bit. Just to get back to the-
Pete: The assassin bit, where he was like, “I’m so proud of you. Look at you, top assassin. You do anybody you want.” That bit was my favorite.
Alex: Fun little fact that folks may or may not know. So he of course plays Chief Hopper in Stranger Things and, spoiler for the last season of Stranger Things, but he “died” but is going to end up in Stranger Things season four, turn up in a Russian prison. And apparently because he was in a Russian prison in both things, he talked to the Stranger Things folks and said they originally wanted him to have the scraggly beard and the loose hair and be dressed that way, and he said, “No, I can’t do that, be in two Russian prisons with exactly the same hair cut as exactly the same character.” So in Stranger Things they actually shaved his head, shaved his beard, everything, just so at least visually he’s look a little bit different.
Pete: Yeah, because I just keep thinking it was an extension of Black Widow.
Alex: Yeah, he does use a Russian accent in Stranger Things though. Smart.
Justin: That’s such a funny complain, as an actor, to be like, “I can’t be scraggly twice.” In this Stranger Things Russian-
Pete: Back to back scraggly.
Justin: Yeah. Lawrence Olivier said, “Never scraggle twice.”
Pete: Yeah, never go full scraggle.
Justin: Yeah, he was in that part-
Alex: Well, I do wonder if they were going to be released closer to each other if COVID hadn’t happened. Because Black Widow ostensibly should have come out in 2020, Stranger Things four, we don’t know, but they got massively delayed by COVID as well. So it’s possible it might have been more than an issue. Now Stranger Things four is going to come out whenever. We don’t really know.
Justin: Man, when you said, “Oh yeah, he died at the end of last season,” I was like, “Wow, that feels like a hundred years ago.” That was so long ago when we were talking about that.
Alex: Yeah. I want to get back and talk about the opening sequence, because I agree, I thought that was so well done and just the way that was shot, the way that it set everything up, like you were says, the Americans nature of it, the family nature of it. The way they subtly told us who everybody was without necessarily telling us was very nice in setting up that family dynamic. Go ahead, Justin.
Justin: It was really scary. It was stressful.
Justin: And in general the look of the movie, less glossy, a little murkier, felt very much like Red Ledger shit throughout the whole movie. Which I always give it up to Marvel for being able to find enough variation in each of their movies, so that they feel different and specific, while also maintaining the overall tone.
Alex: Yeah. Pete, how did that beginning strike you?
Pete: I thought it was badass. I loved it. I mean, it was just a cool start to see where we’re going to come back to later and this fake family. I don’t know if you guys had real parents, or fake KBG parents, but sometimes-
Pete: … you don’t get to pick, and you hang onto what you get-
Justin: For me it wasn’t Russian it was Canadian.
Pete: Oh, that’s tough.
Alex: And I did get to pick. I was the leader of the spy program.
Pete: Oh wow. Did they call you a hoser a lot? Or what was…
Justin: You were sort of the Boss Baby, the Boss Baby of spies, right? You’re like, “That’s my mama?”
Alex: Baba? Baba, baba, baba?
Justin: Baba, mama. Alex has been babied a lot in this episode.
Alex: Sure have.
Justin: He must be really enjoying this.
Alex: I’m a real Boss Baby back in business, you know?
Pete: Oh my God.
Justin: The beauty of being in a Canadian prison is you get really taken care of. Scraggly’s not a problem.
Alex: It’s Tim Hortons, right? This Canadian prison?
Pete: Oh no.
Justin: Yeah, little known fact, there are no prisons in Canada. You just make the coffee and donuts at Tim Hortons.
Pete: Yeah, yeah got to make it.
Alex: That’s rough man. I did want to mention something about the timeline here, because it is very specifically set in 1995 in the MCU timeline, and this is a bad year to be a daughter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The other things that happened in the same year in 1995, so I don’t know if you guys remember in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Nick Fury… actually I think it’s Alexander Pierce tells this story about his daughter being taken hostage in Bogota and Nick Fury saved his daughter, that happened in 1995. Also the entirety of Captain Marvel happened in 1995. Thanos wiped out Gamora’s planet and adopted Gamora in 1995. And the last one, in Antman and the Wasp, we find out that Ghost got orphaned after her dad exploded the Quantum Tunnel and Bill Foster adopted her also in 1995. So interesting little [inaudible 00:18:56] there.
