After way too long, we finally have a film focused on Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now part of that delay is pandemic related but still it should not have taken until Phase 4 of the MCU in order for a Black Widow film to be made. We have it now though and, on the whole, I think this is a pretty good film.
Taking place after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the film focuses on Natasha Romanoff, who is now on the run from the US Government after siding with Captain America after the airport fight. Whilst on the run, Romanoff gets a message from Yelena Belova, who used to be her surrogate sister in the past, relating to the Red Room and that the Widow programme, which Romanoff thought she destroyed is still going on, run by General Dreykov. Romanoff and Belova later meet each other and reunite with their fake parents from when they were undercover in America, Alexei Shostakov, aka Red Guardian, and Melina Vostokoff, a former Widow, to take Dreykov down, whilst dealing with Dreykov’s enforcer, Taskmaster, who can copy the fighting moves of anyone they see. The general goal of the film is to help fill in the backstory of Romanoff, using events mentioned in previous MCU films, mainly in The Avengers, and expanding upon them, giving detail to her defection to SHIELD and her own history. What works about the film in this area is how it creates a surrogate family for Romanoff that she has a bit more of a personal connection to compared to The Avengers. In this way, having Romanoff isolated from the other Avengers by setting it after Civil War helps to give her more of an identity for herself away from The Avengers. The theme of family is well presented throughout the film, along with the commodification of women by government powers, treating them as objects rather than as people, exemplified through the lack of autonomy the Widows have over their bodies. It ends up being a fair bit darker than we’re used to in the MCU and the tone feels more akin to something like the Bourne series than the MCU.
The performances meanwhile add to the character of the film. Scarlett Johansson is as strong as usual as Romanoff, showing her feelings of guilt for her previous actions well and selling the family dynamic effectively. Florence Pugh steals the film whenever she’s on screen, showing her own feelings of betrayal over how she was treated as a child, doing some good meta commentary over the previous film appearances of Black Widow and having a strong sisterly dynamic with Johansson. David Harbour is good comic relief in his role and Rachel Weisz does interesting work as Melina, but to say more would spoil the film. O-T Fagbenle is charismatic in his role but underutilised and Ray Winstone is a truly hateful villain and he plays it well as a completely disgusting character.
The technical elements of the film are solid as well. For the CG there are some dodgy moments in the third act but for the most part the CG is effective whilst the music does a decent job at building up the tone of the film, although having the opening be set to Smells Like Teen Spirit was a bit distracting. The real standout technical element of the film though comes with the action scenes. There is a more visceral and brutal quality to them here than you’d normally get in a MCU film and the stunt team do great work in selling the action scenes, there being a bit more tactility here than you normally see in MCU films, which tend to be more CG focused.
Overall, I found Black Widow to be an entertaining film and a good way for the MCU to return to the big screen. It doesn’t do anything as interesting as more recent MCU fare like WandaVision or Loki but it is a solid action film and makes for a good way to transition into Florence Pugh taking over the mantle of Black Widow in the MCU in the future.
My Rating: 4/5