(L-R): Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Black Widow review: Black Widow is the story of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), a KGB spy turned S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned Avenger. Taking place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, the Black Widow is on the run for her involvement in breaking the Sokovia Accords. After receiving a mysterious communication, Romanoff decides to investigate its implication which forces her to engage with her former “family.” As a result, Romanoff quickly becomes embroiled in a plot to bring down the evil organization of assassins that originally trained her.
What works in Black Widow is the character depth. Since her introduction in Iron Man 2, Romanoff has gone from supporting eye candy to standalone movie. Director Cate Shortland capitalizes on this opportunity to bring life to the character by exploring her humanity and flaws in the context of trust, love, and family. In a way, Shortland applies the finishing touches to a beautiful piece of art that completes the fascinating picture of who Romanoff is as person and what drives her. If anything, Black Widow makes Johansson’s work in Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame more interesting and worthy of a second look.
Black Widow also gives the world a second, younger Widow in Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). While the character has a background and combat style similar to Romanoff, Belova is a bit spunkier, scrappier, and more sarcastic. Pugh does a fantastic job of crafting Belova as a very welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe bringing a new perspective and charismatic attitude to the superhero proceedings. It is likely she’ll be a fan favorite after this debut.
There are a few reasons some individuals may not enjoy Black Widow as much as others and it is mostly due to the tightrope walk the movie attempts to make amidst the larger Marvel universe. On one hand, the movie doesn’t expect too much from audiences in terms of previous familiarity with the character or the multitude of other films—people can watch this as a standalone experience. Conversely, the stakes of Black Widow feel light compared to previous MCU entries, especially since many people know what ultimately happens with the character when she appears next. This makes the film unfortunately less memorable.
Black Widow is in the unfortunate position of being a really strong movie released at the wrong time. The action and characters are very enjoyable, and certainly worth a watch for all Marvel fans newcomers and completionists alike. That said, its place in the timeline sadly diminishes the impact it ultimately has.
Recommended if you enjoyed: Ant-Man and the Wasp, Iron Man 3.
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