Justin: Tough, tough year. It’s very funny to me to be like, Thanos, who’s adopting Gamora and killing her planet, while Third Eye Blind was playing? Is that what’s happening in 1995? It’s like, “Oh yeah, I was listening to Jumper and then Flagpole Sitta came on right after.
Alex: I think Semi-Charmed Kind of Life was based on Gamora because her entire planet gets wiped out but she gets adopted by Thanos, which is pretty cool. And she gets a sweet knife.
Justin: Yeah, 100%.
Pete: I mean, [crosstalk 00:19:26].
Justin: If you listen to the first Third Eye Blind album, a lot of them are about Thanos’-
Alex: Oh, one more doomed thing that happens in 1995, Betty Ross and Bruce Banner met at Harvard and started dating in that year. Doesn’t have to do with daughters necessarily, but that’s when that happens.
Justin: She’s a daughter. Think about it.
Alex: So I really liked the beginning, and I thought the first-
Pete: I hate when you that, because that means [crosstalk 00:19:53]-
Alex: No, no, no. I didn’t have a problem with it, because Pete doesn’t not like it when I break things into halves. I like the second half of the movie. I had a blast throughout, I had a lot of fun watching it, it was very enjoyable. The first half was so propulsive. It did not stop for 45 minutes. I think they were really going for that Bourne energy with the action. I felt much more bonecrunching and nonstop and a little more adult than a lot of the Marvel movies. I know they looked to Winter Soldier as a inspiration, but really it definitely felt more like that Bourne style thing.
Justin: Bourne I think we talked about. The Americans. And the other comparison I had was a doubled up Killing Eve. It’s like Killing Eve, but two Eves. Which I thought was cool.
Alex: Yeah. Wait, two Villanelles. Eve is Sandra Oh’s-
Justin: I’m sorry, two Villanelles, yes, yes. That’s what I meant.
Alex: That’s fine. I’ve made that mistake before as well. Yeah, I thought that was great. The other thing that I thought was interesting, there was Natasha when she’s in her trailer and hiding out, she’s watching Bond, I think maybe it was The Spy Who Loved Me, but I’m not 100% sure.
Justin: Yes. I think you’re right. I thought I wrote that down.
Alex: I thought I saw, what’s his name? Jaws, in it. And he’s in two of the movies
Pete: Jaws, yeah.
Alex: But I like that as a reference, and it bummed me out a little bit… this is definitely jumping ahead to the end of the podcast, but it bummed me out because it felt like they were thinking about this as Black Widow’s James Bond movie, down to the big explosive finale on the supervillain’s base and all of that. And it may be want more Black Widow movies. I wanted them to be like a Bond franchise, where she gets into these things every time, but I don’t think we’re ever necessarily going to get that.
Justin: It is crazy to start your Bond franchise by being like, “And now this one’s James Bond.” [inaudible 00:21:50] you build up the character a little bit and then rest the torch once they’re too old.
Alex: It’s like Roger Moore being in the movie and then at the end of the movie Daniel Craig shows up.
Justin: Yeah, badass. Roger Moore, the James Bond who barely moved. He do one little chop, was his only fight move. Have you watched those Roger Moore James Bond’s lately?
Alex: Not recently.
Justin: They’re great, but he… truly he’s very suave, does not fight at all. He can barely throw a punch.
Alex: Best Bond, real quick?
Justin: I mean, I think at this point it’s got to be… Casino Royale’s one of the best.
Pete: Yeah, I would also.
Justin: Craig is up there. But growing up, we watched those James Bond movies every holiday and loved them. So Roger Moore is right up there. Because those are the weirder ones, the Roger Moore ones.
Alex: Roger Moore was Moonraker, right?
Justin: Yes, I believe so.
Alex: That movie’s crazy.
Justin: Truly. They were like, “We don’t know anything about space or technology, but we’re going to make a movie-“
Pete: The one in New Orleans is really weird in ways that I don’t like to…
Justin: Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend is one of my favorites.
Alex: On that note actually, let’s talk about the villain or villains in the movie. We can certainly talk about Taskmaster in a second.
Pete: Yeah, that’s-
Alex: Interesting little note about her, and I assume this was purposeful, the big twist there is she’s played by Olga Kurylenko. I think I’m pronouncing that correctly. And she was one of the Bond girls in Quantum of Solace. So I assume that’s part of the reason they cast her.
