Two years of wait is over to see Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff lead her own standalone film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and now it’s finally here with the release of Black Widow, following her key on-screen death and a number of delays. It’s the 24th picture in the franchise and the first after a two-year hiatus, and it seems eerily similar to other Marvel Studios films. Rather than being utterly out of date, Black Widow manages to offer something fresh to the table and keep the MCU moving ahead in a fun way.
Set immediately after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Marvel’s next film offers the most in-depth look at Natasha Romanoff yet, deepening her complexities and providing Scarlett Johansson with ample material to deliver her most dignified performance as the character, period. It’s thrilling to follow Natasha’s journey while also learning more about her background, which makes it all the more disappointing that Marvel waited until after she was murdered off to reveal it. In the broader scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this renders Black Widow meaningless. That isn’t to say, though, that the film isn’t worthwhile.
While the premise of the film is enjoyable, it has one major flaw: it isn’t original. For a long time, Marvel Studios has been attempting to break free from the accusation that “all MCU movies are exactly the same,” but if Black Widow is any indication, they aren’t trying hard enough. Black Widow might easily fit into Phase Two, which makes it a little sad that it is the first entry in Phase Four. In reality, it shares many narrative beats, tone, visual style, and other elements with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a satisfactory ending for Natasha Romanoff, but the film would have benefitted immensely from more distinct traits – a deeper edge than simply serving as a tidy prequel. Instead, Natasha is confronted with a tale from the early 2000s.
The strongest part of the film is that of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, a scene-stealer who manages to captivate the viewer in every moment. Pugh’s chemistry with Johansson, combined with a well-written script, makes for a stellar relationship. The dynamic between the reunited “sisters” carries Black Widow from beginning to end, due in large part to Pugh’s work. Her portrayal of a broken young spy who can’t help but cling to the past makes Yelena an extremely captivating character to follow. After this great introduction, new waves of fans will surely be anticipating her return.
Black Widow places a strong emphasis on family, as seen by Natasha and Yelena’s connection. These two women aren’t the only ones involved in the game. Alexei and Melina, played by David Harbour and Rachel Weisz, are the dysfunctional family’s “parents,” and both offer something unique to the table. Harbour’s comic timing is impeccable, and he also excels in the role of father. Weisz, on the other hand, has an unexpected charm that makes for a very compelling character that isn’t as predictable as one might anticipate.
However, not every part of Black Widow reaches these heights. With Taskmaster, a clever fighter who can study and mimic his adversary’s skill set, the odds were stacked in Black Widow’s favor. However, the most serious problem in Black Widow’s portrayal of Taskmaster is his lack of personality. Taskmaster’s one-liners, attitude, and colorful demeanor make him an intriguing opponent for comic book fans. Yet, in Black Widow, the character is reduced to a silent assassin who appears in only a few action sequences and has almost no dialogue with Black Widow herself.
Taskmaster is transformed into an exact clone of The Winter Soldier, lacking the complexity that made the “Red” assassin so intriguing to begin with. It’s a real tragedy because Taskmaster has a small but devoted fan following waiting for him to make his live-action debut. This is a terrible beginning, with the head-turning villain feeling more like a story device and being utilized for little more than action sequences and lead-up to secret twists and turns. That isn’t to argue that Black Widow’s action sequences aren’t fantastic; they are. The character’s gimmick may not be as exciting as a threat, but it’s a fantastic foundation for well-choreographed hand-to-hand battle sequences.
Even if Black Widow’s thematic significance isn’t crucial for the MCU in terms of setting up the remainder of Phase Four, it’s still valuable. The events in the film serve as a perfect bridge between Natasha’s glory days as an Avenger and her period on the run. Her actions and judgments have even gone so far as to foreshadow her ultimate sacrifice in the future. Regardless of whether it is a long-overdue project, Black Widow serves as a great opportunity to say farewell to such a significant person in the MCU, despite the fact that it is set before her death.
In some ways, Black Widow can’t help but follow the pattern, offering little to set it apart from the other films in the franchise. That doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a well-crafted conclusion to Natasha Romanoff’s narrative. It proves to be a valuable addition to the MCU, demonstrating its own worth and purpose, even if it is difficult to accept at first. Natasha’s adventures may have come to an end, but Black Widow leaves strands to be maintained and expanded on in future episodes, suggesting that this film may have a greater influence on the MCU than previously thought. Hopefully, these unresolved issues are resolved, since they keep the picture from being anything less than average. Fans will agree that paying tribute to Natasha Romanoff’s legacy does not have to stop here.
Maxblizz Rating: 88/100
Black Widow will release on theaters and Disney+ Premier Access July 9
FOLLOW MAXBLIZZ ON TWITTER