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The Hollywood Insider Black Widow Review

Photo: ‘Black Widow’

Overview 

Beat out by only ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ ($370 million) and ‘The Incredible Hulk’ ($264 million), ‘Black Widow’ faced massive box office failure, only grossing roughly $379 million. Many factors played into this, however, the main reason came to be the fact that the film was released on the streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as its theatrical premiere despite a contract with ‘Black Widow’ actress Scarlett Johansson which stated that the film would be a theater exclusive release. 

‘Black Widow’ Recap

Following the life stories of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), ‘Black Widow’ detailed the demolition of a brutal training facility known as the Red Room. The facility’s mission consists of acquiring young girls and training them to be merciless assassins – Black Widows – through chemical and psychological means. 

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After violating the Sokovia Accords along with Captain America, Natasha Romanoff goes into hiding. She receives a package from her long-lost little sister, Yelena. This package contains a cure for the chemical locks present in every Widow’s brain. Yelena and Natasha embark on a journey to bring down the Red Room – which tortured them as children – and kill the man that was responsible, freeing the rest of the Widows in the process. 

The sisters are reunited with their undercover parents and work together as a family in order to infiltrate the Red Room and execute their mission. Against the backdrop, Natasha wrestles with past mistakes when she is confronted by a girl she nearly killed a few years prior. While Yelena must deal with the reality of her childhood as she is reunited with her family and is brought to the realization that the happiest memories of her life were nothing but a mission. 

When Natasha is killed after the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, Yelena is approached by a woman with an offer of bringing justice to her sister’s death. This was shown in a post-credit scene.

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Box Office Performance 

Being the third lowest box office performance in Marvel history, earning even less than ‘Eternals’, ‘Black Widow’ was faced with a noticeable failure. Originally released in theaters and on the streaming platform Disney+ via Premier Access on July 9th of 2021 and later released to all Disney+ subscribers in October – the film that promised massive success for the studio as well as actress Scarlett Johansson slipped through the cracks.

Disney and Johansson settled a lawsuit over the actress’ loss of potential profit due to the studio’s decision to release the film on their streaming platform simultaneously with the theatrical release. Reportedly, the lawsuit occurred due to a breach in Johansson’s contract which originally stated that the film would have a theater exclusive release.

The Issue With Performative Feminism 

It can be argued that Disney didn’t have much faith in the success of the film due to the generally unsuccessful nature of female-led action films. However, we have to remember that the film ‘Captain Marvel’, led by Brie Larson, earned over one billion dollars at the box office. ‘Captain Marvel’ had a theatrical exclusive release. It is unclear why the studio made the choice to dual release ‘Black Widow’. However, the issue remains – Marvel’s push for incorporating its female heroes in more prominent manners is unlikely to have success if the studio does not make an effort to provide equal opportunity for its female-led films. 

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Based on the marketing budgets for other Marvel films, it can be estimated that the marketing budget of ‘Black Widow’ was in the ballpark of $100 million, or less than half the marketing budget of ‘Avengers: Endgame’. That being said, the production budget for ‘Black Widow’ was roughly $200 million, while the production budget for ‘Avengers: Endgame’ was $356 million. So the difference in marketing budgets is justifiable. Though what stands out about these numbers is the fact that the marketing budget for ‘Avengers: Endgame’ has been confirmed, while the marketing budget for ‘Black Widow’ is very much a subject for speculation. ‘Black Widow’ was not widely advertised, nor was ‘Captain Marvel’. We see Marvel pushes very creative marketing techniques for its male-led films. For example, the deal between Disney and AMC theaters offers consumers ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ merchandise in theaters. Additionally, neither ‘Black Widow’ nor ‘Captain Marvel’ experienced extensive merchandising efforts. Take a stroll through Avengers Campus at the Disney California Adventure Park and try to find some Black Widow merchandise. Every other hero is readily available, from classics such as Iron Man to the newer introductions such as the Guardians of the Galaxy. However, no Black Widow or Captain Marvel merchandise is easy to find. 

Disney and Marvel haven’t shown women that they are valued through their “efforts” to expand their franchises to incorporate female heroes. Instead, they use these franchises to gain revenue. This is not feminism, it’s a scam. 

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Final Thoughts  

While Disney has done very well at covering their tracks when it comes to the lack of success of ‘Black Widow’, it is relatively easy to tell that they didn’t give the film the chance that it deserved. The issue goes far beyond Scarlett Johansson missing out on potential profit. The real concern plays out when it comes to the exploitation of female role models without genuine efforts to further equity for women.

‘Black Widow’ was a simply phenomenal film. It combines a touching but valuable story that was gruesome, appropriately hilarious, packed with action, and immense potential to inspire many young girls, to finally telling the traumatic stories that have shaped our heroes and giving the spotlight to those often ignored within the Marvel universe. ‘Black Widow’ should be many people’s favorite MCU film. It deserves that much. 

By Micha Jones

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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Author

  • Micha Jones is a writer and aspiring television producer who is dedicated to education and equity. Writing review and feature articles for The Hollywood Insider, they focus on the ways in which media can tell marginalized stories. Through reflecting on the portrayal of social and environmental issues in TV and film, Micha aims to make positive changes in the entertainment industry. Micha’s work often carries The Hollywood Insider’s signature “mic-drop” perspectives and makes an effort to tell educational and socially progressive stories. They strongly believe in accurate representation in film and emphasize the power of the community.    

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