Alex: Solace? Solace?
Pete: Yeah. Solace. Quantum of Solace.
Alex: Quantum of Salace. Quantum of Salace.
Pete: This is driving me… Stop it, this is a nightmare.
Justin: No, it’s crouton salads.
Pete: What the fuck?
Alex: But well, let’s talk about that before we get into talking about Ray Winstone-
Pete: Sorry people listening.
Alex: … what did you think about Taskmaster in general and what did you think about the Taskmaster twist in the movie.
Pete: All right-
Justin: I really liked… Pete, you can yell for a while.
Pete: All right, yeah, yeah. Because Taskmaster is one of those really awesome villains in the Marvel universe that is very underused, or can be frustratingly underappreciated. I was a little disappointed they went with the robot Taskmaster to make him like, “Oh, I’m scanning, I can’t fight yet,” type of vulnerability. But it was like, Taskmaster is such a cool villain that they kind of de-power so they can… the good guys can win sometimes. The fact that Taskmaster copies the way you fight, so how are you going to fight yourself? What kind of moves are you going to surprise even yourself with? Pushing somebody beyond their style is such a cool idea. And it’s just, Taskmaster is such a badass looking villain and they kind of, okay, his suit was a little geared up in different ways or whatever. But I really wanted the Taskmaster from the comic books, and I wanted a little bit more backstory because there is a villain that can be used in such cool different ways throughout the movies and just having him as this throw away villain is a little frustrating because, used properly, could be used so much better and push the superhero beyond themselves which I think is a cool thing.
Pete: So I was a little frustrated with what they did with Taskmaster. It was cool to see Taskmaster in a movie, the comic book geek in me was losing it, so it’s hard to complain but I wanted more backstory, I wanted cooler things for Taskmaster.
Alex: It’s hard to complain, but that’s what podcasts are for.
Justin: It’s not that hard to complain. I actually liked the Taskmaster here. I feel like just the slow meticulous way that the fights took place was such a different flavor of fight that was cool. And I liked the story. Pete, I think you love Taskmaster in general in the comic books, I really like Taskmaster, but I thought this was a great, great use of the character.
Alex: I think I’m probably about halfway between you guys.
Alex: I didn’t love it. I know. I didn’t love Taskmaster visually, to Pete’s point it felt a little Green Goblin in the original Tobey McGuire Spider-man movies.
Justin: That’s fair.
Alex: But the moves were pretty cool.
Justin: Very cool.
Alex: That one shot where they’re on the bridge, which that was a brutal fight there, and they both jump the same way when it gets revealed that, yes, Taskmaster is in fact mirroring her moves, I thought was great. I wanted to see a little more like that. We got hints of some Spider-Man stuff, some Hawkeye stuff, obviously some Captain America stuff with the shield. I think there is a way to do more Taskmaster like it is in the comics. And for those listening who haven’t necessarily read the comics, it is more explicitly and usually visually indicated what Taskmaster, who is a regular human being, and not somebody with a chip in their brain, is aping there. So I think there’s still a possibility down the road.
Alex: There was also this weird rumor that obviously wasn’t true, at least of the version that we saw, that there was a mid-credit scene with Yelena handing the chip of Taskmaster to Ross. I don’t know if maybe there was an earlier cut of the movie that had something like that or that was just people lying on the internet. But to that end, I think there’s still a possibility of bringing back Taskmaster or having a new Taskmaster, something like that.
Alex: And I think emotionally I liked where the Taskmaster reveal ended up, I thought that was a really good emotional hook for Natasha, with it turning out to be Dreykov’s daughter. And this is another one of my big issues with the movie, it felt like it needed another beat. We needed more time in Budapest, was my big takeaway there, because we find out about Dreykov’s daughter, we don’t get to see her, we don’t get to know her, we don’t understand really what she means to Natasha towards the beginning of the movie. So some of that emotional weight, I think would have been heavier and stickier at the end there, if we actually got to see those Budapest sequences. Versus a hastily stuck in flashback.
Justin: And I wonder if they filmed them, or were at least written into an earlier part of the script, and were cut. Because this movie was big and packed with a lot of things going on, and that feels like a natural cut. You still get enough of the emotion that you see how it affects Black Widow, but we don’t need to see this thing… it’d be hard to set that up in the beginning and not know what it means, when there are so many other characters they’ve added to this story.
