After much delay, the highly anticipated Black Widow soon comes to theaters. The film delivers popcorn escapism, the exact sort of adventure and story to allow you to forget the chaos of the current world. It also feels like a well-positioned film to address exactly that too. Taking place after Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff is on the run and a wanted woman. Scarlett Johansson against slips into the role giving the character a send-off after her fate in Avengers: Endgame. It’s a solo adventure that’s long overdue and more importantly, delivers a worthy successor to fill Black Widow’s role going forward.
The story has Black Widow and her allies dealing with their legacy and the Red Room, the secret program to train and build assassins across the world. The film goes out of its way to mention, or at times how, the abuse of the program. It’s a very dark subject matter for Marvel films that have often dance around the subjects. While it doesn’t fully explore the psychological impact, it does dive a bit deeper into the horrid things Natasha endure growing up, having been mentioned in passing in previous films. Black Widow fills in the gaps and answers so many questions.
Black Widow at its center is about control by the state and those “behind the curtain”. Its villain in Dreykov, played by Ray Winstone, is the powerful man manipulating women and abusing them for his own means. There’s multiple levels it can be taken, the clear abuse of women, but in today’s unease, there’s a nice aspect of the 1% manipulating us all.
The film could easily dwell in its dark subject matter only broken up by action sequences. Instead, the film delivers a lot of humor and a solid recurring discussion about what it means to be family. Black Widow introduces us to Natasha’s sister and her parents from the program, all of whom outshine its star.
While Johansson might get the top-billing, it’s her castmates that stand out.
Florence Pugh has a star-making turn as Yelena Belova. She delivers dry humor that picks apart Natasha’s superhero turn. There’s a brilliance to the film taking all of the “ticks” of how Black Widow has been portrayed and mocks it a bit. Mix it in the fact her role within the Avengers, it delivers a nice punch and laugh along with the action.
Pugh as Belova is Natasha’s partner in crime helping to bring down the Red Room and explore their experiences growing up. She delivers a different take on a similar character with a dry delivery to her lines that gives it all a kick in laughs. She’s the “cold Russian” to Natasha’s “Americanized Russian”. She also has the best lines of the film.
The two are joined in their adventure by Rachel Weisz‘s Melina Vostokoff and David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian. The two are the Red Room parents to Natasha and Melina giving the film a dysfunctional family dynamic to work through. Harbour especially delivers the laughs in his out-of-shape Red Guardian and Weisz smacks his ego down regularly. The four characters together bring a nice aspect to the film as it explores family. It’s a juxtaposition to the one Natasha has found with the Avengers.
The film emphasizes either the quiet moments or massive action sequences. There is some issues where scenes feel like they pick up just before the actors begin to do their scene but overall, the film delivers spectacle. There’s also a Bond-like quality about the film as Natasha and Yelena must break into and out of locations and escape capture. While I saw the film on my tv with surround sound, it looks great and should be fantastic to experience wherever you choose.
Black Widow is a solid solo outing for the character delivering a little over 2 hours of escape and entertainment.
What the film impressively does is give its star a fun, final performance before exiting the role while setting up the next generation of Marvel Cinematic stars.
Overall Rating: 7.5