Tag Archives: Black Widow

My Thoughts on: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

*warning: minor spoilers for the movie can be found below, highly recommend watching the movie before reading this review

After the hype-fest that was Avengers Infinity War and Avengers Endgame, I admit to being slightly burnt out on Marvel movies for some time afterward (the pandemic didn’t help matters). Regardless of the reasons, the only Marvel movie I’d seen recently was Black Widow and I almost passed on seeing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as I’ve still yet to see the first Doctor Strange movie.

And then the trailer came out.

To put it bluntly: I was hooked from the start. I’m quite familiar with the work of director Sam Raimi and the thought of seeing him tackle a Marvel film sent chills down my spine (in the best way possible). And the tease of seeing so many iconic characters finally appearing in the MCU, well….I couldn’t pass that up either. Being a longtime fan of the X-Men movies, I simply had to see Patrick Stewart reprise his role as Charles Xavier (I’ll speak more on the cameos later on). 

Finally, the day came, and I got to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (while dodging almost all spoilers). And….to be honest, I’m still processing exactly what I saw. Because you better believe there’s a LOT happening in this movie.

Let me start at the beginning and see if I can make sense of what happens. The crux of the story revolves around young America Chavez, a girl who literally tumbles into Doctor Strange’s world with a unique power: she can travel the multiverse. This power makes her very desirable to many people, well, to one in particular.

I debated long and hard about whether or not I would directly mention this plot detail in my review, but I have so many thoughts on it, I’ve decided it’s worth it. So here is one final SPOILER WARNING before I continue:

Still here? Okay, you were warned….

The revelation that the Scarlet Witch is the big villain of the story hit me like a punch in the gut. I know Wanda has been through a LOT of trauma over the course of the MCU, but it still struck me as a surprise that she would go to this extreme in order to be reunited with the children she created in the first place. It just goes to show that love, real or imagined, can drive a person to do terrible things all in the name of keeping that love. There’s a frightening parallel between Wanda’s actions in this film and the evil Doctor Strange in the What If? episode “What if Doctor Strange lost his heart instead of his hands?” Like that Doctor Strange, Wanda is so focused on her goal, i.e. being reunited with her children no matter the cost, that she becomes almost completely blind to what her quest is costing her until the emotional climax of the film. And the moment it DOES hit her, it had me almost in tears, the depth of pain Wanda was feeling. 

Here’s the thing, while Wanda is set up as the villain, she’s clearly a tragic villain, one forced into this position because of what’s happened to her. Everything has built up to this outcome and Wanda simply couldn’t take it anymore. In hindsight, it’s almost not a surprise that this happened, because if you lost everything in one universe and suddenly discovered someone had the power to take you to another world where you had NOT lost everything…wouldn’t you be tempted to try and use it?

The one part I disagree with in Scarlet Witch’s story is the ending. I have waited for so many movies for the Scarlet Witch to be fully introduced, and I hate the idea that she was killed off just as we got her. Now, that being said, I don’t THINK that Wanda is actually dead. We’re meant to think she is, obviously, but there was no body seen, so you know there’s every chance she was just sucked into an alternate dimension. I refuse to believe that we lose the Scarlet Witch just as she fully develops.

Then there’s America Chavez. I really like this character, especially the way she interacts with Doctor Strange throughout the story. Based on her interactions with an alternate version of the sorcerer, it takes quite a while for America to develop a connection with “our” Doctor Strange, but once it does develop, it’s very touching. I’m hoping that we see these two pair up in future films, there’s definitely potential for this relationship to be expanded upon.

Now, on to the juicy parts, most notably THAT scene with the Illuminati. This is by far one of the best scenes I’ve seen since Avengers Endgame. The sheer number of cameos and information dropped in that scene had me enthralled, not least because we finally, FINALLY, had an onscreen appearance from a member of the Fantastic Four, something I have been longing to see ever since Marvel re-acquired the rights to that group of superheroes. I don’t know what connection, if any, this appearance will have with the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, but for now this cameo was more than enough. The only thing that could’ve made this better would’ve been an appearance from some of the X-men (besides Xavier) but I’m confident we’ll be getting that eventually. It was also thrilling to see Captain Carter putting in an appearance, she’s one of my favorite parts of the What If? series and this appearance only strengthens my desire to see a full-fledged Captain Carter movie.

If I have one complaint about this movie, it’s that we didn’t visit more dimensions in the multiverse. Watching the trailers, it seemed like we’d be visiting a lot more worlds than we ultimately did. That doesn’t mean that what we got wasn’t enjoyable, I just was left feeling like we could’ve gotten more.