Pete: Or if they were going to save that for later down the line. Explore that later. Because they keep talking about it, so it seems like it-
Alex: I think this is probably the exploration. It felt, not necessarily in a bad way, but it felt very fan service-y to me, because fans have wondered, since the Avengers, when Hawkeye and Natasha talked about Budapest-
Pete: Because they remember it completely differently.
Alex: They do remember it differently. So we finally get to touch on that, and that works into the plot. But again, not to harp on this too much, but it felt like, yeah, to your point Justin, it felt like it needed that sequence of something… getting to see what happened in Budapest so we understand who Dreykov is, we understand who the daughter is, we understand what Natasha had to sacrifice, and also you would have had that connective fiber between that great opening sequence, getting to see her leaving the Red Room, leaving it in ruins, and then cut to post-Civil War. If felt like that beat, that plot beat, was missing there, and that was the thing that felt like, “You’ve seen the other movies, so you don’t need to worry about it.” When usually Marvel is so good about, “You don’t need to watch anything else. It’s gravy if you do, but you don’t have to.”
Alex: I don’t know.
Justin: I think you’re right. And I think it felt odd because I do think there was enough going on in this movie that they didn’t need to have it be so referential, but I don’t quite understand why. Maybe there was some concern that Black Widow, as a stand alone, people were like, “Well, let’s make sure it really ties into everything so there’s reason to watch it.” But- [crosstalk 00:30:02]-
Pete: Yeah, I mean, they were even tying in how she said Budapest, you know what I mean? They took time for that.
Alex: They did have a pronunciation… Was that a thing back in the day? Did people argue about the way they were pronouncing Budapest?
Justin: Back in the day?
Pete: Yeah, I think she was saying pest, Budapest, and then-
Alex: Oh, did she say it in the movie? It is pronounced Budapest.
Pete: Yeah, and I think she was correcting an earlier thing she said in a…
Alex: Okay, all right. Back in the day meaning Avengers times.
Justin: I thought you meant back in our youth.
Alex: Well, we’re as old as the Black Widow movie, so yes, technically that would be our youth.
Pete: That’s true.
Justin: Exactly, 15.
Pete: I’m Black Widow old.
Alex: Yes. Let’s talk about the other villain in the movie, because I’ve seen a lot of back and forth about him and how effective he was. Ray Winstone as Dreykov, the mastermind of the Red Room.
Pete: Close talker. That guy likes to get in your grill and talk close to you.
Alex: Every single shot of him was like that famous shot from Alien 3 of the Alien coming up to Sigourney Weaver’s face and being like…
Justin: It’s great.
Pete: Don’t trust close talkers, man.
Alex: Yeah. I’ll tell you what, I didn’t mind him as a villain. I don’t know what you guys think.
Alex: I thought it was fine.
Justin: I thought it was fine too. It did the job. I mean, the Red Room story is the… just the Red Room is more the villain and more the intimidating part, so I think it was fine. I wasn’t hurt about it.
Pete: I mean, it sucks to have a bad guy like that who’s controlling all these women. That shit is awful, but I hope they had a lot-
Alex: I disagree.
Pete: Cool. I-
Justin: He is a villain, so the movie’s making a statement about-
Pete: No, I get it, I get it.
Alex: It’s not like, “This is cool.”
Pete: Yeah, no, I get it. But no, I hope they had a lot of binaca on set, because all that close talking had to be tough if you’re the other actor, you know what I mean? Even [crosstalk 00:31:59]-
Justin: Craft services was mostly garlic based.
Pete: Oh, man.
Alex: Well, they had that whole vampire problem while they were shooting.
Justin: Exactly. Budapest.
Alex: Budapest. I thought he was good. I felt like Ray Winstone is a fun actor. I like the close talking. The-
Pete: You would like close talking.
Alex: … plot stuff at the end was probably a little silly with it gets unlocked my his ring and then he gets very easily tricked by Black Widow, to the point I think you were making earlier, Pete, about these great Black Widow interrogation scenes. This felt like the bottom one to me, because he should know this. He should know exactly what… he trained her.
Alex: So that he is fooled by this is very, very silly, but up until then, I was fine with him as a menacing presence, and I liked the idea of not having a physical threat to Black Widow so much as a mental threat.
