Hi everyone, excited to kick off this #BlackWidowWatchParty with you now. Follow along for some behind-the-scenes stories from the making of #BlackWidow. I'll do my best to answer some of your questions along the way. Let's press play ▶️ - KF
First ten minutes of Black Widow is super freaking dark. Does it get bright-hued and Marvel-y, or is the whole thing ~edgy~?
Came in shallower than expected, and dropping like a rock ‘Black Widow’ has steepest second weekend decline in MCU by 500bps ("maybe it won’t be so scary for rival studios in the future to follow a Marvel movie") D&D cannibalizing customer discrimination deadline.com/2021/07/black-widow-mcu-record-second-weekend-box-office-drop-disney-piracy-1234795325/#utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=social_bar&utm_content=top_amp&utm_id=1234795325
They should put Miles Morales in the MCU and cast me. just Saying @MarvelStudios pic.twitter.com/ceN36L2j6p
How much is Black Widow on Disney plus?
TOM: The National Association of Theater Owners released a statement on Sunday that blamed the unusually high drop in grosses for “Black Widow” on Disney, which placed the film from the start on Disney+ (with an additional $29.99 cost). IndieWireBlaming Disney+ for the ‘Black Widow’ Drop Was Not a Smart Argument
One of the best through lines in Black Widow is the rambling of Red Guardian (David Harbour). He talks about all his showdowns with Captain America and how it was a big deal to have the hero of Russia fighting the hero of the U.S. We haven’t seen it but, Kevin Feige did agree he likes the idea of the new Captain America, played by Anthony Mackie, showing down with the Guardian.
Which makes you wonder, who was Red Guardian fighting? Was he fighting anyone? Well, think back just a few months to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Isaiah Bradley was fighting as an American-sanctioned supersoldier during some of the years Guardian was talking about. Plus, his existence suggests there could have been other soldiers experimented on. It seems that’s a story we’re going to get much more of in the future.
Read full article at Gizmodo
20 July, 2021 - 03:00pm
TOM: The National Association of Theater Owners released a statement on Sunday that blamed the unusually high drop in grosses for “Black Widow” on Disney, which placed the film from the start on Disney+ (with an additional $29.99 cost). The statement included some valid points, but highlighting the PVOD as the sole reason for the fall (41 percent the first Saturday from its opening, then 67 percent down the second weekend), NATO hurt its own case.
ANNE: NATO president and CEO John Fithan and his lieutenant Patrick Corcoran (VP and chief communications officer) have to make cogent arguments for why theaters are the best possible way for the studios to return the most money on their multi-million-dollar movies. Over the decades, the many threats to movies all became ancillary markets — TV, cable, homevideo — and box office drove that value. It’s how Hollywood figured out what a movie was worth, and crunched the numbers on how it would perform in all the markets that followed an exclusive theatrical release.
Now there’s a new dominant distribution model challenging the old one and Corcoran’s press release tries to argue that releasing movies in theaters is still the best way for a big Marvel tentpole to make its billion dollars worldwide. He wants every studio head to read his numbers and weep.
TOM: One person in particular, I’d guess — Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. But that’s why I question why NATO chose to argue that point. Studio heads know that “Black Widow” was available on PVOD from day one — not the first Saturday, not the second weekend. My guess is they all had the same thought as I did: Hey, isn’t the reaction of those who saw the film in theaters (and perhaps at home as well) a major reason why it dropped?
My sense is it lacked the sizzle of many Marvel films. It felt more like fellow big-deal franchises like the Bond films, the “Fast and Furious” series, the “Mission: Impossible” films — the big set pieces, the contemporary European setting — and lacked fun, particularly the kind that comes from interaction with other Marvel characters. Entertaining, and more than competent, but not standout. Plus, it initially got a 58 percent male audience rather than a possible female boost. Perhaps that group was not enthralled.
Industry people I hear from have a much more nuanced reaction to its performance. They’re aware that we have multiple examples of successful day-and-date releases, as well as similar drops. “F9” also fell 67 percent its second weekend — and it is not on PVOD yet! “Godzilla vs. Kong” fell 56 percent in its second weekend and it was available for free on HBO Max for subscribers, not an additional $29.99.
To me, it weakens an argument when you underestimate the knowledge of those whom you want to influence. It’s a complicated issue. Overstating that case lessened the impact of more valid points —the impact on the total revenue stream, and piracy.
ANNE: I liked “Black Widow” a lot. My guess is the opening-weekend audience was the most eager and excited fan base and the second-weekend drop is a combo of weak word of mouth and the option to buy it online. Also, doesn’t the recent COVID surge also play into the numbers, as many moviegoers may not want to assemble indoors in an often mask-free environment?
