Scarlett Johansson's Best Performances Ranked

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IndieWire 11 July, 2021 - 10:00am 9 views

Who plays taskmaster in Black Widow?

One of the big revelations in Marvel's Black Widow is that Taskmaster—a character whose identity is hidden for 80% of the movie—is revealed to be Antonia Dreykov, played by Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Oblivion). GizmodoMarvel's Black Widow: Let's Talk About Taskmaster

How much did Black Widow make?

It reported that “Black Widow” had earned $60 million on Disney Plus worldwide, in addition to the $158 million it earned at the global box office. VarietyMarvel’s ‘Black Widow’ Made $60 Million on Disney Plus. Is That Good?

Is taskmaster in Black Widow?

Every good Marvel superhero needs a supervillain, so as Black Widow stepped up for her solo movie debut, it's only natural that she got a signature bad guy to go along with her. In Black Widow, that's Taskmaster, the mysterious killer with the ability to learn any fighting technique simply by watching it. PolygonWho is the Taskmaster in Black Widow?

Scarlett Johansson is back on the big screen this weekend in the loooong-awaited “Black Widow” from Marvel Studios and Disney, finally here after endless pandemic-related delays. Johansson gets the chance to (once again, and perhaps for the last time) flex her already-established footprint in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Natasha Romanoff, who has also appeared in the “Avengers” series, “Captain America,” and more.

But the actress’ career is also distinguished by less splashy roles, whether in indie comedies or more softly spoken, serious dramas. In 2020 alone, she netted two Oscar nominations (also her first!), for the films “Jojo Rabbit” and “Marriage Story” in two wildly different roles — one as a German mother who’s secretly anti-Nazi during WWII, and the other as one-half of a thespian couple falling apart across U.S. coasts.

With “Black Widow” now in theaters (and streaming on Disney+), and Johansson taking her final bow as the S.H.I.E.L.D. spy, take a look back at her 10 best roles.

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This Article is related to: Film and tagged Black Widow, JoJo Rabbit, Marriage Story, Marvel, Scarlett Johansson

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It’s too late for Black Widow

The Verge 13 July, 2021 - 01:48am

Marvel’s latest film thoroughly skewers the franchise’s portrayal of Black Widow... far too late

In Age of Ultron she was crammed into a hamfisted romance with the Hulk that was immediately mocked in Thor: Ragnarok. Her big swan dive into oblivion in Endgame for the sake of her “boys,” the Avengers, is repeatedly mocked in her titular film, Black Widow. For the first heroine of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Natasha Romanoff often feels like a big joke. And this attempt to rehabilitate her posthumously feels like far too little far too late.

In Black Widow, director Cate Shortland and screenwriters Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson are clearly trying to recontextualize Natasha Romanoff and find a genuinely interesting character buried under a decade of oversexualized junk. The problem is that’s really hard to do. This character carries a lot of baggage — way more than Wanda Maximoff — who Schaeffer handily rehabilitated in WandaVision.

Wanda could have a bad rap in the films, but she is also still alive by the end of each chapter in her story. She can be transformed into a dynamic character with wants and desires beyond what a handful of male directors shunted onto her in a few films. Natasha Romanoff doesn’t have the same luxury. She can’t be dynamic because her story is already told. We’ve already witnessed her endgame. She tells Hawkeye she’s a not-great person and the least she can do is kill herself so some men, her “boys,” can live. Black Widow creaks under the weight of this future. The filmmakers build up a rich and nuanced life for her that doesn’t revolve around the Avengers. It’s meant to be a curtain pulled back; an exploration of what made her tick and what led to her decision to swan dive into oblivion. Instead it feels like desperate and sweaty justification for a widely maligned move.

But the filmmakers do try to fix what was broken before they came along. In one of the standout moments of the film, Natasha is eluding a worldwide manhunt while doing absolutely nothing to change her appearance. As she drops some cash for snacks at a gas station her adoptive sister Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh, pointedly begins mocking Natasha’s tendency to pose and flip her hair after doing something athletically impressive. It’s extremely funny, and a great character moment — a sister ragging on one of the most humorless heroes in the MCU. It’s the filmmakers speaking through Yelena, chastising a decade of fetishization by Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, and the Russo brothers while neatly establishing that Yelena will be different.

“See,” Marvel seems to say. “We get that we told women to wait their turn for a decade. We acknowledge our sins and would like you to overlook them because Pugh and Johansson have great chemistry.”