Justin: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And just dealing with her. I mean, she spent so many of these Avengers movies being like, “I have to deal with my stuff,” and that felt like, like I was saying, the Red Room and her past is a thing is what was-
Pete: I really liked the line where Pugh says to Black Widow, “I kept waiting for you and Captain America to burst in and break this shit up.” And the fact that she didn’t know it was still going on. That was a very cool back and forth.
Justin: [crosstalk 00:33:25]-
Alex: Yeah, that was actually the… Oh, go ahead, Justin.
Justin: It was totally unrelated, so you should say your thing.
Alex: I was just going to say the one connection thing, or not even the one connection thing, but the connection thing that was throughout that I thought was actually really smart was their commentary on Black Widow being in the Avengers. That scene that you just mentioned, Pete, I thought was great. The amount of times they brought it up as her being a superhero and leaving her past behind, those were the parts where I felt like Scarlett Johansson as an actress really shined, because you could see her shaken. The rest of the time she was this steely, reserved Black Widow, going through the motions of what she needed to do. But there it really felt more human to me and nice.
Pete: Yeah, and it felt real. If my brother was off hanging out with the Avengers, anytime I would see him I would bust his balls, like, “Hey, what’s Captain America doing right now? Shouldn’t you go hang out?” I felt like it was a fun, sister-y thing to do.
Justin: Well, and it had the vibe of when you go to college and come back home and everyone’s referencing how you’ve been gone, and, “Oh, what’s it like, you’re probably going to frat parties or whatever.” And it’s like, “I was just with the Avengers doing stuff, you saw it on TV. We don’t need to keep talking about this.”
Alex: And there’s a bit of [inaudible 00:34:44] commentary there too, because people always do talk about you have Thor who is a god; you have Hulk who is unstoppable; you have Captain America, super soldier; Iron Man and his suit; and then you have Black Widow with a gun and Hawkeye with arrows. What are they even doing there?
Pete: How dare you?
Alex: No, this is what people say. I don’t say this. [crosstalk 00:35:08]-
Justin: Alex isn’t [crosstalk 00:35:08]-
Pete: [crosstalk 00:35:08] to the team, Alex. All right?
Justin: Alex isn’t a person, he’s a baby. Remember?
Alex: Me big baby. Me want Papa.
Pete: Alex being a baby is the worst thing [crosstalk 00:35:18].
Justin: What I was going to say is, we’ve been talking about babies a lot, has this teddy bear been here this whole time?
Justin: It’s creeping me out. I just noticed-
Alex: Oh, man. That is. Is its eyes falling out?
Pete: It’s just like-
Justin: [crosstalk 00:35:31]-
Pete: He started behind the curtain and he’s slowly gotten more and more out.
Alex: Yeah, he wasn’t there at the top of the podcast.
Justin: Yep, well, I’m scared now.
Pete: Attack teddy bear, attack.
Alex: So that was very good. One other character we should probably talk about that was… I thought it was an interesting thing in the movie that I thought they were going to make a little more of, but O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason, the guy who gets her all the stuff? Who feels like her Q in the movie?
Justin: Oh yeah.
Alex: I was surprised how much straight up Q he was. I thought they were going to play him more into the plot, maybe he turns out to be Taskmaster or something like that, but nope, he was just there and a nice guy.
Pete: Just a nice guy, he’s helping.
Justin: Yeah, I agree, I was sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop with him throughout. Wasn’t there a character like that in a recent run of Black Widow the comic?
Alex: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m kind of stuck on the Kelly Thompson run which took her completely out of her element.
Justin: I think it was before that, yeah.
Justin: I don’t know, there have been so many restarts of that, it’s hard to remember. But I do think one she had someone who was her Q, her His Girl Friday.
Alex: That was another element that made me bummed out that we’re not necessarily going to get more Black Widow movies, because it definitely felt like a set up for, “Here’s your dynamics, she’s got Yelena, she’s got her Q, we’re going to set up Thaddeus Ross as maybe her M or something like that.” But nope, that’s what what we’re getting. Unless we’re getting it with Yelena, which I’m sure we can talk about in a second.
Justin: Well, yeah. There’s definitely something to talk about there.
Alex: What else in the movie should we discuss? What other big moments jumped out at you? Pete, it seems like you have a bunch of notes?
