Review: Black Widow Has Shades Of The Winter Solider, But What’s Kind Of The Point Now?
The long-overdue Black Widow standalone movie is finally here. And it’s pretty great. The solo origin story of one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s original characters has faced a lot of obstacles. Wonder Woman beat the Widow out as the first major solo female-led superhero movie. And then Captain Marvel went even further within its own franchise. Then there’s also the injustice to the character in her first origin story depicted in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Not to mention the year-long delay that the Pandemic caused in the movie’s release as well. Suffice it to say, Black Widow has had an uphill battle. So while it’s heartwarming to see the movie finally on screen, and it’s a great movie, mind you, I’m left wondering what the point of it was? I explain more in my spoiler-free Black Widow movie review.
Black Widow Corrects A Major MCU Mistake
Black Widow, (Scarlett Johansen) first appeared in Iron Man 2. And despite beating out every major Avengers in their big-screen debut, it still took her over 10 years to get her own movie. A gross oversight. So all eyes are on Black Widow. And I’m glad to say that the movie lives up to all the hype. The wait was definitely worth it. While the character itself is no longer alive in the MCU, sacrificing herself for the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame, the new movie adds much substance to the character.
The story also dives deep into the character’s depiction from the first Avengers movie, where we only got vague allusions about her past. And as I’ll discuss later in this Black Widow movie review, this movie finally expands on those references. Including, but not limited to, the proper pronunciation of ‘Budapest’. It’s arguable if those explanations were necessary or not, like that whole Solo debacle. But it doesn’t feel as shoehorned as other films.
Family Means More In Black Widow Movie Review Than The Fast & Furious Franchise
The story of Black Widow takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It specifically tracks Black Widow’s journey beginning from her betrayal of General Ross (William Hurt) by helping Steve and Bucky in Civil War, to her fugitive status with Infinity War. But that’s where the larger MCU connections end. The rest of the story is a closer and more intimate adventure digging into the back story of Natasha Romanoff. This includes an unusual team-up with members of her past. A past she isn’t too keen to revisit until circumstances force her to.
We get to meet Nat’s family, or rather her Russian family. It’s weird, but at its core, Black Widow is a dysfunctional family action-adventure story that sets up the future of the Black Widow mantle. Or not, actually. It’s hard to say by the movie’s end. But how we get there is a lot of fun. Nat has to reconnect with Mom Melina (Rachel Weisz), former super-soldier Dad, the Red Guardian (David Harbour), and baby sister turned formidable rival Yelena (Florence Pugh). And all this to try to stop a threat she thought she eliminated, rearing its ugly head again. The backbone of Black Widow is these relationships and it’s absolutely delightful.
Black Widow Movie Review Is Totally Spoiler Free
There’s a lot to unpack in Black Widow, but much of it is very spoilery. So this Black Widow movie review will be steering clear of all the spoilers and tie-ins. But even without, the movie still works as an isolated, encapsulated story that takes place in a corner of the MCU, while also broadening one character’s arc.
The movie also walks a tight rope of not retconning what we’ve already seen but expanding upon what we haven’t. It’s a tactic that the Disney Plus MCU shows have been excelling at in recent days. I almost wish that Black Widow was a Disney Plus series, so we could get much more of these relationships and supporting characters. And if already making wishes, I also kind of wish this movie came before the character’s ultimate fate in Endgame. Because with it being a prequel to a character that’s already passed, the stakes feel super low.
Closest Thing To A Spiritual Winter Solider Follow Up We Could Get
Black Widow boasts some awesome action sequences though. Relying solely on the hand-to-hand action aspects of fighting, the movie does a great job with its stunt choreography. And everyone is firing on all cylinders. The confrontation between Yelena and Nat, teased in the trailers, is breathtaking. It’s one of the best action sequences in the MCU, barring those from The Winter Soldier. Pugh matches Johannsen’s every step, and it feels like they’ve been doing this together for years.
Then there are the fight scenes with the mysterious Taskmaster, a villain that mimics its opponent’s fighting style. The nuances and attention to detail during the fight scenes are amazing. Taskmaster really does take on Nat’s fighting style, and it’s very cool. This is how Marvel Studios gets us, by making even a fight scene with a character we’ve seen for 10 years, feel familiar and recognizable. Genius, really.
The Biggest Issue In This Black Widow Movie Review
While I enjoyed many things about Black Widow, the movie itself feels pointless. Yes, we get an insight into the character we didn’t have before. Yes, it’s a delightfully dysfunctional found family trope with very likable characters. And yes, it sets up a future for these characters in the MCU. But what does the movie really do to further Black Widow’s story? Nothing. The character is dead, so her motivations for closure in this story feel hard to invest in. But you do. Not because it’s compelling, but because you kind of have to. It’s the conflict, the plot, the thing to chase and defeat in the third act. But it really doesn’t do anything for Black Widow herself.
In that sense, I feel disappointed by the movie. It’s a great standalone fare, but I echo the sentiments of many others after seeing it; “too little, too late”. It’s hard to care what happens at the end of this particular story, given we know what happens at the end of her particular story. It’s a minor complaint but feels like a big one for a movie about a character we should’ve gotten years ago. I just feel like Black Widow deserved more, and much earlier in the MCU franchise.
Still One Of The Better Action Spy Thrillers Of The MCU
Despite my issues though, Black Widow is still a taut and entertaining action thriller. The first scenes hook you in right away. And the compelling nature of the mystery around the character herself, keeps you engaged throughout. Johannsen’s swan song in the MCU is fitting and her performance, just as strong. Harbour and Weisz’s chemistry as former lovers in weird circumstances is thoroughly enjoyable.
But Pugh is the sole stand-out. She steals every scene she’s in, even ones with Johansen. Pugh’ Yelena is a deadly fighter on her own but she plays the character like one who reverts to their childhood when in the company of family. With childish vulnerability when it calls for it, but scary ass-kicking vibes when she needs to dial it up. The range is incredible. t’s a great depiction that works on so many levels. I’m excited for Pugh’s eventual inclusion into the MCU. Most likely as the one who picks up the Black Widow mantle.
Black Widow releases in theatres and on Disney Plus premiere access on July 9, 2021.
Featured image via Disney Plus.