Corcoran isn’t addressing that issue because his real fear is that, post-pandemic, these new distribution models will solidify into the norm. Exhibitors are hoping and praying that somehow, some way, they will return to the old ways.
To quote the cliche, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Day-and-date releases are here to stay. It’s better for a movie to play in theaters opposite premium access than on streaming for the price of a monthly subscription — like Pixar’s “Luca,” which meant families weren’t in movie theaters and buying popcorn and candy. That’s how theaters make their money. At least this way moviegoers have a choice of how to see their movie.
TOM: There are benefits in options. And although it makes their argument less dramatic, it includes some benefits for theaters.
First, we can’t assume grosses are going to recover; certainly, not soon. Studios like Disney that spend $200 million+ to make movies are more likely to continue doing so if they can be guaranteed more revenue, which this model does. Second, by all reports theaters are paying less in film rentals — perhaps significantly so — when the films are also playing at home. Yes, they want butts in seats that buy concessions, but it’s possible that with lower rentals their overall return might not be dramatically lower. Third, I’d assume that PVOD meant Disney spent more in marketing. That helps theaters as well.
Your point about COVID still a factor is also quite apt as far as an overall deterrent. Perhaps that’s a big reason for the drops — as you said, the most likely to see it went as soon as possible. As for the pool of remaining ticket buyers, they included a bunch of people who still are not returning in numbers.
Of course, theaters and and NATO would prefer not to have the alternative. And you’re right, this is much better than “Luca,” which did not prompt a NATO statement; that “foul” was far more egregious. Disney is clearly testing different models — theaters with PVOD, theaters with Disney+ and no PVOD, theaters only, Disney+ only. I suspect that will continue indefinitely and they will make their decisions accordingly. But whatever Disney and Marvel decide to do, it will be determined more by what they think is best for Disney + than for theaters.
Interviews with leading film and TV creators about their process and craft.
20 July, 2021 - 03:00pm
The long-awaited standalone movie about Natasha Romanoff’s origins wasn’t only hit by hard box office numbers, but it’s also been subject to criticism about whether it really fits within the MCU Phase it was released in. Black Widow takes place immediately after Captain America: Civil War (2016), leading up to the events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), which falls in the Phase 3 timeline, though technically kicks off the fourth. Audiences have been quick to note that introducing Black Widow’s solo story in Phase 2 or 3 may have given more justification for her death, exploring her torn family life and close bond with Clint Barton before Endgame.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Widow’s release date was pushed back over a year, contributing to its loss within the cultural forefront as a poignant memorial for a character fans have been with since 2010. Black Widow was always intended to be the MCU’s first follow-up to Phase 3 and Spider-Man: Far From Home, and while it still is the first Marvel movie to be released since 2019, its hype has been overshadowed by the success of Marvel’s Disney+ series WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki. While these may not be all of the factors contributing to Black Widow’s box office slowdown, let’s take a look at why the movie’s numbers don’t bode well for Marvel and Disney’s future.
While Black Widow’s opening weekend success seemed to forecast a wide haul with theatrical longevity for the MCU, the second weekend put all such hopes to rest. Aside from the pandemic box office records it had set the weekend before, Black Widow set another MCU box office record: The largest second-week drop in box office sales of any MCU movie. Black Widow’s 67 percent revenue fall even surpassed that of Ant-Man and the Wasp, which dropped a drastic 62 percent. The movie’s second week even fell to second in the box office behind Space Jam: A New Legacy, which had relatively poor critical reviews. While Black Widow received positive reviews from critics, holding an 82 percent critics score and 91 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, its theatrical release issues pose a problem for the MCU’s future movie launches.
Since Black Widow was delayed three times over the course of the pandemic, the movie was marketed to bring not only Marvel fans but movie-lovers around the world back to theaters. Marvel was branding Black Widow as the MCU being back in cinemas more than it marketed the memorialization of Natasha, meaning they intended the movie as a way to remake all the losses it incurred without theatrical releases in 2020. With the MCU’s notoriety as an audience cinema experience rather than just a movie, theaters were the best way to market the Marvel movie as a return to the interactive community. Considering Black Widow’s unprecedented decline in subsequent ticket sales, theater experiences may not be the best way to promote future films, and it proves the MCU isn’t bulletproof when it comes to poor attendance.
The COVID-19 pandemic still isn’t truly over, so Black Widow’s numbers may be reflecting the average moviegoer and Marvel fans/ worries about returning to theaters. It would be completely unreasonable for Marvel to expect Black Widow to gross anything close to Endgame, though the pandemic affecting box-office numbers had to be anticipated. Black Widow was a years-in-the-making project that involved one of the MCU’s most beloved characters, so its decline poses issues for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a solo origin movie about a new MCU character’s upcoming release. A lot can happen before Shang-Chi’s September 2021 theatrical release, including more possible COVID-related shutdown restrictions, but, as Black Widow proves, Marvel can’t solely rely on promoting it as a return-to-theaters event.
