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Black Widow – Movie Review

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Black Widow – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Natasha Romanoff has largely existed as a supporting character in the Marvel movies, so there is a lot of potential in giving her a solo movie where she can take centre stage. Director Cate Shortland and her team of Marvel screenwriters put together an exciting action movie with plenty of the spectacle we have come to expect from this cinematic universe. It helps that the character interactions are just as entertaining as the fights and explosions. However, knowing Natasha’s eventual fate in Avengers: Endgame adds another layer of poignancy and allows Black Widow to become more than just a side mission.

The film doesn’t waste any time in establishing Natasha’s pre-SHIELD and Avengers backstory as well as introducing the family unit she is thrust into. There is even an excellent opening title sequence that gets us up to speed before jumping to the main story. With Natasha on the run following the events of Captain America: Civil War, there is a curiosity in how she copes with this situation she’s in. Scarlett Johansson has played Natasha for over ten years now and she clearly understands every facet of the character. For the most part, Natasha has had to play second banana to other Avengers. With her in the lead role, we’re able to learn a little more about her.

Some of the best scenes in Black Widow come from Natasha’s interactions with her “sister” Yelena. Florence Pugh, one of today’s rising young actors, is superb. She captures the tragedy of Yelena’s life until now, while also having some humorous back-and-forth with Johansson. When she launches into the action scenes, she displays plenty of great fighting skills. David Harbour also entertains as their father figure, a Russian version of Captain America. There are some big laughs as he attempts to reconnect, but we do sense how genuinely fond he is of the women he was paired with. Rachel Weisz similarly does well as another member of their team. Through these characters and their interactions, we get a strangely endearing family unit.

Shortland directs the action sequences with the proper dosage of large-scale excitement. The stunt choreography is handled to great effect and editor Leigh Folsom Boyd makes sure we’re able to see it clearly. The set-pieces are decently paced throughout the story and we’re given the needed breather between them. Marvel is a well-oiled machine at this point with their action scenes, but that doesn’t lessen the impressive production values. A number of viewers coming into this movie are probably well aware where Black Widow places within the MCU timeline. This begs the question why the movie wasn’t produced earlier, but this doesn’t lessen the experience. If anything, it creates another sad layer over the difficult life Natasha has clearly led.

Black Widow more than succeeds in being an entertaining blockbuster, with the required action scenes. There is a MacGuffin that drives the plot forward, but what makes the film work is also due to the characters. The new heroes introduced here do enhance Natasha and her story and the film does manage to set up Yelena, in particular, for more adventures. Considering how much of a stand-out Florence Pugh is in the film, it will be great to see her appear in future Marvel projects. For Scarlett Johansson, Black Widow becomes a worthy send-off for her former assassin.

Stefan Ellison