RELEASED: July 7th 2021 (UK)
DISTRIBUTED BY: Walt Disney Studios
DIRECTED BY: Cate Shortland
WRITTEN BY: Eric Pearson, Jac Shaeffer & Ned Benson
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Lorne Balfe
STARRING: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, Ray Winstone & William Hurt
REVIEW: After two years away, Marvel Studios returns to cinemas with a movie that is long overdue, as their most prominent female hero finally gets her first solo outing.
Black Widow follows Natasha Romanoff in the aftermath of Civil War. On the run from the government, Natasha is forced to face her past as she learns that the Red Room programme that created her is seemingly still active years after she thought she destroyed it.
While it does inevitably fall into the same sort of tone as all of these other movies as the runtime progresses, for the most part, Black Widow feels different. Maybe it’s the James Bond/Mission: Impossible-esque tone and spy influences that permeate the movie. Maybe it’s the fact that the film is a lot more grounded than a lot of its predecessors. Or maybe it’s just that we haven’t seen a new MCU movie in so long; who’s to say?
Whatever it is, like Winter Soldier before it, Black Widow is an enjoyable little Marvel thriller that both highlights the strength of that character’s world, but also slots nicely into the gap between Civil War and Infinity War that it’s supposed to occupy.
We get to finally have a proper look at Widow’s past, and the various figures that helped shape her into who she is today (although, arguably, a bit of a deeper dive into her past wouldn’t have gone amiss – although we do finally learn about Budapest!) We get more of an idea of how horrible the Red Room can be for the young women it abducts, and an understanding of how Widow’s defection to the west colours other characters opinions of her.
The central drama comes from the contrast between who she is, and who she was, as she reconnects and butts heads with her surrogate family as they try to figure out how tight-knit they actually are. Though these moments are proliferated with the usual ‘Marvel humour’ that isn’t always that successful, the serious, emotional beats between characters are quite effective, and the trials they face, though grounded, feel like a threat suitable for a prominent Avenger.
The action that comes from all of this is also pretty great. Black Widow features some of the best fight choreography seen in the MCU since Winter Soldier, with the only caveat being that sometimes the camera doesn’t fully capture the intricacies of the fights themselves.
Never is this more apparent than in the scenes featuring the film’s villain, Taskmaster, who has the ability to mimic the fighting styles of anyone they’ve observed. So, we get hints of Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Panther, and Black Widow herself emulated by this mysterious masked adversary, who consistently presents as a cool and imposing threat, despite the fact you can’t always catch exactly what they’re doing.
Unfortunately, beyond that, Taskmaster is something of a blank page, not unlike Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace – interesting in fight scenes, rather bland outside of them. It seems a bit of a waste of the actor playing him, but the ‘villain problem’ is hardly new to the MCU.
Still, they look extremely cool. As do the majority of the cast; the costume department in this film is firing on all cylinders, which, paired with the often beautiful shots makes for a very visually pleasing film.
Wavering Russian accents aside, the performances are also generally pretty strong. Florence Pugh is the clear standout, and this seems every bit her movie as it does Scarlett Johansson’s.
Seeing where these characters appear next will certainly be something to look forward to, and as we enter Phase Four, it’s nice to finally have some closure to the story of one of Marvel Studios’ most prolific superheroes.
All-in-all, I give Black Widow…
Thanks for reading! Are you glad Natasha finally got her time in the spotlight or is it too little, too late? Let me know in the comments below!
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