Black Widow (2021)

Movie Title: Black Widow

Year Released: 2021

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 2h 13min

Genre: Superhero, Action

Director: Cate Shortland

Writer: Eric Pearson

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz, Ever Anderson, Violet McGraw, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Review: Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka Black Widow, confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy, and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

Black Widow is the origin story of Scarlett Johansson's character, Black Widow. The events of this film take place after Captain America: Civil War and preclude Natasha's major story arc in Avengers: Endgame. This film sets up like the prototypical Marvel Cinematic Universe origin story equipped with fun characters, witty humor, and spectacular action sequences. There's a lot of heart to this film, too, as we see Natasha's rather unorthodox upbringing and family dynamic. Black Widow pushes the boundaries of what family really means, whether bound by blood or shared experiences. Without divulging too much about what we already know about Natasha's character arc, it was interesting to see an origin story delivered after we've seen the character in several movies prior.

What I really enjoyed about this movie was that it introduced several new characters that seem like they may be fun to explore in the future. Particularly Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova and David Harbour's Red Guardian characters. Yelena is another Black Widow character who has an interesting, sisterly relationship with Natasha. I thought Pugh did a great job being a foil for Natasha while also being a funny, likable, badass character. Harbour also provided a lot of comedy as Red Guardian, which is essentially the Russian version of Captain America. Except that Red Guardian is no spring chicken and doesn't quite possess the physique of Steve Rogers. I also enjoyed learning more about the Russian Black Widow academy that has been a bit of a mystery up to this point.

My biggest criticism of this film is more circumstantial than anything. I felt like it was released too late. I wish we had gotten this film in 2016 or 2017 after Captain America: Civil War. It would have served as more of a cohesive entry into the MCU rather than a retroactive checking of a box. It's like the powers that be at Marvel said, "Hey Black Widow is cool. She should totally get her own standalone movie." And she should! She's a fantastic character! The challenge here is that we've seen her character develop over the course of seven other MCU movies prior to this one. Don't get me wrong, I loved the characters, their chemistry with one another, as well as the electrifying stunts. The fight scenes were well-choreographed and this film is highly entertaining. This is a really good movie with an odd timing of release. With all that said, all fans of the MCU and the Black Widow character can't miss this one!

Stars (out of 4):

Fun Fact: According to writer Eric Pearson, Florence Pugh teased Scarlett Johansson about Black Widow's iconic pose during filming, so Pearson put it in the film.


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