Black Widow

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Not suitable under 14; parental guidance to 16 (violence, themes, language, scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Black Widow
  • a review of Black Widow completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 July 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not suitable due to violence, themes, scary scenes and language.
Children aged 14–16 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, themes, scary scenes and language.
Children over the age of 16 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Black Widow
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and action violence
Length: 134 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Aside from a quick glimpse of what life was like for the young Natasha and Yelena in mid-1990’s Ohio, Black Widow picks up shortly after the film Captain America: Civil War left off. Natasha (Scarlett Johansen) is on the run from the US government and is hiding out in Norway when she encounters a robotic soldier intent on stealing an antidote for chemical subjugation. The villainous Dreykov (Ray Winstone) is using this tool to disable free will and keep an army of ‘black widows’ under his personal control. Under the impression that Dreykov had been killed, Natasha heads to Budapest where she encounters her estranged sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), who was trained as an assassin and has just escaped from Dreykov's black widow army. Together the sisters decide to track down the infamous Red Room; stop Dreykov; and free the women held under his control. Seemingly, Dreykov doesn’t exist, nor does his Red Room, so the pair set off to find their ‘father’, Alexei (David Harbour), the only person they know who might be able to track Dreykov down. After freeing him in a daring prison break, they find themselves on their way to a pig farm where their ‘mother’, Melina (Rachel Weisz) (whom they believed to be dead), is running chemical tests and finding ways to control every action in an effort to further assist Dreykov with his evil plans. Battling the trauma of their younger years, the sisters try to come to terms with their past and with each other, wondering what was real and what was not, wondering if they can trust those they once called their parents, and wondering if they have the strength to do what must be done – to look within themselves, atone for past mistakes and, ultimately, save the world.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family breakdown; Forced separation of family members; Child trafficking; Training of child soldiers; Mind control of populations; Male oppression and the notion that women are ‘expendable’.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is frequent violence in this movie, including:

