It’s hard to believe that it took this long to get a movie about Marvel’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and perhaps even harder to believe that it didn’t happen until after the character had died (in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame), but here we are. At least the character did finally get her own installment. Well, sort of.
Black Widow takes place shortly after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, when the members of the Avengers were split up over their stance on whether or not they should be subjected to rigorous government oversight. She is on the run for having violated the Sokovia Accords when she receives a package from her sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) containing a mysterious chemical, that leads the movie’s main baddies right to her. Upon escaping a confrontation she locates and meets up with Yelena, who reveals that the chemical is an antidote for the mind-control agent that Dreykov (Ray Winstone) uses to take control of women for his “Widow” program. The pair decide to try and team up with their surrogate parents, Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz) to take down the operation.
The first two thirds of the movie see Marvel returning to the espionage and spy movie plotting they attempted in Civil War, and does a good job of letting Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff become more of a fleshed-out character than any of her previous ensemble appearances did. Her family are also all interesting characters who will hopefully return in future Marvel movies, though they do wind up getting enough screen time that it sort of feels like even when she finally gets her own movie, Black Widow still didn’t really get her own movie. Writers Eric Pearson, Jac Schaeffer, and Ned Benson mix in plenty of knowing in-jokes about the character’s treatment throughout the franchise with their satisfyingly twisty plot. It’s not John le Carré, but there are a few minor surprises. Television and indie director Cate Shortland proves more than capable at handling the big action setpieces that this sort of movie requires. While some won’t be thrilled about the last third when things turn into the sort of typical mayhem that all Marvel movies do, those who watch these specifically for that aspect will not be disappointed. It’s some of the best fight sequences the franchise has offered yet and features some spectacular moments spent descending through the clouds amongst falling debris. It doesn’t really reinvent the wheel, but it has some unique touches and is a great example of the consistent quality that explains why these movies have been as successful as they are. ★★★★
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence / action, some language, and thematic material.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor