Cruella vs Black Widow
I've been seeing people too much recently (something I thought I'd never say) so I decided to take Sunday off and do the thing I think introverts do - watch 2 movies back to back. Ironically, as I was stepping out of the theater I coincidentally ran into a group of guys I meant to see before I left Chicago and fulfilled my extrovert activity of the day. Nevertheless, I forced myself to see two movies, which happened to have a lot in common together and therefore presents a wonderful opportunity for a blog post. TLDR - both movies were actually great.
I'll get it out of the way in fear of the "you're going to criticize two female lead movies" by saying that both movies were actually quite good. It might have to do with the fact that I haven't been to a theater since Tenet (which I'm not smart enough to review) and also my low expectations for both, but as a broad overview both movies were worth my money and time.
Were these movies necessary?
I know that Black Widow was postponed a couple times, but it wouldn't be a surprise to me if Master Mickey planned the two movies to ultimately be released near each other for some synergy effect. The similarities between the two films are not rocket science - Disney-produced, female lead movies about a strong non-American, not main character that much of the fanbase for both "universes" (does 101 Dalmatians have a universe?) did not really ask for. Don't get me wrong - both Cruella and Nat are scene stealers in their own regard and have a niche fan base of their own, but there's people ahead of them that deserve spinoffs. While Marvel's been both praised and criticized for their obsession with world building, it also doesn't help that Black Widow takes place in between two movies of the past about a character [spoiler alert - but if you haven't seen Endgame by now you probably don't want to read my blog in general] who's already dead. We could technically omit the entire movie outside of the post-credits scene and the MCU would not be affected. I don't think the 101 dalmatians are planning to get together to avenge the Earth any time soon, but even then I'm sure Cruella was not a priority in getting the spotlight.
Outside of the necessities of both movies, there were a fair number of things (and I'm not going to address the typical issues of plot holes, corny Disney one-liners and over-emphasis on diversity casting) that the films should get criticized for. Cruella spends too much time setting up who the title character was that we don't get enough time to get immersed into who she is. Emma Stone is a brilliant actress - she has the ability to make the most cringe scenes bearable, which may be the most elite acting skill in the scale of acting from Disney Channel to Leo Dicaprio. I don't think Cruella utilized her depth enough outside of the fountain soliloquy and a couple facial expressions when she faces the Baroness, with far too much focus on the fashion, CGI backgrounds and comic relief characters that people care even less about than Cruella to start with. I have a similar complaint with Black Widow - the beauty of the MCU are the "yo I know that reference" moments or "this is definitely going to be important later" scenes, but there's almost nothing at stake with the show's backdrop. There's no way that some Russian spy castle-in-the-sky organization will dictate how the world's leaders behave and pose any threat to the Avengers. It's hard to believe that this giant spy organization lead by Humpty Dumpty has gone all this time undetected, mainly because of their location being in the sky (and it's not like there's members of the Avengers capable of flight!) I feel as though they did Nat dirty in cutting her off from the universe completely and this film served more as a tribute to her niche fans and to make a statement more than to fulfill the needs of the story, which I find to be the most important in the arts.
This may be largely dictated by my overly complicated mood recently and inner desire to look at the world with a simpler lens, but both movies were very fun to watch. It's as simple as that. At no point did I have to bang my head against the wall wondering what was going to happen next or constantly remind myself of various proper nouns or references they mentioned earlier in the movie to understand what was going to happen next. In a world where we actively put meaning to everything and look to contribute our opinions on whatever presented to us (ironically me right now and you as you're finishing this sentence), it was refreshing to be in two films that didn't really require me to think too hard. We all know the entire time what's going to happen to Nat and we have no doubt in our mind that Estella becomes Cruella De'Ville. In both films, we're confident in the fate of our main characters and we're merely in it for the ride. The fashion design and relatively OK CGI in Cruella as well as the spotty MCU references and family moments of Black Widow all and rather well if you enter the theater leaving your critical lenses at home. At a time where everything is but certain, it's quite comforting to watch something that we already know the ending to.
I'd wait for these to come on Disney+ if you haven't watched already, but definitely watch them the moment they drop. Mickey's live action films are getting better (won't be partaking in Jungle Cruise, though) and I'm planning on double-downing on NYSE:DIS.