Reel Reviews | Black Widow

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

The long-awaited movie finally makes its way to the big screen as Scarlett Johansson takes her final bow as Black Widow.

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run as a fugitive because of her prior actions that violated the Sokovia Accords.  While trying to hide from the US Government, one day she receives a mysterious and dangerous package from her “sister” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh).  Natasha finds herself tracking down Yelena only to discover that the “Red Room” program which spawned her still exists and has become more deadly.  Unable to reach her Avengers family, Natasha reaches out to her old family for assistance in finally eliminating the now global threat of the program which created her.

Written by Jac Shaeffer, Ned Benson, and Eric Pearson, Black Widow is the twenty-fourth movie in the vaunted Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  It is the first movie of Phase Four of the MCU and is the second movie that highlights a superheroine as its main protagonist.  The film is directed by Cate Shortland (Lore, Berlin Syndrome) and stars Johansson and Pugh along with David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, and Ray Winstone. 

(L-R): Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW, in theaters, and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Black Widow is a prequel/origin story of Natasha Romanoff.  Since Black Widow died during the events of Avengers: Endgame and the events in Black Widow occur after the end of Captain America: Civil War and before the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, the big problem is that there is little true emotional intensity in the movie because there is absolutely no threat of true danger to the heroine of the movie.  Everyone watching the movie knows that Black Widow has to survive whatever happens in the film because of her activity in the last two Avengers movies.    

Needless to say though, people will want to watch this movie for two reasons.  First and foremost to see if there is some inkling as to how Natasha will cheat death and return to the MCU.  Second, what other implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe will come out of this movie.  Kevin Feige and friends have masterfully executed a master plan throughout all of the MCU prior to this movie so the belief is that this movie, like the others, will have larger implications for the Universe.

Why should people watch the film?  The answer is to see a stylish action thriller in which Natasha discovers that family is who and what you choose them to be and sometimes those bonds chosen are stronger than those by actual blood.  Romanoff while on the run discovers that her estranged foster sister, who was thrown into the Red Room like she was, is in trouble and that a mission that she had undertaken early in her career was left incomplete.  Since she can not connect with her fellow Avengers family who are all fugitives, she turns to her first foster family consisting of her “sister” Yelena, her “father”, Alexei who also happens to be a Russian super-soldier by the name of Red Guardian and her “mother”, Melina, a brilliant scientist instrumental in the maintenance of the Red Room.

Yelena (Florence Pugh), Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian (David Harbour), and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Black Widow is chocked full of action and its fight choreography is intense.  The Taskmaster is a more than worthy opponent/villain for the movie.  The movie is a very appropriate attempt at fulfilling the legend and legacy of the fallen Avenger, creating a believable and interesting backstory for the superheroine that we thought we knew everything about. 

However, there is an unmistakable absence of a soul in the movie.  Maybe the expectations are too much to achieve.  Much like Captain Marvel, the MCU seems to miss the ability to create a captivating movie with a woman as the lead.  Comic purists will have much to debate and decry about the movie as well.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence/action, some language, and thematic material, Black Widow is an imperfect film that only fulfills half of its preconceived expectations.  This is a movie where all beliefs must be suspended, and all notions must be forgotten to be enjoyed.  People will flock to the theaters to see this film and half of them will be disappointed.  The other half will be elated.  Don’t forget to stay through all of the credits.  It is Marvel after all.

Black Widow can be seen in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. 

Grade:  C+