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Black Widow – Review: Scarlett Johansson Finally Gets Her Own Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie

June 30, 2021

Quick thoughts: – B –  Black Widow is a fun MCU film that should’ve given Scarlett Johansson more to do. I enjoyed the action and performances, but it makes you realize how wasted Johansson has been since 2010. 

Directed by Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome, Lore) and written by Eric Pearson (Godzilla vs. Kong, Thor: Ragnarok), Black Widow focuses on what Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) got up to between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. The 24th Marvel Cinematic Universe film feels like Ant-Man met Captain America: Winter Soldier, and spawned a cheeky (and serious) action yarn that reminds the viewer of wasted opportunities and exciting future storylines. The biggest issue with Black Widow is how it sidelines Johansson, and focuses a lot of attention on supporting characters like Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh – excellent as always), Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour – having a blast), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz – always great). The three characters are all solid, but they give Johansson little to do, and, sadly, it’s reminiscent of her treatment since 2010’s Iron Man 2. It’s easy to understand why Marvel would want to introduce new players after Avengers: Endgame, but they come at the expense of finally giving Black Widow something meaningful to do. 

The film focuses on what happens when Natasha sets her sights on killing the bland MCU-esque villain Dreykov (Ray Winstone – slimy as always), the man who brought her into the Russian Red Room program and turned her into an unstoppable killing machine. To kill Dreykov, she teams up with her “sister” Yelena, a former Black Widow operative who has defected after receiving an antidote that allows her to escape the mind control of Dreykov (it’s more complicated than that). The duo eventually team up with their scientist “mother” Melina, and their “dad” Alexei (we learn more about them during the film’s opening flashbacks scenes), a former Russian super soldier and total maniac who also has beef with Dreykov. From there, things explode, people fight, and thrilling things are set up for the future. 

Black Widow features massive stakes for its characters, but relatively small stakes when it comes to the world exploding. This is refreshing as we are treated to motorcycle chases, kitchen fights, and bridge brawls that don’t feature large purple purple beings punching large green giants into nothingness. Black Widow has always been the most interesting Avenger because she isn’t a super soldier or a god, and instead relies on stealth, craft and smarts to survive. Her presence has always been welcome because she can be killed, which makes everything more human and relatable (her fight with the Winter Soldier in Captain America: Winter Soldier is so good). The problem in Black Widow, is that her relatively serious presence (she is a former assassin who turned good, and has many issues), is met with comedy from Yelena and Alexei, who are never really serious. Thus, the tone of the film feels a bit all over the place as we are treated to serious issues, then a gag involving a crashing helicopter. The jokes land, and they are truly funny, but they feel out of place with Natasha around, which then takes the focus away from her. 

In the end, Black Widow is a lot of fun, but it makes you wish it would have focused more on the title character. If you are looking for a fun action film, Black Widow will hit the spot. If you are looking for a film that gives Johansson’s 11 years of MCU dedication their due, you might not be pleased.

Final Thoughts: I can’t wait to watch it again, but I wish it could’ve given Johansson a Thor: Ragnarok or Iron Man-esque movie to thrive in.

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