Black Widow’s success on Disney+ may have also contributed to its sharp decline in box office sales the second week. While a theatrical viewing typically means better sound, pictures, and focus, tickets and concessions can be quite expensive for a family, meaning watching for $30 on one’s own TV can be a much more financially feasible option. Premier Access also provides several other advantages like 30-day access, meaning audiences can rewatch the movie as many times as they want within that time frame instead of having to go back to the theaters and buy more tickets for second viewings. Similarly, this may have been the best option for those who are still uncomfortable visiting movie theaters during the pandemic, bringing in the box office money lost from such sales.
Premier Access bringing in a significant amount of money with Black Widow is good news for Disney, but it may mean Marvel's box office numbers will be skewed for the foreseeable future. When accounting for movie revenue, most movies up until recent years have used box office numbers to analyze their success considering online streaming and DVD rentals were mostly unavailable until the end of theatrical runs. Now that some movies are only available on streaming, have limited box office releases before streaming, or do simultaneous streaming and theatrical releases, detailing the best way for a movie to make back its money is increasingly difficult. Movies’ success online means more threats to theaters that have already lost an insurmountable percentage of revenue from services like Netflix, so Marvel, one of cinema's most reliably successful box office franchises, doing well on Disney+ means a theater-streaming co-release signifies danger for theaters. Black Widow’s box office story provides evidence that movies releasing at the same time on Disney+ and theaters may hurt the longevity of Marvel’s future revenue.
20 July, 2021 - 03:00pm
Humor has become a recognizable part of the Marvel Studios formula. Jokes and one-liners are part of the company’s house style. Comedian Seth Rogen has mused that films like Ant-Man and Thor: Ragnarok have changed the rules for studio comedies, pointing out, “There are $200 million comedies out there, and so that’s something, as a comedic filmmaker, to be aware of. That is the benchmark that people expect!”
Comedy has been a part of the shared DNA of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) dating back to the earliest film in the franchise. Iron Man was written and directed by Jon Favreau, who emerged from the Chicago improvisational comedy scene. Favreau credits his time on the circuit with teaching him skills invaluable to his subsequent career, “Learning improv, I learned about storytelling, writing, editing, directing, and acting.” It even helped him on later projects like The Jungle Book.
When he was making Iron Man, Favreau made a conscious decision to structure the film to encourage playfulness, stating, “As we filmed it, I made sure that I left a lot of room for improvisation and spontaneity.” Actor Jeff Bridges has likened working on Iron Man to “making a $200 million student film.” It helped that actor Robert Downey Jr. was a gifted improvisational performer, even improvising the film’s iconic closing scene.
Many of the best films in the MCU skillfully integrate that comedy into their storytelling. Iron Man 3 blends a sardonic sense of humor with an irreverent premise to great effect. Guardians of the Galaxy employed a juvenile sense of humor as an expression of its characters’ arrested development. Thor: Ragnarok hid a barbed critique of imperialism and colonialism behind a disarming improvisational comedy.
It’s notable that most of these more successful comedies were the work of creators with strong and distinctive voices. Jon Favreau, Shane Black, and James Gunn all served as both writers and directors on their films. Taika Waititi largely ignored the original script written for Thor: Ragnarok, explaining, “I had a list of things I thought might be good in the scene, but didn’t try to put it in the script because I knew it’d have to go through five different people to be approved.”
The best jokes in the MCU serve as characterization, telling the audience something about the characters while also landing a punchline. In The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, a lot of the jokes around Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) are rooted in anchoring the character as a man out of time, from his insistence that Thor is not a god because “there’s only one God … and (Steve’s) pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that” through to his chastising of his teammates for their “language.”
However, the franchise’s sense of humor can become a crutch when employed with less skill and purpose. Eric Pearson, the writer described as the company’s “go-to script doctor,” argues jokes are the easiest way to endear characters to an audience, remarking that “they can do something really cool, or they can make you laugh.” As a result, the humor in MCU films can sometimes be broad and indiscriminate.
To pick an example from Avengers: Infinity War, two characters make the same joke about Dr. Strange looking like a party entertainer within 10 minutes. Iron Man (Downey Jr.) reacts to the character’s appearance in costume in Central Park by asking, “You giving out tickets or something?” Moments later, the Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughn-Lawlor) muses, “You must be popular with children.” The Ebony Maw is an invading alien; why does he care about children’s entertainment?
These gags are designed to put the audience at ease by pointing out how goofy and silly these superhero stories really are. They assure the audience that the movie is in on the joke. Because both Iron Man and the Ebony Maw have pointed out how silly Dr. Strange looks, Infinity War insulates itself from any criticism that it is taking itself too seriously or is too self-important. It beat the audience to the punchline.
