Marvel’s Black Widow was finally released in theatres and on Disney+ this weekend, and after 11 years of waiting she finally has the solo film she deserves. Loose-ends are neatly tied up as we delve further into the psyche of one of Marvel’s most underused and mishandled characters.
To set the scene, Black Widow takes place in the middle of the MCU timeline after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and finds lead heroine Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from the authorities. She receives communication from adoptive sister and fellow ‘Widow’ Yelena Bolova (Florence Pugh) and quickly reconnects with the whole of her former Russian sleeper-cell family. Returning to Budapest, she must once again face-off with an old enemy, Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the man in charge of running the Red Room where young girls are held and trained to become deadly assassins.
Despite being Romanoff’s first solo outing, Black Widow does not follow the same pattern as previous Marvel instalments. The film may open on a flashback to 1995 where we meet a young Natasha and co, but this is not an origin story. Instead, we learn more about Natasha’s past and her character through the reconnecting of her family. The new characters we meet flesh out the movie and teach us a lot about Natasha’s past; Pugh’s witty and dry Yelena shows us a sisterly bond that – epic kitchen fight scene included – will feel reminiscent to many of us with siblings. Once the two sister’s have finished landing blows, they band together with one common goal; taking down the organisation that took their freedom and happiness once and for all.
They proceed to break their adoptive father (David Harbour) out of a heavily guarded prison. I went in expecting to adore Harbour’s portrayal of the grizzly, thickset Red Guardian, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Despite initially giving off the impression that his time with his fake daughters was a burden, his true feelings quickly emerge in a performance both humorous and moving.
Similarly, when we are finally introduced to the mother of this dysfunctional family unit, Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), we learn that she is a lot alike her daughters, and it’s her guilt towards their traumatic past that ultimately brings her on side. Each of these characters feels like a token of Natasha’s personality; her guilt, her guarded nature and most importantly, her desire to find family and love despite it all.
In the face of such strong performances from its supporting cast, this film does not forget who the star of the show truly is. After the emotional sacrifice made in Avengers: Endgame, reuniting with her family furthers the narrative that Natasha is truly selfless in her attempts to make up for her past as an assassin. It only adds to the bittersweet knowledge that we won’t get to see Johansson revisit the role in the future, as she brings such raw emotion to the performance that her fate is all the more painful.
In terms of technicality, Marvel spare no expense in bringing us a great deal of action sequences and fight scenes that show the extent of the Widows’ training. The MCU is no stranger to epic battle scenes and well-choreographed punch ups, but Black Widow trades the usual blueprint of CG superpowers and gives us bold stunts and martial arts worthy of any high-caliber spy movie.
Overall, I struggle to find any genuine faults in this movie, except maybe that we won’t get to see more of its lead. In truth, I can’t give it any less than a 5/5; it’s definitely shot to the top three of my MCU movie rankings and will likely be one I revisit very soon.
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