Black Widow review: totally spies


Fans have been asking for a Black Widow movie ever since the character first appeared in the MCU in Iron Man 2 in 2010. Her character has been warmly welcomed by audiences, especially female fans, who then craved a female heroine. Natasha Romanoff went through quite an evolution in the Marvel timeline and became an icon. In 2019 it was announced that she would get her own film after all. After years of waiting, it’s finally here: Black Widow is coming to theaters (and on Disney+), and it’s filling in some plot holes for the character we all know.

The Long Way of Black Widow
Because that was the criticism of many when the film was finally announced. For years they had one of the most popular female characters in their own hands but nothing was done with it , while every Jan with the Pet got his own film. When Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) sacrificed himself for the rest of the team, many were displeased. Now the film should be about the past, and therefore do nothing in the continuity of the universe. But the intention was always there. Already after Age Of UltronKevin Feige also wanted to explore her past more, but due to the busy schedule that Marvel had in mind, it would take a while. In 2017, development really started with a planned release date for July 2020. So everything finally seemed to be in order, but then corona came and we had to wait a little longer.

The film would be set after Civil War , in which Natasha chose to sign the Sokovia Accords and thus voted for more oversight. She then disappeared from the radar for a while until she reappeared (as a blonde!) with Cap and Sam in Infinity War. But what had she done in between? (A Prelude comic already offered an answer, but was it also canon?) And how much do we really know Natasha and her background? And what about Budapest? Whether we’ll get an answer to all those questions in Black Widow, I’ll leave it up to for the time being.

Her solo film opens in the even further past. Natasha and another little girl are in Ohio in 1991. They play together and have dinner with their mother when their father comes home. But the trouble and anxiety soon disappear when the family has to flee. They are separated and the children are re-educated in the Red Room. 20 years later, Natasha is on the run after Civil War. Her sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) brings her to Budapest because not all the loose ends in Natasha’s past are tied up as nicely as she thinks. The Red Room still exists and so is the key figure behind it. To shut it down once and for all, they turn to their alleged parents (Rachel Weisz and David Harbour). Old wounds are ripped open, but old vendettas are also addressed.

Marvel’s first real spy movie
You don’t know much more than from the trailers with this, but the plot is actually not that complicated so you quickly know where it goes. I don’t think that’s bad in itself. Anyway, we know in advance that this story probably won’t cause that much of a stir in the MCU. It’s more about how the road to get there is filled.

If I had to compare it to a movie, this seems more like the Mission Impossible of the MCU. Stunts abound and are well captured, with fewer of those irritating cuts that make it hard to see. There is everything: motorcycle chases, car chases, lots of hand-to-hand combat, helicopter work, etc. You won’t be left hungry in that area. The music of Lorne Balfe (also from Mission Impossible: Fallout ) certainly adds to that spy vibe, with a lot of urgency, blowing and percussion, but also the Russian influences are audible.

But it’s also nice to learn more about Natasha. As we said, she was the least “developed” of all the characters. Here we are already just spending more time with her, which already makes a difference. But it’s that family bond that she spoke of in Endgame that comes back here as well. From the first scene we see that this has had an influence on her, whether she likes it or not. So the reunion is both painful and healing. For me it was a wise decision to focus on her personality and humanity in the last film about Natasha. Scarlett Johansson is doing a great job in this movie, now that she gets just a few more different things to do.

Florence Pugh is an asset in every film I think, but especially in this one. As Yelena, she’s tough and sarcastic, and that double play with Natasha provides fun moments that sisters will recognize. We already knew from Scarlett that she is not averse to a stunt, but it is also clearly reserved for Florence. She and Scarlett definitely have chemistry and it’s necessary to forget that this relationship actually comes out of nowhere. David Harbor shows more of his comedic side. Rachel Weisz may not be getting enough to do, and the age difference of barely 15 years between her and Scarlett may be just a bridge too far to credibly imagine a mother-daughter relationship.