Director(s): Cate Shortland
Writer(s): Jac Schaeffer, Ned Benson
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz
Synopsis: Natasha Romanoff teams up with her spy family to take down the Black Widow program.
Twenty movies after making her first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the spy-turned-hero Natasha Romanoff finally gets her rightful place under the sun in “Black Widow”, a prequel that is certain to entertain and satisfy most Marvel Studios fans.
Under the direction of Cate Shortland and with Scarlett Johansson returning as the title character, “Black Widow” follows the now-fugitive Avenger as she joins forces with her spy family to take down the infamous Red Room.
After learning that the head of the Red Room, a Russian man named Dreykov (Ray Winstone), survived an assassination attempt led by Natasha many years back, the red-haired hero is forced to reconnect with her estranged sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), as they work together to put an end to the Black Widow program.
A more suitable – and second – redemption arc for Marvel’s favorite spy, “Black Widow” was way overdue. Watching Natasha Romanoff onscreen doing what she does best is a great reward for everyone who stuck around for over 11 years. Additionally, it goes without saying that Scarlett Johansson does not disappoint, bringing once again her very well-established performance as the Black Widow herself.
However, is Florence Pugh who everyone is going to be talking about. She absolutely steals the show whenever she shows up. Pugh is an action star in the making, going hand-to-hand with Johansson in one of the best fight scenes in the entire MCU, and her comedic timing is perfect for the kind of humor served by the Marvel Studios.
Moreover, “Stranger Things” actor, David Harbour, gives a terrific performance as the loud and self-centered former Russian “hero” Alexei Shostakov, the Red Guardian. Alexei and Rachel Weisz’s character, Melina Vostokoff, were assigned by Dreykov as parent to Natasha and Yelena.
Now, character technicalities aside, “Black Widow” delivers show-stopping action scenes, with everything one would expect from a Marvel Studio movie. The fight sequences are clean and well-choreographed, and the car chase in Budapest is reminiscent of the one at the beginning of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, when the Winter Soldier himself appears for the first time.
Shortland and her team did a fantastic job creating the kind of spy thriller that is so familiar to us from the early days of the MCU. Much of the cinematography and angles used are a clear reference to previous movies. Indeed, finally knowing what happened in Budapest – a long-running inside joke between Natasha and Clint Barton, the Hawkeye – is like a cherry on the top of cake.
And even though always present, the action does ceases when the movie reaches what it seems an interminable and weak second act. “Black Widow” also fails tremendously with its chosen villains. Both Dreykov and Taskmaster are forgettable and a big disappointment, and the other Black Widow operatives are uncoordinated and lame.
One other huge issue in “Black Widow” comes when the movie tries to use human trafficking as a plot device, which does cross a major line and is certain to cause a lot of conversation about it in the weeks to come.
Finally, “Black Widow” gives the false impression that it happens in a totally different universe when compared to the rest of the cinematic universe, most specially “WandaVision”, “Loki” and the upcoming movies “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals”. However, the way the after-credit scene sets things in motion for the future goes together with what was done in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”
Either super overdue or completely unnecessary, “Black Widow” is certain to create a lot of buzz in the upcoming weeks, as the movie reaches the general audience. Marvel Studios and Scarlet Johansson give us another emotional farewell to the spy, but not without giving the space for newcomers to shine. Yes, maybe Natasha deserved better. However, “Black Widow” delivers in the action, and is a proper way to honor the character’s legacy.