Oh, and before I forget, I really want to talk for a minute about the horror element in this film. If anyone could pull this off it’s Sam Raimi and he did so beautifully. I honestly wasn’t sure if horror could work in the MCU but this movie proved it is indeed possible to combine horror and the MCU (which means we definitely need a Marvel Zombies movie now). I know horror isn’t for everyone, but if you give it a chance, you’ll see that this is really the only way this kind of story could go. 

I’m sure as time goes on that I’ll find details about this movie that I didn’t like, but after thinking it over and over, I have to say that I found Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to be a very enjoyable movie. I like the direction the MCU is headed in and I’m curious to see where the story goes next.

And that’s all I’ve really got to say about the movie. There’s more I could talk about, but I don’t want to spoil the entire movie for you. 

Let me know what you thought about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: Black Widow (2021)

Marvel Music/Hollywood Records has released the digital soundtrack from Marvel Studios’ Black Widow.  The album, featuring an original score composed and produced by Lorne Balfe (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “The Crown”), is available here.  Executive Soundtrack Producers are Cate Shortland, Kevin Feige and Dave Jordan.  Directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige, Black Widow—the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe— launches simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets.

Commenting on Balfe’s score in her liner notes from the vinyl album, Shortland said, “The score is fragile at times, embodying Natasha’s fears and her longing for connection. Her tenuous bond to the earth. But then it is completely powerful and I get cold shivers at how fun and epic it is. Lorne takes us on a spectacular ride.”

According to Balfe, from the moment he first watched the reels he felt Natasha needed a musical heritage. “I wanted to introduce the soundtrack of her story,” he said. “I listened to a lot of Russian folk music—it’s a very particular sound. This music is the ghost of the past that is always with her.” Balfe wrote folk music that helped define Natasha from a musical point of view. “The instrumental DNA includes balalaikas, duduks, dombras and hurdy-gurdies,” he said. “In addition to these instruments of that geographical place, we also needed it to have a female voice.” Balfe achieved this with a 20-piece female choir, singing in Russian. “The Russian language sounds a bit hard or aggressive, but there’s something very magical about it—something beautiful and rustic.”

Led by conductor Gavin Greenaway, the score was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with 118 musicians and a 60-piece choir, consisting of both classical and gospel, featuring 40 men and 20 women.  Balfe said, “Abbey Road has been the musical home to the Avengers Family for many years. With ‘Black Widow,’ there was only one studio in the world that could match the epic-ness of her story, and the largest orchestra ever recorded at Abbey Road seemed fit for the occasion.”

I’ve been listening and re-listening to Lorne Balfe’s soundtrack for Black Widow for a few hours and I’m continually blown away by how amazing this music is. Of course I could hear snippets of this during the actual film, but once you can listen to the soundtrack without the dialogue and other sound effects getting in the way, everything comes out that much clearer.

I admit I didn’t realize during the movie that there was this much of a choral presence in the score, but now that I can hear the choir, I love it. I normally wouldn’t think of using a choir in a superhero movie but for a character like Natasha Romanoff it absolutely works. One of Balfe’s goals was to create a Russian folk music sound and he definitely succeeded. Again, I really love how “Russian” this score sounds. Even when the story isn’t in Russia itself, the influence of the former Soviet Union can be heard through most of the story and that’s a brilliant way to use film music, by subtly reminding the viewer that Black Widow was originally a Russian asset. I can especially hear this sound in “Natasha’s Lullaby” and “Yelena Belova”. Speaking of “Yelena Belova” I really like this track because, as a theme for Yelena, I swear I hear an echo of “Natasha’s Lullaby” within it, which would make so much sense given the connection Natasha and Yelena have with each other.

And then there’s “From the Shadows”, the cue that prompted me to do a soundtrack review in the first place. This is the music that is most closely associated with Taskmaster. I’m not sure if it’s the proper theme for the character or not, but you do hear it most often when Taskmaster is on the screen. This is my favorite theme/cue in the entire film and I love how twisted it sounds. I’m referring to that melodic turn on what sounds like a cello. That’s the sound that I hear whenever Taskmaster is hunting down an opponent (or is on the move in general). Given what we learn about that character, it fits perfectly and I like how it reaches out to grab your ear despite everything happening on screen at the same time.

One other thing I liked is the contrast Lorne Balfe creates between his action cues. There’s plenty of action, of course, but there’s also slower moments in the music, particularly during the family moments between Natasha, Yelena, Red Guardian and Milena, and I really liked them. Moments like that give the audience a chance to breathe and there are plenty of moments like this in Lorne Balfe’s score.