I spent a lot of the movie torn between being annoyed at the cookie Marvel was meting out and actually loving the taste of the thing. Then the movie embraces the gallows humor one would expect a bunch of lifetime assassins and spies to engage in, when Natasha and Yelena go into graphic details of their forced sterilization as a joke. The movie later descends into the rote beats of the MCU’s more militaristic fare, but this moment, which savagely addresses a key and controversial plot point from Age of Ultron, makes it all almost feel like it was worth it.

In Black Widow Yelena, and then Natasha, go on a black comedy riff over their barren wombs to the discomfort of the Red Guardian, who acted as their father in a spy-op 20 years earlier before turning them over to the Red Room to become Black Widows. Where once Natasha said it made her a monster, here it’s something to joke about with her younger, similarly affected, sister. It feels more genuine, and certainly less maudlin, than crowing about being a monster before finding a facsimile of motherhood in crooning lullabies to a giant green man. This was the Black Widow of the comics, and the promise of the character as seen in Winter Soldier (and to a lesser extent Civil War): an assassin with a pitch-black sense of humor, using it to make her pretend spy dad uncomfortable for his complicity in her child soldier past.

It’s a pity Natasha is still dead, and Scarlet Johansson is done with the franchise, because for a few minutes we got what we’d been promised 12 years ago when Emily Blunt was first rumored to be joining the nascent MCU as Black Widow. Like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth, she spent over a decade of her career on this franchise. They each got a trilogy of films interrogating their character’s purpose in the MCU. She got a prequel trying to soften the blow of her abrupt departure. The movie was fun, and there are moments in it that are even excellent, but it all feels like far too little, far too late.

Thanks to a post-credits sequence, we know Pugh is next headed to the Disney Plus show Hawkeye. Let’s hope her Black Widow is treated a little kinder by the MCU. But as she’s already being pitted against Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld’s Hawkeyes, I wouldn’t get too optimistic.

Black Widow's Surprise Taskmaster Reveal Fell Completely Flat

Yahoo Lifestyle 13 July, 2021 - 01:48am

Before the release of Black Widow, there was a big mystery surrounding who was playing Taskmaster in Scarlett Johansson's long-delayed solo MCU movie.

Marvel fans knew who Taskmaster was in the comics (Anthony 'Tony' Masters, who hasn't been in the MCU to date), but there was an expectation that Black Widow would see the MCU deliver another villain twist and a big reveal.

So fans speculated how O-T Fagbenle would be revealed as Taskmaster since we knew next-to-nothing about his character, or how Rachel Weisz would be revealed as Taskmaster given Melina's antagonistic relationship with Black Widow in the comics.

As expected, Black Widow did have a surprise Taskmaster reveal up its sleeve and it's meant to be a big emotional moment, but it falls completely flat. To go into the reasons why, we need to go into spoilers so look away if you haven't seen the movie yet.

When Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) finally comes face-to-face with Dreykov (Ray Winstone) in the Red Room, he reveals the truth about Taskmaster and it's nobody any fan would have guessed.

It turns out that Taskmaster is Dreykov's daughter Antonia, played by Olga Kurylenko, who Natasha thought she had killed in Budapest years ago. Kurylenko is credited in Black Widow's dark opening credits, but she wasn't reported as being part of the movie ahead of release.

Dreykov explains how Antonia was left with devastating injuries after Natasha blew up the building she (and her father) were in when Antonia was a child. Rather than looking after her like a normal father would, Dreykov brainwashed his daughter and turned her into the ultimate assassin who can mimic any fighting style.

Since this is the family-friendly MCU, Natasha chooses not to fight Antonia and saves her during Black Widow's explosive climax. She frees her from Dreykov's mind control and, hopefully, Antonia's future is brighter than her past now she's free from her father.

The reveal is meant to pack an emotional punch as it's Natasha literally facing the demons of her past and redeeming herself by saving Antonia. However, it doesn't quite work as we've seen hardly any evidence of Natasha being haunted by this dark episode in her past.

The only previous reference to Dreykov's daughter and what Natasha did to her was in The Avengers when Loki taunts Natasha over the 'red in her ledger'. It initially appears as though she's shaken by the throwback, but her emotional response is revealed to only be a ruse to get Loki to reveal his plan.

Even in Black Widow, Yelena (Florence Pugh) has to physically force Natasha to remember what she did in Budapest. She saw Antonia's death as "collateral" in order to rid the world of Dreykov, unaware that he actually survived her assassination attempt.

We've known Natasha in the MCU for more than a decade and The Avengers nod remains the only hint of what she did. The Natasha we've seen had moved on from the past and didn't seem troubled by it, so why should Marvel fans be that bothered by Antonia's reveal?

