It has been almost two years since the last MCU movie in theaters. Spider-Man: Far From Home came out at the end of July in 2019, a few month after the gigantic Avengers: Endgame. Little did we know that it wouldn’t be until just past the first week of July 2021 until we get another.
Sure, we have been tided over with some awesome Disney + TV shows in the meantime, but there is just something about the Marvel heroes on the big screen.
Finally, we have a new film, and it is one that has gone through a lot to make its way onto the movie screen. Black Widow was originally scheduled for May 2020, but had to be delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It got pushed several times and calls to just put it out on Disney + were coming from MCU-content starved fans, but Marvel Studios held off, trusting their movie. They finally set July 9th as the release date for Natasha’s first big screen stand alone epic and this time things looked good. Of course, they are also releasing it as their Premium release on the streaming site for another fee as well.
Fact is that the Black Widow has faced more than just a pandemic. Scarlett Johansson is a major star and one would think that a major star who is one of the Avengers would have received her own stand alone movie way before this, especially since the character perished in Endgame. Rumors persisted that SOME at Marvel Studios did not believe a woman could lead a major comic franchise (*cough* Ike P), and when Kevin Feige finally got total control of things at Marvel Studios, Black Widow was one of those things he wanted to get done. Unfortunately, at this point, plans were underway and it would have been difficult to toss Black Widow into the mix.
So one of the issues of Marvel Studio’s Black Widow is that it does feel as if it should have existed before this time in the MCU. That is not something the film could be blamed for, but the fact that Natasha Romanoff sacrificed herself on Vormir, does take away from much of the prequel’s punch.
Having said that, Black Widow is a rollicking good time, filled with action and wonderful characters. It is the MCU’s James Bond/Jason Bourne-type film and it holds it own with many, if not all, of these spy films.
Black Widow picks up directly after Captain America: Civil War with Natasha on the run for her actions against the Sokovia Accords. She is being pursued by ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt). There are some initial flashbacks to child Natasha (Ever Anderson) living in Ohio, a part of a Russian sleeper cell along with her “father” Alexi (David Harbour), “mother” Melina (Rachel Weisz) and “sister” Yelena (Violet McGraw). When the mission ended and the family had to retreat, the girls were taken by Dreykov Ray Winstone) to the Red Room to begin their training in the Widow program.
Natasha received some mail, part of which was some vials from her sister Yelena (now played by Florence Pugh), she is attacked by the mysterious Taskmaster, who had the ability to mimic any fighting style Taskmaster sees. Natasha escaped and returned to Budapest (the location she and Hawkeye talked about way back in the first Avengers movie) to search for Yelena.
Natasha found out from Yelena that the Red Room was still active and Dreykov, whom Natasha believed she had killed, was still alive and running the program. The “sisters” decided to take the Red Room down once and for all and they went to see Alexi, the Red Guardian and Melina for answers.
I loved the action sequences in this movie. There are some wonderfully designed and filmed action throughout the Black Widow. I will say that I did not love the hand-to-hand fights because the camera was just too bouncy to enjoy those. The rest of the action is filmed wonderfully. Cate Shortland directed Black Widow and, reportedly, was brought to Marvel Studios by Scarlett Johansson herself. That is quite the pat on the back for Shortland.
The relationship between Natasha and Yelena is beautifully constructed too. They have their issues. Yelena felt deserted while Natasha felt the sting of discovering that the entire family she had known was not real, that is was put together by the Russian government. Yelena and Natasha fought, both figuratively and literally, as sisters, but you could see the conflict within both of the,
Florence Pugh is a tremendous actor. She has been providing some outstanding work over the last few years and her turn as Yelena is one more triumph. David Harbour is every bit as great, promptly stealing every scene he is in. His boastful Red Guardian is a hoot and he is as compelling and real as any possible “super-solider” could be. Rachel Weisz has the least to do of the family unit, but she optimizes her screen time to be impactful.
Scarlett Johansson is so comfortable as Natasha by now, after making eight other appearances in MCU films, but she brought the fire in this movie. Her scenes with Ray Winstone were excellent and the way she handled the constant development of her past life is excellent.
I have heard some criticism that Taskmaster was a weak Marvel villain, but I think that was coming from people who expected Taskmaster to be a more vital character than what Taskmaster turned out to be. Taskmaster was more of a henchman than was expected and so did not receive as much depth as possible. However, I did enjoy the Taskmaster’s story and it fit nicely into Black Widow’s background.
The post credit scene was great, but it was exactly what I thought it was going to be. Make sure you sit through all the credits, because it sets up what is next for one certain character.
A Black Widow solo film should have happened years ago. Imagine all the great spy game action we could have gotten in the MCU with Natasha. Unfortunately, it did not and that is not a criticism for this film. Black Widow has some real connection among the characters and is filled with amazing action. Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh are a delight together and David Harbour has great comedic timing.
Black Widow is a fun way to welcome the MCU back to the big screen.