Movie Review: BLACK WIDOW Starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbor
After two years of waiting, the latest installment of the MCU is finally here.
Officially kicking off Phase Four, Black Widow is the 24th film overall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although it is following up Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, it chronologically takes place in the past – during the events of Captain America: Civil War. Setting the film during that time in the past is a clever way to get around the question that always comes up during solo movies – where are all the other superheroes? With everything going on surrounding Cap and his side violating the Sokovia Accords, it makes sense here.
The film starts with a flashback, giving us some insight into the life of a young Natasha Romanoff and what her “family life” entailed before her training in the Red Room. She grew up with Yelena Belova, and their surrogate parents Alexei (David Harbor) and Melina (Rachel Weisz). We see how they end up in the Red Room, and the film flashes forward to 2016 where Natasha (Scarlett Johannson) is trying to escape capture by Thunderbolt Ross. Meanwhile, Yelena (Florence Pugh) and her team of Black Widows are working on tracking down a deserter, when she comes across a substance that negates the mind control she’s been under. The two must come together to take down the head of the Red Room – Dreykov (Ray Winstone).
It feels great to have the MCU back. After getting accustomed to at least a couple of new films a year, it seemed like an eternity since the last entry. Luckily there are several fantastic MCU shows on Disney Plus that helped tide us over (WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are finished, and the last episode of Loki is out next week). Black Widow has a similar feel to the Captain America films, especially Civil War in the spy/thriller genre. And while so many of the previous films have crossed over and were building up to Endgame, it was especially nice to have a solo film that feels like it can pretty much live on its own.
Johansson is great as always in these films, and it’s fantastic to finally see Black Widow get the solo film she deserves. Her character was introduced to the MCU in Iron Man 2 (2010), and Natasha’s backstory has always been vague. We finally get to see what happened to her as a child, and what goes on in the Red Room. It’s nice to see the fan-favorite character in what can only be presumed to be one last film, but never say never when it comes to comics.
Florence Pugh is a fantastic addition to the Marvel films, and the actor is wonderfully charismatic as always here. Hopefully, we will be seeing more from her in future installments. In addition to Yelena, much of the humor comes from Harbor’s character Alexei, AKA the Red Guardian – the Russian version of Captain America. The two of them are hilarious when they are together on-screen. When they all eventually have their “family reunion” it’s pretty hilarious to see Alexei trying to act like old times. Meanwhile, Weisz as Melina (a former Black Widow) is not having any of it.
It’s always nice to see Ray Winstone, and he plays the villainous Dreykov perfectly. He’s one of those bad guys you love to hate, and hope he will get his comeuppance by the end. You’ll have to watch and see how things turn out, but it’s definitely fun watching him chew a bit of scenery in his evil moments.
The action is exciting and well-crafted, giving audiences what they’ve been craving during the downtime. Although some of the CGI during the climax of the film is surprisingly bad, the rest of the film has already won you over at that point. Black Widow is a fun, action-packed ride and a nice tribute to the character we’ve come to love over the past decade. And in case it’s been a while – don’t forget to stay after the credits.
Black Widow is now playing in theaters and streaming with Premier Access on Disney Plus for an additional fee of $29.99.