At this point, 24 movies and counting, waiting for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to change something about the style of your house is like shaking a fist in a thunderstorm and telling you to calm down. There are no radical changes to the aesthetics of the MCU, not as long as the millions keep pouring in and audiences keep turning up in droves, pandemic or not. So when I say something like “the action in the MCU, for all intents and purposes, the largest action / adventure franchise in the world, is often smooth, weightless, and softened within an inch of its life”, it’s not because of an expectation. of something different, but to highlight how frustrating it is every time the MCU hints that might, occasionally, produce sequences of action distinguishable from each other. Case in point: Director Cate shortland‘s Black widow, the independent film more than solid for Scarlett johanssenAvenger super spy Natasha Romanoff, featuring some of the most shocking action in the history of more than a decade of the MCU. This mainly means fight scenes that seem to take place on this Earth and not on one of those zero-gravity planes tourists use to float like astronauts. Black widow easily clears the bar, but why is the bar so low in the first place?
To be fair, it’s been clear for a while that “creating action for the MCU” is a more complex idea that the director signs to make movie. (This is true for almost any major franchise.) Marvel action often comes pre-assembled. Having to stick to plot points that won’t unfold until years later makes the writing process especially tricky, yes, but it also means that the pieces have to be carefully planned beat-by-beat, so that a wave doesn’t cause problems. for a film set to debut in 2028. For that reason, the MCU prefers to hire directors who can juggle, filmmakers skilled in threading various tones and emotional lines through a single scene. What the studio most conspicuously doesn’t hire are action directors, starting with Jon favreau fresh out of the holiday comedy Elf, by handing over the keys to Asgard to Taika waititi, even the Oscar winner Chloe zhao dragging executives with natural sunlight. The directors bring a name and a vibe, while much of the action is handled on the day by second-unit teams. Argentine writer / director Lucrecia martel famously overlooked an offer to direct Black widow after study tell her “don’t worry about the action scenes.” Marvel directors create an emotional journey *, and that’s where these films find their individual flavors, while the main focus of the action in between is to watch, sound, and in all other ways. feel like an action scene from MCU.
That’s why a movie like Ryan coogler‘s Black PantherAn emotionally charged epic that still packs a punch on the characters, it can end in a pixel fight scene that looks like it’s being set on a Sega Genesis. These scenes are not interested in impressing on a technical level, they are interested in “moments”. You want the image of heroes carrying each other in Civil war, not the feeling that someone is in real danger; do you want thor’sChris Hemsworth) epic arrival in Wakanda in Infinity war, not the hammer blows that you land to have some weight; you want to be so swept by Alan Silvestri“Portals” and the emotion of the moment when it shows that you do not even notice the color palette of that final The endgame battle can be more accurately described as “dish water.” This is also the same reason why the MCU’s most technically impressive action sequences – not its “best scenes” or “most memorable moments” – are all small. That’s where character arcs collide with stunt work. You think of T’Challa (Chadwick boseman) struggling to surpass the much larger M’Baku (Winston duke) on Black Panther. Do you remember Winter Soldier, when Captain America (Chris Evans) exits an elevator packed with unconscious Hydra agents. And finally you go back to Black widow.
Black widow eventually, it becomes a very familiar third act of digital things falling from the sky, which is penalty fee. Natasha parachutes through a crashing helicopter only to grab a parachute. That, objectively, governs. But overall, it’s the exact type of MCU brand set-up piece that completely invades you, its amount of weightless CGI of another word leaves no lasting impact. The most memorable action scene in the film comes much earlier, in a Budapest apartment. Trying to locate the elusive Red Room, Natasha reunites with her estranged sister, Yelena Belova (Florence pugh), and before getting on the same page, the two brothers proceed to beat each other to hell. There is a Bourne-esque portable quality for camera work, placing the viewer in the middle of a maelstrom made of hands and feet. There is also wonderful improvisation to the choreography, Natasha and Yelena adapt to their surroundings in new ways with every second, reminiscent of the controlled chaos aesthetics of John wick Y Atomic blonde, but it’s also a subtle way to show the two characters’ training on screen without saying a word. I have insisted on the word “weightless” throughout this piece, but there really is no way to underestimate what it means to see wood and glass fly in this scene; to see natasha hull outside the frame of a door; to hear muscle-to-muscle contact. (Shout to Johannsenn and Pugh’s stuntmen, Heidi moneymaker Y Michaela McAllisterand the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for not yet recognizing stunt work). What’s more, the movie suddenly has a different feel. This scene, specifically, feels like he’s fulfilling the promise of a Black widow film – the more ground-level Avenger, more spy than superhero – and not MCU Entry # 24, which offers a glimpse into an MCU where the main character guides the film’s personality and not the other way around.
It is especially fascinating together with another of Black widowmore memorable fight scenes and an earlier showdown on a bridge between Natasha and the masked assassin named Taskmasker. Once again, the choreography (credited to regular MCU James young) is incredibly fluid and for the most part stays in-camera. (TO miracle in modern franchise action). Again, the close intimacy of the violence allows for an equal amount of character building; You don’t need to know Taskmaster’s “deal” to quickly realize that Natasha is fighting a mirror, the camera capturing every impossibly blocked blow thrown by a woman accustomed to striking every blow. It’s a great scene, one choreographed and captured with a truly unique drone, right down to the required Marvel Flip. You know the Marvel Flip when you see it. It’s the time when a fight scene starts to feel a little cool and someone has to turn around in a physics-defying way; the puppet’s string is cut and someone has to defy gravity. It’s most notorious in a fight like this, where it feels unnecessary, where it feels like someone in charge of the house style is getting nervous that two very talented acrobats are hitting each other for too long and scaring the kids. (The same children who, supposedly, lose one’s head about a joke about forced hysterectomies).
That really is what it means to say Black widow has some of the best action in the MCU. It’s true. It does. But just in the moments it doesn’t feel like an MCU action at all.
KEEP READING: ‘Black Widow’ writer Eric Pearson explains how the post-credits scene came together
* Which is not to minimize the contributions of Marvel directors, including Shortland. With all the external pressures on these movies, it’s a miracle that any of them work (Black Widow is so nice!) And that doubles every time a filmmaker can inject a modicum of their personality into them.
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