Pete: Well yeah, I got a bunch, but I got a couple points I wanted to talk about. I was surprised about, as Justin was saying, how funny it was, but I was also very moved by a lot of stuff, like the Pugh saying to Black Widow that… revealing that that was the best three years of her life that might have been fake or whatever, but that was real to me, was very powerful and very cool. I also really enjoyed Black Widow running circles around Ross, I could have watched that. That was a fun, A-Team type of thing, where it’s like you’ve got the stupid person who works for the government or whatever, and you can just not even… doesn’t take anything to fool them. Which I very much was like, “Please more of.” But yeah, it was just a nice-
Alex: Wait, can I ask a quick question?
Alex: About Ross? Did he hurt his leg in Civil War and I forgot about that? Or was that William Hurt hurt his leg and then they wrote it into the script?
Justin: William Hurt.
Alex: [inaudible 00:38:23].
Justin: Who hurt William Hurt?
Alex: Yeah, who hurt the Hurt?
Justin: You can’t hurt the Hurt. I don’t know.
Alex: I don’t know, that was just a weird detail in there.
Pete: Sometimes you hurt your leg, Alex, it happens.
Alex: I don’t think it does.
Pete: Huh. Wow.
Alex: Justin, what about you, any moments you want to call out in particular?
Justin: I love the Crimson Dynamo name drop.
Justin: That’s really fun. Those are the weird, woolier parts of the Marvel comic book universe that I think are fun to reference, and maybe we’ll see some more later?
Alex: Wait, can I just mention, for those who don’t know what that Easter egg is, there’s a couple of them, there is a team called the Winter Guard in the comics, which is the Russian super team, kind of like the Russian Avengers. And they’ve had differing make ups, differing team members over the years, but Crimson Dynamo, Dark Star, Red Guardian, Red Widow, Ursa Major, Vostok, Chernobog, and Perun are some of the usual members. They were created by Kurt Busiek and Sean Chen in Iron Man #9, from 1998, and we did get the line, as you mentioned, “Your glory days of the Crimson Dynamo and nobody wants to hear about it.” Crimson Dynamo is essentially the Russian Iron Man, instead of course he’s Red Guardian.
Alex: And there’s one more, in the prison, Dimitri… wait, his name’s Dimitri, right? Yes.
Justin: Good guess.
Alex: Alexei. Alexei Shostakov, sorry, is David Harbour’s character. Alexei is arm wrestling a guy and he says, “Are you calling me a liar, Ursa?” Which is a reference to the big guy who is literally just a giant bear.
Justin: The bear.
Pete: Yeah, yeah.
Alex: Go ahead, Justin.
Pete: Oh, sorry.
Justin: That’s it.
Pete: But talking about that dad moment where he kind of is like, “Hey, did he talk about me?” And Black Widow’s like, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Captain America, he knows I’m the Russian Captain America, he probably talked about…” That was hysterical.
Justin: Harbour all day.
Alex: That was super fun. I loved these wrinkles that they add to the super soldier program here that we find out about with there being a Russian one. Do you think he did actually fight with Captain America in World War II or was he making that up?
Justin: Felt made up to me. But maybe.
Alex: That feels like-
Justin: It feels like, I’d love to see a comedic sequence of him just off to the side and just out of frame of a Captain America newsreel.
Alex: Edit him in that montage sequence from the first Captain America movie.
Alex: Totally, let’s do it. I’ll get right on that right after we jump off here.
Justin: Fan trailer. Alex, fan trailer.
Alex: No, I’m going to make it. I’m going to put it up. A couple of other things that I wrote down that I thought were interesting. I mean, you’ve talked about this quite a bit, Justin, on the podcast. Your thing about the whole ledgers thing and-
Justin: Red ledgers.
Alex: … they even had a line in there that felt very meta and commenting on how much they say ledgers in the Avengers movie with, “Your ledgers must be dripping, gushing red.”
Pete: Sure, yeah, yeah.
Alex: I think that’s a David Harbour line. Also they mentioned this as part of the movie but it’s, I still thought a relatively subtle visual thing, the Red Room soldier designs are clearly old Hydra uniforms for the first Captain America movie that they worked into Red Room uniforms, which I thought was neat. And we talked about this a little bit, not only did we find out how Natasha got her vest and how she got her blonde hair in Infinity War, but also how [inaudible 00:41:45] got his Quinjet and how they got out of prison, and we even get the Avengers theme as she pulls away. A lot of stuff going on there.