This soundtrack really belongs up there with the best Marvel movie scores, it’s the perfect musical fit for Black Widow and it reminded me how good Marvel film scores can be.

Track listing
1. Natasha’s Lullaby (3:24)
2. Latrodectus (2:40)
3. Fireflies (3:13)
4. The Pursuit (2:53)
5. The First Bite Is the Deepest (3:05)
6. Last Glimmer (4:19)
7. Dreykov (3:34)
8. You Don’t Know Me (2:01)
9. Yelena Belova (3:36)
10. From the Shadows (3:44)
11. Hand in Hand (2:46)
12. Blood Ties (2:54)
13. Whirlwind (3:28)
14. Arise (2:13)
15. Natasha’s Fragments (1:55)
16. A Sister Says Goodbye (4:14)
17. I Can’t Save Us (1:51)
18. Red Rising (3:57)
19. The Betrayed (5:38)
20. The Descent (2:05)
21. Faces to the Sun (1:51)
22. Natasha Soars (2:19)
23. Last Love (1:59)
24. Into the Past (4:55)
25. Broken Free (3:09)
26. A Calling (2:10)

Let me know what you think about Black Widow (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Black Widow (2021)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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My Thoughts on: Black Widow (2021)

It feels like an eternity since I watched Avengers: Endgame in the waning days of 2019. So much has happened since then that I genuinely forgot what it felt like to experience a Marvel movie in the theater. And then I sat down to watch Black Widow (after waiting more than a year to see it) and it all came rushing back to me, that thrill that can only come from seeing a Marvel film on the big screen.

Let me start off by saying that Black Widow was absolutely worth the extended wait. Sure, it would’ve been ideal if we’d gotten this story several years ago, or at least before Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but it’s made clear multiple times that this film takes place immediately after Captain America: Civil War, so I’m willing to let it go. At least we finally got a standalone story about Black Widow that takes us deep into her past, and gives us a tantalizing look at how she (and other “widows”) were trained.

If I have one gripe with Black Widow it’s that I really wanted to see more of the Red Room training that goes into creating assassins like Natasha and Yelena. We’re given, as I said, a tantalizing glimpse, but no more. Given what’s implied about this training process, that might be for the best, but I still found myself wanting more.

Other than that, I found myself loving pretty much everything about Black Widow. The chemistry between Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh is off the charts and is by far one of my favorite parts of this movie. Believe the hype about Pugh’s performance as Yelena Belova, it’s all true. I’m not sure if Yelena is going to be the new Black Widow moving forward, but I could certainly see her stepping into that role in future Marvel films and I wouldn’t complain if that indeed happened. Speaking of chemistry, I really enjoyed the interplay between David Harbour (Red Guardian) and Rachel Weisz. I would happily watch a film that explored the background of these two characters, especially anything that focused more on Red Guardian. I think we all want to see a film that explores THAT story.

Another detail I liked and one that surprised me is how many funny moments there are in this film. Given the serious topics involved, I wasn’t expecting this at all, but I really liked it, it helped to break up the tension, which is always an important element that some movies neglect. After all, if you keep things too fast or too serious all the way through, it can really grate on an audience.

And make no mistake, there are some serious issues touched on in Black Widow, particularly in regards to the treatment of women. I know what I said earlier about wishing this film had come out several years earlier, but given everything that’s happened in recent years (especially the Me Too movement) I think maybe Black Widow came out at the right time after all. The film’s main villain is one of the most disturbing and revolting to appear in the entire MCU and long before he meets his demise you’ll be begging Natasha to finish him off. Speaking of villains, for what it’s worth, I really like Taskmaster’s appearance in this film. I admit I’m not familiar with the character’s comic book origins, but I like how the character was updated for this film.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly mention the film’s score. Lorne Balfe has constructed some gorgeous music to go with Black Widow and what I heard intrigued me enough that a full-on soundtrack review will be forthcoming. My favorite part has to be the music associated with Taskmaster and if you’ve seen the movie you probably know what I’m talking about (my soundtrack review will provide details). And one final note: I like that the movie leaves some plot threads unresolved, because it practically guarantees that we will see some of these characters again.

In conclusion, I loved Black Widow. Marvel has returned to the big screen in style and I urge everyone who hasn’t seen it yet to go see Black Widow in theaters if at all possible, this is a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen.

Let me know what you think about Black Widow in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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