There is a danger to this approach. At its worst, it actively undermines any dramatic stakes by communicating that the characters don’t actually care about what is happening — so why should the audience? Captain America: Civil War finds the Avengers at odds following a disastrous intervention in Lagos that resulted in at least 11 civilian casualties. The Wakandan King T’Chaka (John Kani) is murdered while giving a speech to the United Nations. This should be a big deal.
As the Avengers demolish a conveniently empty Leipzig/Halle Airport, in a battle that sees James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) receiving a spinal injury that leaves him unable to walk unaided, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) trade banter about how little any of this actually matters to them. “We’re still friends, right?” she asks. “Depends on how hard you hit me,” he replies. Nothing means anything. Why should the audience care about any of this?
Black Widow brushes up against this problem repeatedly. Although Black Widow is the first solo movie based around the character, The Avengers and Age of Ultron established Natasha Romanoff as both a deadpan snarker and tragic figure. In The Avengers, Natasha confessed that she had done terrible things and was haunted by “the red in (her) ledger.” In Age of Ultron, Natasha revealed that she had been forcibly sterilized during the training that turned her into a world-class assassin.
Black Widow grapples with the character’s history. Early in the film, it is revealed that Natasha made a conscious choice to kill a child to escape from the Red Room. She also abandoned her surrogate sister Yelena (Florence Pugh), leaving her behind and never looking back. Natasha discovers that the Red Room is still active, with the sinister Dreykov (Ray Winstone) taking young women and turning them into killing machines with no moral or bodily autonomy.
This is heavy stuff. Black Widow was released as women in the United States are still fighting for control of their own reproductive systems and reports of authorities conducting unauthorized hysterectomies on women in their care. Black Widow is occasionally unflinching in its portrayal of such brutality against women. The climax finds Dreykov beating Natasha in a sequence that evokes domestic abuse, even watching her flinch as he raises the back of his hand.
However, Black Widow falls back too casually into easy jokes. The film arguably spends as much time setting up and paying off a joke about Natasha’s tendency to indulge in “superhero landings” as it does wrestling with the moral weight of what is happening. Cate Shortland’s directorial choices evoke dramas like The Americans or Munich, with the film’s espionage plot drawing from The Bourne Identity, but Black Widow is constantly punctuated by jokes that could easily come from Moonraker.
Black Widow even goes out of its way to reduce existing character drama to wry punchlines. Natasha’s “red” ledger and her forced sterilization are turned into jokes at the expense of her bumbling surrogate father Alexei, played by David Harbour in a performance inspired by Ricky Gervais’ work in The Office. Alexei pridefully boasts about how his daughters’ “ledgers must be dripping, just gushing red” and gets grossed out when Yelena discusses the removal of her uterus.
These are solid jokes on their own terms. The gag involving Alexei’s discomfort with discussing basic female biology is arguably part of the recent wave of feminist humor challenging the double standard about how male and female sexuality is discussed. Revealingly, the joke began in Pearson’s script as a joke about Yelena’s period, and Shortland considered cutting it before deciding to reclaim it. However, the gags work against the most interesting and compelling parts of Black Widow.
Like many Marvel Studios films, Black Widow seems to exist in a constant state of fear that the audience might think that it is taking itself too seriously and that it isn’t in on the joke. However, this is a rare superhero film that is surprisingly candid about the ways in which society can treat women as “trash” to be exploited and discarded. Perhaps some things are worth taking seriously.
20 July, 2021 - 03:00pm
We spent an entire year without a new Marvel film release, and now fans have been rewarded with Black Widow, the action-heavy solo venture of the first female Avenger, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). The film debuts an ensemble cast of characters, including the mysterious, yet deadly, Taskmaster.
The villain Taskmaster is adapted from the Marvel comic books, but in the film she’s Antonia Dreykov (Olga Kurylenko), the mind-controlled daughter of the Red Room overseer. While her origin story may be different, Taskmaster’s ability to mimic the combat style of anyone she observes is straight out of the comics. In the film, her father (Ray Winstone) uses Taskmaster’s skills to try and defeat Natasha – Taskmaster emulates the people she’s studied closely, namely, the Avengers.
This villain can fight, be it in hand-to-hand combat, or when wielding swords and knives. Taskmaster’s unique gift not only makes for brilliant fight scenes, but also serves the dual purpose of featuring some of the film’s best Easter eggs. She copies the Avengers in almost every scene she’s in, so, if you thought that particular move or pose looked familiar, here are all the Avengers that Taskmaster mimicked in Black Widow.
Most likely, Taskmaster is simply a trained swordfighter, but it’s also possible that she mimics the unsheathing and wielding techniques that James Rhodes/ War Machine (Don Cheadle) used in Civil War when he was attempting to attack Captain America with his War Hammer.