Arguably, it's more of a failing of the MCU to not give Johansson more material to work with over so many movies. Natasha didn't really get any solo moments to shine or develop her character across the entire MCU, beyond some impressive fight scenes every now and then.

The Black Widow reveal is meant to retcon how we viewed Natasha and her past trauma. It hints that rather than her not being haunted by what she did, she essentially forced herself to forget what she did as she viewed it as a necessary evil, but that doesn't mean she didn't carry guilt over it.

That's fine, but then Black Widow doesn't give it the exploration it deserves. Like its nods to real-life issues, the movie gets distracted by its MCU trappings rather than properly delving into the dark subject matter.

When Antonia is revealed, Natasha's first instinct is to apologize to her as she's confronted with the horror of what she did. It's not long until the explosions start though, so the revelation is relegated to a subplot, rather than being the focus of the climax.

What could have been a Civil War-esque emotional and restrained final battle becomes your standard MCU climax.

Natasha's redemption is relegated to one brief moment when she frees Taskmaster before the Red Room crashes to the ground. It's a nice character beat, a sign of how she's grown since Budapest, yet it hardly seems to balance the books given she effectively condemned Antonia to a lifetime of servitude.

Antonia is fully freed from Dreykov's influence in the end and with it probably comes the end of Taskmaster's brief MCU run. With Johansson also bidding farewell to the MCU, it probably means this is the only exploration we'll get of her past misdeeds too.

Given how beloved Taskmaster is for some Marvel fans, the Black Widow reveal has been treated as a misstep on a par with Iron Man 3's Mandarin reveal. Shang-Chi will introduce the 'real' Mandarin, so there's a chance we could see Taskmaster again in the future in a different form.

However, we feel the real missed opportunity is with how Black Widow hints at truly delving into Natasha's past and the red in her ledger, only to end up giving it a surface-level treatment before getting distracted by less interesting matters.

That post-credits scene is fueling some theories...

These are your options. Choose wisely.

This tease is likely to pay off fairly soon.

In case you needed a refresher...

In "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," Johansson said that her character was initially written to arrive in tennis whites and a blond wig.

You have options this time—but either way, you'll have to pay.

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‘Black Widow’: Scarlett Johansson Explains Why Natasha Romanoff Is a Great Role Model For Young Girls

Showbiz Cheat Sheet 11 July, 2021 - 11:35pm

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Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow character Natasha Romanoff doesn’t fit the traditional standard of a superhero or a role model, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t one. Natasha, who’s been a recurring character in several of Marvel’s biggest films to date, has gone through a ton of changes, and fans get a closer look at her evolution in the studio’s newest film.

Even though Natasha’s past as an assassin is likely not something most parents would find admirable, Johansson still believes that she has a bevy of qualities that make her a great role model for kids. 

She recently shared her thoughts on several of Natasha’s most admirable qualities while promoting Black Widow which came out on July 9.

“One of her most admirable attributes is that she’s not afraid to admit when she’s wrong, Johansson told Fatherly. “She takes responsibility for things, particularly in this film.”

Getting more specific, Johansson noted that Natasha’s willingness to be forthcoming and mindful of others is a quality that all young women can learn from. 

“She’s really coming to terms with her past in a way that is very, very mindful, very thoughtful, and considerate, and mindful. And I think she’s someone who has a lot of respect for other people. She has a lot of integrity as a person, and I think that makes her a great role model for children and certainly for young girls.”

Natasha’s compassion for others is a quality that Johansson consistently works to instill in her own daughter, who is around seven years old. 

“She acknowledges the pain that she’s caused or just that someone else has actually experienced pain. That’s really powerful to say: I see that you’re hurting. That’s such a huge step for a person to make. It’s something I try to teach my daughter. It’s complicated, of course, when kids are little, but she’s a compassionate person.”

Even though Natasha is portrayed as a very compassionate person in Black Widow, this hasn’t always been true to her character. In a separate interview with Collider, Johansson acknowledged that Natasha has changed a lot since earlier Marvel films.  

“I think Natasha has a lot of compassion and that’s not necessarily what I would have anticipated when we were filming Iron Man 2 or Avengers or whatever,” she said. “You’ve seen glimpses of it and it’s developed over time, as we’ve been able to bring the character to the forefront in different installments, but she’s a very compassionate person and that passion is actually what drives a lot of her decision making. I mean, she’s also practical and pragmatic and I don’t think those two things have to necessarily work against each other. That part of her is what really touches me.”

Black Widow is now playing in theaters. 

RELATED: Scarlett Johansson Says ‘Black Widow’ Would’ve Been a ‘Missed Opportunity’ if It Didn’t Discuss Female Empowerment

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