BLACK WIDOW Review
It has been over a year since the last installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, marking the longest time between MCU movies. It has also been a long time coming for a solo movie starring the franchise's first female hero, Black Widow, first introduced in Iron Man 2. Now, 11 years and 21 movies later, Black Widow is finally here and gives the Russian super spy her dues. But is it too little too late?
Black Widow is set after the events of Captain America: Civil War and sees Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from the authorities after defecting from Team Iron Man to Team Captain America. In hiding, Natasha's past as a Russian assassin catches up with her and forces her to reunite with her surrogate family and destroy the organsiation that created them.
In these, what some might call, "unprecedented times", it is nice that there are still some constants in the world. Like the Marvel superhero movie formula, on full display here in Black Widow. Quippy dialogue in action sequences; villains that mimic the hero (this time literally); and a CGI-bloated finale that contrasts the rest of the movie and is it's biggest failing.
Scarlett Johansson finally gets her chance to shine as a lead and give fans a chance to focus on her. We get a better insight into her upbringing, how the Black Widow program shaped her and the moments that drove her to redeem herself as an Avenger. Johansson's send off to the character is full of emotion, but always with a sly smirk to leviate a moment.
Johansson isn't alone with Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour joining the MCU as her surrogate family. Weisz and Harbour don't get alot of screentime, but serve their purpose as awkward, flat comedic relief. Pugh, who is set up to carry on the Black Widow mantle, is going to be a fun inclusion in the future. She is a snarky, aggressive version of Natasha which leads the two 'sisters' clashing and the highlight of the movie. It is a shame that we won't be able to see any more of the two of them together.
Amongst the family-dramedy, there is a spy action movie that is heavily inspired by the Jason Bourne films if anything. The action is hardly spectacular or memorable, which is a shame given the villain, Taskmaster, is one that mimics anyone's fighting style. There was potential to see Romanoff fighting against her fellow Avengers in the form of Taskmaster, but beyond a few short references, the fights are no different than in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Within all of that, however, there is a story about the modern slave trade, control of women's bodies and the lack of appreciation of women in power. They are complex themes for a Marvel movie, and one that director Cate Shortland has touched upon before in previous works, but it is covered over in the action and jokes.
Black Widow is the spy movie addition to the MCU's diverse subgenres that finally highlights Scarlett Johansson's Avenger and gives her a better farewell than Avengers: Endgame and sets-up Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova as her legacy. Tackling mature themes and with an emotional, family story at its core, it still struggles to be anything more than solid Marvel entry that is plagued by flat jokes, bland, poorly rendered CGI action, and wasted villain potential.