Justin: Yeah, it’s fun. Small connective tissue.
Alex: Kind of unimportant, but okay, it’s there, it’s fine. Let’s talk about the end credits sequence that does happen in the movie.
Pete: Oh yeah.
Alex: We get to see Yelena go to Natasha’s grave and who shows up? None other that Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, we first met in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but we were supposed to first meet here. Apparently, according to the director Cate Shortland, the movie has not changed at all, so this is how the scene originally was supposed to be, otherwise I certainly would have thought they reshot it, knowing that it came after Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But what did you think about this? We get this tease, not only that Yelena is already on whatever team she’s putting together, but also that she is directly going after Hawkeye. What’d you takeaway from that?
Justin: It’s sort of a weird thing in light of what we’ve learned from Falcon and Winter Soldier the series. Now it’s like, if they’re working towards Thunderbolts here, or Dark Avengers, something like that, is that a TV product? Or is it a movie product? And what’s going to happen in it?
Alex: Oh, it’s both. It’s a transmedia product.
Pete: That’s right.
Alex: It’s going to happen on your cellphones mostly.
Justin: Oh, cool, go 90 guys.
Alex: It’s actually not that weird anymore.
Justin: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:43:17].
Pete: [crosstalk 00:43:17].
Alex: In my head I was thinking about the old flip phones when the Lost AR thing came out, but that’s not what cellphones are like anymore.
Justin: You’re always thinking about Lost tie-ins.
Pete: Yeah, it’s almost like you have a little box behind you that’s just controlling what you’re saying.
Alex: It’s so weird, it wasn’t actually there at the beginning, but it’s been sneaking across and getting closer to the camera the entire time.
Pete: Yeah. Stop.
Alex: I think that teddy bear is closer.
Pete: Get that teddy bear away from you, dude. Get that away from you.
Alex: It was much farther away a couple of minutes ago.
Justin: Oh my gosh. Ursa, it’s name’s Ursa.
Pete: Oh boy.
Alex: Well, it is interesting in terms of the whole connection of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point that it used to be you had the mid-credits and end credit scenes were specifically about the movies. Now you have the TV shows. And this is something that comes out of Falcon and the Winter Soldier and is kicking into Hawkeye, a show that we don’t even know the premiere date of, other than it’s coming in fall or winter of this year, depending on when they’re able to finish it. So that’s starting to… I don’t necessarily feel this way, but I think there are some people that are going to see this and feel like, “Ugh, I have to watch all of this stuff? Now I have to watch these TV shows as well as these movies?” And that might be a little too much for people, potentially.
Justin: Not us.
Pete: Not us. [crosstalk 00:44:35] I guess.
Justin: Not us fun boys.
Pete: Fun, don’t call us fun boys.
Alex: But it is a lot. To ask people to know who Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character is, who Hawkeye is, who we haven’t seen this entire movie-
Pete: You got to go back and watch all of Seinfeld, okay, to even know who she is.
Justin: [crosstalk 00:44:54].
Alex: You have to have watch at least the first season of New Adventures of Old Christine.
Justin: 100%. A lot of Avengers connections there.
Justin: And of course the season of SNL that she briefly appeared on.
Pete: Yeah, definitely. I think just the fun part of the end credits is really nice. When you get a cool, fun moment where you’re like, “Oh, she’s at the grave.” And then it’s like, “Oh, this is a touching powerful shot, Black Widow’s grave.” And then to have the nose blow ruin the moment and then camera pan over for the reveal, was just comedically fantastic. A really nice ruined moment by a villain. So I was very excited about it, and I think they do a good job of getting you excited for this evil team that’s being formed here.
Alex: Well, that’s a big question, and that gets to what you were talking about, Justin. Are they forming an evil team or is it just sort of a black ops team? This is something we’ve talked about on the podcast before. That’s where I lie a little bit, because Yelena’s not necessarily a bad guy, very weirdly at the end of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, John Walker is not necessarily a bad guy, so I think he was terrible, but they clearly made some plat mechanization to make him anti-hero instead. So it’s just a team of messed up people who will do… go further than the Avengers, is what I takeaway from it.
