According to the Guardian’s early review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s the first time Black Widow has got to be an “actual character” rather than a “voluptuous female mascot.” Unfortunately, chief Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw’s follow-up was a little less sure of this, with Black Widow then being described as a “leather-clad… ass-kicking ex-Soviet adventuress whose auburn hairstyle is matched by her distinctive fake tan-type maquillage and restrained ochre lipstick.”
I’m glad he told us about her makeup routine, because otherwise that description would teach us next to nothing about her character.
In the Independent, Black Widow is a “sultry femme fatale,” although the Telegraph gives her the inaccurate but far more positive rating of “the most (the first?) complex female role in the Avengers franchise to date.”
Just for kicks, I took a look at the top reviews for The Avengers, to see what America’s most acclaimed and respected cinema critics thought of Black Widow back in 2012. Bear in mind that most of these quotes are the only description of Scarlett Johansson’s performance in the entire review.
In the New Yorker, Anthony Lane wrote, “not to be left out, Black Widow repels invading aliens through the sheer force of her corsetry,” while the Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer-winning Joe Morgenstern complained, “Black Widow spends lots of time looking puzzled or confused.” New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott referenced the 1960s British spy series The Avengers (no relation), writing, “those poor souls who cherish old daydreams of Diana Rigg in leather will have to console themselves with images of Scarlett Johansson in a black bodysuit.”
War is what happens when language fails.