The harsh reality of Marvel’s new movie Black Widow is that the movie is, as The A.V. Club’s own review states, about an “army of brainwashed “Widows,” carrying out orders for the Russian bigwig who kidnaps, grooms, and commands children.” It’s that kind of lighthearted fare that director Cate Shortland was charged with tackling. Oh, and it also just happens to be a huge, mega-budget, mega-franchise action movie. No pressure, though.
As Shortland tells us in the video below, she wanted to create a movie that was both “truthful and raw,” both in its action and in its storytelling. As she puts it, “Sometimes when I watch action sequences, I want to go put the coffee on because I know the shape of it and what’s going to happen. I wanted [Black Widow] to feel fresh and I wanted it to feel like there were stakes.”
Shortland achieved that two ways. First, by setting up the story’s dark backstory through an Americans-style array of mock found footage and references to a global trade in children aimed to fill the Widows’ Red Room. Shortland says, “We cast our Widows from all across the world. So we had African widows, French widows, Norwegian widows, Korean, Chinese, British,” saying the goal was “to talk to all women.”
Secondly, Shortland aimed to add stakes to Widow’s action by making the punches Scarlett Johansson and others take feel like they might actually sting, something we don’t always see in action movies. “If we see that she’s wounded, we actually feel what it takes to be a hero,” Shortland says. “If she’s Teflon coated and just wanders through a fight, there’s no grit. I want to feel my heroes deserve to be loved.” Shortland continues:
“I love when [Black Widow is] hit and gets back up because it’s a terrible, terrible thing. I think it speaks to women and to people that have been victimized. It says, ‘even if it’s a metaphorical hit, honey, you climb back out of that ditch and and you walk right over the top of him and you keep going with your life.’”