Natasha Romanoff is reunited with her Russian spy family, and together
they conspire to take down the program that made her the Black Widow.
Black Widow (2021)
Directed by Cate Shortland
Written by Eric Pearson
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour,
Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt
Prequel to 2016's Captain America: Civil War
Based on characters from Marvel Comics
If you take away the pandemic-related delay this film received, it’s a pretty safe bet this has been one of the most long-awaited films from the MCU. Not because the trailer looked great. Not because it would mark the start of Phase 4. But because of the simple fact this character should have gotten this film so much sooner. Scarlett Johansson quickly proved herself as a fan favorite due to her perfect take on the beloved Marvel character. So, obviously, fans were wondering when we were going to get her own solo film. Then, Hollywood had to finally face its reckoning of not allowing diversity in its films. Yet, still no solo movie. All is not lost, though, as we have finally gotten the film which will ultimately serve as the farewell to Johansson’s take on this popular character.
In a universe which has now been talking about multiverses on its in-continuity series and dealt with intergalactic baddies, it’s nice to have a film much like the early MCU features. Small, self-contained, and dealing with a relatable theme for the audience. In this film, Black Widow isn’t trying to take down Thanos or Ultron, she’s having to reckon with her past while putting an end to the very program which created her. For this, Johansson does an admirable job as the title character. You feel her pain and determination throughout the film. For as great as she does, she does get outshined here. Specifically by Florence Pugh and David Harbour. The former does a tremendous job of portraying a kickass spy who realizes how much of her life was taken from her. The latter is gut bustlingly hilarious as a former hero trying to relive his glory days. On the action front, this film still delivers for being on a smaller scale with some of the MCU’s more exciting moments.
While this film should have come out sooner, Marvel still did a tremendous job of making it work in the timeline now. Johansson does a fantastic job in what will be her final time taking on the role. Pugh shines as the new one to take on the mantle. The action is some of the best for such a self-contained story. Only negative I have is there should have been much more usage of famous villain, Taskmaster. Severely underutilized. Besides that, it’s good to have the MCU back in the theaters.
Black Widow is the long-awaited first film in Marvel's Phase 4. As we all know, this was the film that was supposed to open the 2020 summer movie season. Then the pandemic happened, and Marvel was forced to reshuffle their release schedule to keep their audience well fed with content. We got WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki to keep us sated, and now the movies are finally back. Black Widow is a film that we should've gotten ten years ago, but thanks to a committed cast and an intriguing, self-contained story, the film works as a standalone and a larger piece of the ever-growing Marvel puzzle.
The film takes place just after Civil War, with Natasha (Johansson) on the run from the government after siding with Captain America over the Sokovia Accords. We get an opening sequence that's far darker than most of Marvel's past films, showing Natasha's fake spy family when she was a child, and her vicious brainwashing in the Red Room. After she is reunited with her long-lost sister Yelena (Pugh), they learn that the Red Room is still active and they decide to end the Black Widow project once and for all. Florence Pugh and David Harbour are the standouts for me, and I hope to see them both in future Marvel projects. I thought the updated version of Taskmaster was smart and unpredictable, and I hope to see this character in the future as well.
Black Widow isn't as insanely epic as Marvel's recent films, but it is a nice reminder that you don't need constant fan service to make these films work. You need a dedicated filmmaker and a cast that understands they are a larger part of a whole. All of this works in Black Widow, and it's got a nice classic Marvel tone to introduce their next phase of movies.