  • Alexei and the US government have a shootout while Melina tries to get the young girls in a plane. Melina is shot while attempting to take off. Alexei is clinging to the side of the wing, shooting and being shot at. As a car gets stuck to the plane and agents close in, Alexei kicks one in the face and blood splatters over the girls. Agents are shooting at the dad and the young sisters until Natasha takes over for her mother and manages to get the plane into the air.
  • Natasha and the robotic soldier fight, punching, kicking, slicing, and shooting each other until the soldier throws her over a bridge.
  • Yelena and Natasha hold each other at gunpoint, neither trusting the other. They smash each other’s heads into walls and cabinets, fight with knives, flip each other over, bash into walls and strangle each other with dishtowels and curtains.
  • Soldiers with lasers blast into the apartment the sisters are sharing and shoot at them. There are a series of explosions as the sisters fight back. Soldiers are shooting all over the courtyard.
  • Hand grenades are detonated.
  • Natasha and another assassin fall off a building. Natasha moves to the puddle where the assassin is lying, still alive but clearly her body is badly broken. She is struggling to resist as her hand moves towards her head and she whispers to Natasha, “I don’t want to... he is making me”. Before she blasts herself in the face and takes her own life. Natasha watches in confusion as the moment unfolds and gazes in horror at her burned face.
  • A robotic soldier chases the sisters in a massive army tank, shooting at them as they try to escape on a motorcycle.
  • The sisters rob a guy at gunpoint and take his car. The robotic soldier continues to chase them, blasting cars out of the way in the process. He fires a flaming arrow at them, causing it to explode under the car and make it fall down the shaft to a subway platform. The soldier continues to chase them on foot and tries to kill them with a shield.
  • It is explained how, out of all the children taken and trained as black widow assassins, only 1 in 20 will survive.
  • Alexei breaks a man’s wrist while arm wrestling in prison.
  • The sisters break their dad out of prison. Guards chase him as he makes his way to a meeting point, beating and punching his way through prisoners. Guards are tasing people and Alexei kicks some off a bridge. He is nearly hit by an airplane.
  • Missiles are shot at the plane and Yelena blows up the guard tower in retaliation. The explosion triggers an avalanche which descends upon the prison.
  • Natasha is told how her real mother was executed for searching for her.
  • Alexei is shot with numerous darts and Melina appears to be attacking her daughters.
  • When Yelena regains consciousness, she is strapped to a table with markings on her forehead and is told that they are going to cut out her brain to identify the weakness.
  • Yelena cuts through her bonds with a knife and stabs the doctor.
  • Natasha and a robotic soldier fight each other.
  • Dreykov punches Natasha in the face repeatedly. Natasha then smashes her own face into a table, purposefully breaking her nose.
  • Natasha fights an army of black widows who have all been instructed to kill her. There is punching, hitting, kicking, slicing, flipping, throwing, choking etc.
  • Natasha jumps out of a window as fire rips through the building and the building explodes behind her.
  • A soldier’s body hits the plane Melina is flying, and part of the tail breaks off.
  • Yelena explodes the plane that Dreykov is in. The explosion blasts her into the air and she is falling through the sky towards her death when Natasha leaps after her with a parachute.
  • The relentless soldier follows Natasha through the air, continuing to attack her.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There are numerous scenes with an evil looking robotic soldier who is intent on killing Natasha. Black, creepy and relentlessly violent, it disappears only to appear again, ready to inflict new harm. Accompanied by loud, suspenseful and intense music any scene with this soldier is likely to frighten young viewers.
  • At one point, Melina’s face is peeled off to reveal Natasha underneath.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Natasha and Yelena are crying over their mother who is lying on the ground being treated for gunshot wounds while their father negotiates with Dreykov. As soldiers are trying to tear their family apart and separate the sisters, Natasha pulls a gun on them threatening to shoot them all in an effort to protect Yelena. The girls are overpowered, injected with something that causes them to immediately lose consciousness and are taken away.
  • The scene above is immediately followed by violent images of child trafficking: scenes of kids screaming as soldiers rip families apart, toys laying on the ground, children crying and huddled together in terror, medical experiments on kids, along with the death of a child, are all shown in rapid succession.
  • Dreykov’s daughter is shown coming into her father’s office after school and is blown up in a fiery explosion. She is later shown to have survived but is badly burned and disfigured.
  • Melina shows her family how she can control the minds of the pigs she is experimenting on, to the point that they stop breathing. She makes the pig hold its breath until it passes out and looks like it is dying. She then reactivates it moments before it is clinically dead. The image of the pig suffering could upset some viewers.
  • There is a jump scare as Natasha is driving down a road at night when, without warning, she is hit by something and her car explodes, flips and crashes on the side of a bridge, she struggles to get out of the wreckage as it dangles over the edge, dripping petrol, and a black clad soldier advances in a menacing way.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • There are numerous images and video footage which appear to be taken from real life news footage of war or terrorist attacks featuring explosions and military destruction which are woven together into an intense visual montage of death and devastation.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Natasha watches a scene from the James Bond film, Moonraker.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • When Yelena is moody Alexei asks her if it is her ‘time of the month’. She responds with: “I don’t have a uterus. Or ovaries. They chopped them out”.
  • Alexi tells Melina that: “You are still beautiful and supple”. He looks at her suggestively and says that: “I have a lot of energy after all that time I spent in prison”.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Alexi tries to squeeze himself into his Cold war Superhero costume and is briefly shown in his underwear while attempting to put it on. His bare, tattooed chest is exposed the longest as he really struggles to get dressed.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • There is a mind control drug that can be deactivated by releasing vials of a red substance which must be inhaled to work.
  • A couple of characters drink alcoholic beverages.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Shit
  • Bullshit
  • Stupid
  • Ass
  • Douche bags
  • Bitch
  • Damn it
  • God damn it.

In a nutshell

Black Widow is an action, adventure film and the latest in the Marvel franchise. Focussing on sisterly love and featuring numerous female roles it is expertly cast and contains numerous big budget scenes and special effects. However, when referring to females, Dreykov claims he can ‘start and end wars using the only natural resource the world has too much of’. Despite the strength displayed by the largely female cast this is a dangerous message to be imparting to young people. Due to content such as this, as well as the frequent violence and scary scenes, Black Widow is not a family film but one that will be best enjoyed by older teens and mature audiences.

The main messages from this movie are that families come in all forms; that some bonds are unbreakable; and that, no matter what happens, you should never let anyone destroy your heart.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Teamwork
  • Forgiveness
  • Solidarity
  • Courage
  • Determination
  • Resilience.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Using violence as a means to solve conflict.
  • Belittling the value of women or girls, going so far as to deem them expendable. Dreykov refers to the girls as trash and says, “I simply recycle the trash”.
  • The perils of human trafficking.
  • The training of child soldiers, their rehabilitation and suffering.
  • Feeling abandoned by family members.