Black Widow: Film Review

Black Widow

©Marvel Studios 2021

After a decade in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow finally gets her own standalone movie.

The film takes place directly after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, when Avenger and former assassin Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Johansson) is on the run and forced to confront a conspiracy with ties to her past.

That’s all I want to give away about the plot because I want to keep the surprise – Black Widow isn’t what I thought it would be and I don’t want to spoil that. It tells a really strong, substantial story that is grittier and more raw and grounded than usual MCU fare and focuses on humanising this powerful character and making her more vulnerable. It finally gives us an insight into Natasha’s backstory, and in comparison to some other Marvel films, it feels personal and intimate.

But, don’t worry, there are still plenty of very cool action sequences and big CGI-fuelled setpieces that we’ve come to expect from the MCU. These were fun and exciting to watch but I actually enjoyed the character-driven scenes in which we learned more about Natasha, her family figures – Yelena (Florence Pugh), Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz) – their history and what they’ve been through. I liked how the revelations played out – the information wasn’t to fed to us all at once, we slowly had to piece it together to understand what had happened to them.

This is the film Johansson finally deserves after 10 years in the MCU and it is a solid – but not perfect – way for her to bow out (if that is a spoiler for anyone, you should perhaps watch Avengers: Endgame). She is awesome in the lead role but is often outshone by her co-stars who have more personality and comedic moments, especially Pugh as Yelena. They have a great rapport with each other though and felt very convincing as ‘sisters’.

Pugh is a scene stealer in everything she’s in and that is no exception here. Yelena is funny, charming, and kicks ass but is also dealing with a lot of hurt and resentment and she shows her emotions more openly than Natasha. Then there’s also Harbour, who was perfectly cast as his character and absolutely hilarious. It was great to see Weisz in a Marvel movie and it’s a shame she’s not in it more. These three have Russian accents and they’re rather inconsistent, particularly with Weisz.

Cate Shortland, the first female filmmaker to direct an MCU film solo, has done a terrific job giving us a solid superhero movie-slash-espionage thriller that has more meat on its bones than you’d expect and delivers on both action and character fronts. It doesn’t break the mould for MCU movies all that much, but it’s another successful instalment. Make sure you stay and watch the post-credits scene – it’s an important one!

In cinemas from Wednesday 7th July and on Disney+ (for a premium fee) from Friday 9th July

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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