Marvel Studios has come a long way from where it started. In 2008, they introduced the world to Iron Man and slowly started expanding into the entertainment behemoth they are today. Even among Disney’s many star IPs, Kevin Feige‘s work has reestablished what it means to be a comic book fan. Even to this day, they still try to test out new genres to reinvent their approach to films. Disney+ has become a new playground, with WandaVision and Loki offering very distinct storytelling among the many heroic tales.
Yet, the recent release of Black Widow has also showcased that it’s hard to avoid your own trappings. After a visceral and grounded first two-thirds, the grand finale falls back into some bombastic and over-the-top action sequences. In a way, in the studios’ early days, they didn’t have the budget for it. So, they were able to keep the main battle focused on the protagonist and antagonist.
Even if Marvel Studios’ first phase was a bit simpler. Iron Man’s final battle was a simple confrontation between Tony and his former mentor. Yes, they were in mechanical suits, but the backdrop didn’t take away from the confrontation. Even the first Thor film ended on a magical rainbow bridge in space, but it was a battle of hesitance. If the God of Thunder had a choice, he wouldn’t even be fighting his brother.
We technically get a similar emotional core with Romanoff’s confrontation against Taskmaster. Her regret pushes her to free her and leads up to the final confrontation on the ground. The collapse of the Red Room, which fits right in with other James Bond inspirations in the film, makes for a fantastic backdrop. Yet, the final battle doesn’t happen until they safely land.
It felt like a waste of having the confrontation be on the floating fortress. It would’ve added a sense of urgency as they lose footing. In a way, it would even be the way to give Natasha an advantage against the soldier capable of copying everything she does. It would’ve allowed for a more creative fight sequence. Taskmaster can copy all her abilities, but might not take the environment into account. So, like the Arc Reactor in the first Iron Man and Thor‘s rainbow bridge, the backdrop adds urgency and becomes an integral part of the core fight sequence and character’s arc.
The Red Room falling apart is a physical visual of Natasha finally breaking free from the past, but it doesn’t feel quite fully realized. Integrating the fight into its fall would add more suspense to her decision. Once they were safely on the ground, the result of their fight felt simple. We’re not as connected with the moment like we were when Thor tried to save his brother. There’s no real sacrifice for Natasha, and neither is it a difficult decision to make. We have stakes, but they feel disconnected from the rest.
It’s something Marvel Studios’ first phase did quite well and is hopefully something they return to with future installments. They’ve learned a lot over the years, and after their massive release of Avengers: Endgame, it seems like the perfect time to take a step back. We’re about to meet a whole new world, and the Disney+ ventures are already exploring these smaller, more personal stories. Here’s hoping the films don’t forget that is what drew us to this universe in the first place.