Justin: I agree, it’s just who’s going to fight them? You’d think it’d be the Avengers, but it’s not going to be them.
Pete: And also it seems like the new Black Widow, when she comes across Hawkeye, a conversation will solve that whole thing of, “Actually, I didn’t kill her.” It was a whole thing we talked about.
Alex: Yeah. Let me explain this stupid soul planet that we went to.
Pete: Yeah, I know, exactly.
Justin: Yeah, let’s here about Vermir.
Alex: I hope she kills him.
Pete: Jesus Christ.
Alex: Vormir. We said it wrong on a previous podcast. It’s Vormir or Vermir.
Justin: Ah, Vormir.
Alex: Vermir is the painter, the guy who did the-
Pete: Vermeer? Johannes Vermeer? When [inaudible 00:46:58]?
Alex: We were all saying very different things.
Pete: Oh, okay.
Alex: Quantum of Salace.
Pete: Oh my God, stop it.
Justin: Crouton of salads.
Pete: Yeah, crouton of salads.
Alex: Before we wrap up here, we’ve sort of already done this, but let’s move forward to our vision board where we talk about what’s potentially coming next. We have certainly said, or at least I’ve said several times, no more Black Widow movies, sorry, that’s it. But what do you think? After this comes out, what potentially is next? Are we going to see a Black Widow movie, either with Natasha or focusing on Yelena? Or is it all heading back to Disney Plus for Hawkeye and beyond?
Justin: I think the latter. I don’t think we’re going to see another Black Widow movie, at least not for a bit. And if we do see another one, it feels like it will be a Yelena movie.
Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What about you, Pete? What’s your take on it?
Pete: I’m hoping for both. I hope this opens up and we’re getting more Black Eyed… Black Widow like-
Alex: Black Eyed Peas?
Pete: Yeah, Black Eyed Peas for sure. And-
Alex: Where they at?
Pete: Oh man, [crosstalk 00:48:01]-
Alex: Where is the love? That’s what I want to know.
Pete: Oh man.
Justin: Where they at?
Pete: Yeah, so I want TV shows, I want movies, more please, more, more, more.
Justin: There it is.
Alex: Just a little baby sitting there going, “More baba, more baba for me.”
Pete: Oh, stop with the baby stuff, man.
Alex: I feel like, to answer the question you asked earlier, Justin, about who they’re going to fight, we’ve talked about this a bit on the podcast in terms of speculation, but I think we’re going to get whatever Valentina is up to stringing through the various movies and TV shows. Eventually we are going to get a Thunderbolts style thing where they’re anti-heroes, but we’re also clearly getting groundwork for Young Avengers at the same time. And I’m sticking to this theory, I think we’re going to get some sort of Avengers war, where we have these Dark Avengers, or Thunderbolts, whatever they want to call them, we have the Young Avengers, and then we have whatever the Old Guard is left coming in and stuck in the middle. So potentially, if you want to blow it out even further, it’s a very Civil War style structure, where you head to just all the heroes fighting, everybody in disarray, and that leaves an opportunity for some bigger villain, possibly Kang-
Alex: … possibly Al Pacino as Mephisto, whatever you want to call it.
Justin: We’ve all talked about it, we know it’s coming.
Alex: [crosstalk 00:49:20].
Pete: I think it’s going to take a swerve, I think it’s going to start off, you think it’s going to be a regular Dark Avengers set up, but then it’s really going to be about creepy teddy bears that just live in the background and then when the camera turns off they murder.
Alex: Oh, jeez.
Pete: And if the camera’s not on, how do you catch the teddy bear?
Justin: I’ll never turn the camera off then.
Alex: As long as you never stop podcasting, you’ll stay alive forever.
Pete: Yeah, that [crosstalk 00:49:43]-
Justin: We’re pretty close at this point now, so let’s [inaudible 00:49:44].
Alex: All right folks, I think that is it. We would love to hear what you thought of Black Widow. Definitely hit us up at @comicbooklive, @MarvelVisionPod, any of the Tweeters that we use. Also you can support-
Alex: The Tweeters. Also you can support this podcast, patreon.com/comicbookclub. iTunes, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, or the app of your choice, to subscribe, listen, and follow the show at MarvelVisionPod on the Tweeters, Instagram, or Facebook. Comicbooklive.com for this podcast and many more. Until next time, stay marvelous.