Black Widow

Title: Black Widow
Director: Cate Shortland
Writers: Eric Pearson (screenplay), Jack Schaeffer (story), Ned Benson (story)
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz

Rating

Natasha Romanoff, also known as Black Widow, might not be the greatest of Marvel’s superheroes. But she is undoubtedly one of the more interesting ones. Often in teaming up with Hawkeye and with no superpowers on her own to back her up, Natasha has kept up with super soldiers, flying billionaires, wizards, and the gods of Norse mythology.

Black Widow gives us the origin story of Natasha Romanoff (played by Scarlett Johansson). The story starts in the 90s USA, where teenager Natasha lives a seemingly everyday suburban life with her parents and younger sister Yelena. But the idyll is a facade, for this family are Russian spies, and when we meet them, their lives are about to change. The family flees US agents and makes their way to Cuba, where the two girls are handed over to a sinister Russian organization.

On the Run in Norway

We meet Natasha again 20 years later, shortly after the events of the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War. Natasha has found her way to Norway, where she lies low in the idyllic fjords following her clash with the other superheroes. But the past is again catching up with her, this time in the form of the masked villain Taskmaster. The accompanying brawl sends Natasha on the run towards a showdown with the sinister organization that trained her as a child.

Natasha gets into trouble with both brainwashed assassins and her former spy family. She teams up with her sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) and embarks on a mission. The goal: To stop the evil Russian Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and the organization that brainwashed and trained the two sisters as assassins.

Along the way, we meet the other members of this dangerously eccentric family. Melinda (Rachel Weisz) continued her research on mind control, this time conducted on pigs. The now retired and overweight super soldier Alexei (played by David Harbour) is brilliant as The Red Guardian, the former Soviet Union’s answer to Captain America. David Harbour steals just about every scene he is in as the film’s much-needed comic relief.

black widow/fjords
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff in the fjords of Norway

Marvel’s Own Spy Thriller

Cate Shortland directs this entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and from the first scene, it is easy to see that Black Widow sets a different course than previous Marvel movies. There are no Norse gods, sorcerers, and creatures from alien worlds. Instead, Black Widow feels more like a spy thriller like Mission Impossible, Jason Bourne, and even James Bond. There are secret agents, false identities, car chases, and villains in secret lairs with lofty ambitions of world domination.

Even though Black Widow has plenty of action, it might not always be enough to keep the most jaded MCU fan happy. However, the film’s strengths lie in its many calmer, dialogue-driven scenes, and it is easy to see where Cate Shortland wanted to go with these. These are the character-building moments that the story is really built on. The dialogues are long, and although they help provide some emotional depth, I must also admit they sometimes tested my patience.

Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in Black Widow

There is also plenty of action scenes in Black Widow. They’re mostly good, but there could have been more of them. And compared to the masterful action scenes of the Russo brothers movies such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the brawls and shootouts in Black Widow seem somewhat tame.

Following the epic conclusion of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, it seemed like much of the air had gone out of the MCU balloon. Of course, a worldwide pandemic and a struggling film industry didn’t help the situation much. But Black Widow is proof that there is still some energy and drive left in Marvel Cinematic Universe. And if this film says anything about the quality of what we can expect from the MCU in the years to come, there is good reason to be optimistic.

Black Widow is now available on Disney+ for all subscribers. And since this is a Marvel movie, be sure to stay seated until the end of the credits.

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