PG Score: 7.75/10
Black Widow was released in theaters 7/9/21 and is available for streaming on Disney+ with Premier Access. It can be streamed at no additional cost starting 10/6/21.
The long-awaited Black Widow is a fun, character-driven prequel that receives a big boost from its stellar cast. While the adrenaline-fueled action sequences are plentiful, Director Cate Shortland (Lore and Berlin Syndrome) also takes time to tackle some heavier topics in the beloved Avenger’s very own movie.
The standalone adventure takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), faces a deadly conspiracy linked to her past while being pursued by a relentless enemy. She is forced to confront her history of espionage and the life she led before becoming an Avenger.
Clocking in at over two hours, Black Widow moves smoothly through the healthy runtime by featuring action early and often. Shortland wastes no time in ratcheting up the excitement as the movie opens with an electrifying spectacle that appropriately sets the tone for what is to come. Another highlight is an aerial set piece that showcases an impressive scale along with the director’s ability to orchestrate widespread chaos. Considering her prior filmography mainly consists of drama and romance, it is remarkable how seamlessly Shortland transitioned to a blockbuster project.
The former Russian agent’s signature skills are on full display as she jumps, punches, kicks, and shoots her way to her objective. She moves at lightning speed, and her strikes are equal parts fast and punishing. She also races through the streets of Budapest (yes, that Budapest-this article contains spoilers) by multiple means of transportation in a particularly exhilarating chase that serves as one of the film’s better scenes. Natasha is not fighting alone, however.
She is accompanied by her younger sister, Yelena, who is a force to be reckoned with from both a combat and verbal perspective. Played by the versatile Florence Pugh, her background largely reflects that of Natasha. She is a worthy teammate and a well-rounded character in her own right. While she does provide many laughs, Yelena’s purpose goes far beyond comic relief, and it is encouraging that she will continue to be a key player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Signature MCU Humor
Following an interesting reunion, the tandem must work together to overcome the danger that lies ahead. When they are not vanquishing their foes, the sisters have conversations that shed light on their individual and shared pasts. These interactions are meaningful but are overshadowed by the top-notch banter. The playful jabs and clever quips supply Black Widow with a brand of humor reminiscent of past Avengers films.
Despite occasionally using jokes as a veil, the movie does explore some darker areas as well. As the origins of the heroes are revealed, so are the agonizing memories that shaped them. For some characters, those wounds are quite fresh, whereas others have been doing everything in their power to bury that pain as deep as possible. Shortland treads onto untouched ground with some of the subject matter as far as the MCU is concerned, and this bold step opens additional doors for the franchise in the future.
Scarlett Johansson delivers a fitting performance in what is likely to be her final portrayal of Black Widow. The actress once again brings the heroine’s stoicism, strength, and bravery to give her the sendoff she deserves. She exhibits great chemistry with Pugh and the rest of the supporting cast, which is a big part of why both the comedic and dramatic aspects are so effective. Johansson excels at conveying Natasha’s drive to change for the better and further solidifies that she is the only one for the role.
She is backed by an excellent supporting cast that includes Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, and Ray Winstone. Pugh steals the show as she nails every last bit of the humor, trauma, and perseverance in her depiction of Yelena. Harbour is another standout as Alexei, aka Red Guardian. The burly figure’s lighthearted nature is amusingly presented through the seasoned actor’s winning performance. Weisz and Winstone have less screen time than their co-stars but make the most of their respective roles.
A Fitting Conclusion
Powered by memorable performances and Cate Shortland’s proficient direction, the film genuinely feels like a proper swan song for the titular character. Blending comedy, thrilling action, and an impactful story, Black Widow spins a web worthy of every Marvel fan’s time.
PG Score: 7.75/10