Review: Marvel’s Black Widow

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In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller “Black Widow,” Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger. Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Natasha/Black Widow, Florence Pugh stars as Yelena, David Harbour portrays Alexei/The Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz is Melina. Directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige, “Black Widow”—the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe— will launch simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets on July 9, 2021.

Review

Marvel has finally given us a look into Black Widows’ past with the film of her name bridging a gap as we wait for the next phase of the MCU to kick into gear. And like everything else in the MCU there are callbacks and connections all over the place. This film is set up like a classic spy thriller. Complete with the Russian plot to install agents in America that are undercover to spy and assassinate. The film starts off with a look at Romanoff’s ‘family’ played by Rachel Weisz and David Harbour (her parents), and Florence Pugh as her sister Yelena. It turns out their perfect life isn’t what the kids thought it was. Their family is on the run, and it turns out SHIELD is after them.

We quickly learn that her father is a Russian, failed, version of Captain America. Romanoff, like many young girls at the time, was taken to the ‘Red Room’ to become the ultimate weapon for Russia to control and subvert countries around the world. Of course what they did to them while there and how they managed to shape and train these girls was anything but pretty. This catches us up to when we hit the timeline just after Civil War, and Romanoff is on the run from SHIELD.

The villain behind the Red Room is not the most dangerous villain we have encountered in the MCU. However, he does fit the typical spy thriller archetype, including that late in the film twist that most of us saw coming. Harbour’s character is a goofy version of a failed super-soldier who most of the time you don’t take seriously in any fashion. Rachel Weisz’s character tries to come off as the smart scientist and loving mother figure but it felt forced, for a normally warm and believable Weisz. The chemistry between Pugh and Johansson is one of the highlights of this film. They have many witty exchanges that were both funny and very much as you would expect between ‘sisters’. And in the right moments, they are endearing too.

Like other recent MCU TV series, Black Widow is smaller in scope to the grandiose nature of the films that we have had in the MCU so far. And for Black Widow that works. Black Widow is tame in comparison to other MCU titles but it trades off that tamer nature with a solid story and woven threads that tie all of its events to the MCU as a whole, helping to fill in little things we have learned along the way. And of course, like any good Marvel title, there is a post-credits scene that further connects Black Widow to our previous and upcoming MCU TV series titles.

If you are a fan of the MCU, Black Widow is a worthwhile addition to the world but not a required watch to stay up to speed on everything that is coming in the next phase of the MCU.

Black Widow releases on Disney+ and theaters Friday, July 9th.

Robert Prentice