Introduced in 2010’s Iron Man 2, Black Widow is one of the oldest characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While we’ve seen Natasha Romanoff grow over the past decade from a mysterious spy to a valued member of the Avengers with a connection to Bruce Banner, she’s never had the same amount of backstory explanation or depth as the characters with their own films. Thankfully, Black Widow changes this and makes the MCU version of Romanoff just as captivating as her comic counterpart.
Scarlett Johansson feels at home in the main role and uses her charisma to introduce audiences to a bevy of new characters while going in-depth on the villainous Red Room and her origins. While these are fresh faces, every character introduced feels right at home in the MCU and are exciting additions to the overall mythos. Endgame might have been the end of an era, but Black Widow shows that the future of the MCU is just as bright and that there are plenty of captivating heroes and villains yet to be touched upon.
The biggest MCU introduction is of Florence Pugh, who is brilliant as Yelena Belova. A fellow byproduct of the Russian spy program, the film serves as every bit as Yelena’s story as it is for Natasha. She also has some of the best lines, such as when she tells Natasha that they’re the same, although she’s “not the killer that little girls call their hero.” With Pugh set to reprise her role in Hawkeye, and Natasha meeting her maker in Endgame, it’s an exciting start for a new hero
David Harbour offers up a movie-stealing performance (as he often does) as Alexei Shostakov. Harbour’s character not only served as a father to Natasha and Yelena but was also Red Guardian, the disgraced Soviet equivalent to Red Guardian. Alexei is an interesting character, as he loathes Western philosophy, hasn’t seen his daughters in decades, and has an obsession with Captain America that speaks to his personal insecurity. Watching the leads interact is a joy on-screen as the performances are top-notch, although I wish Harbour had a bit more screen time.
There is plenty of the signature MCU-style action that fans have come to expect in Black Widow, and there are some impressive set pieces that stack up to the coolest scenes in past films. However, the movie is ultimately about family (and what the term truly means) and confronting one’s past, which gives it a unique feel. The sisterly feel between Pugh and Johansson is brilliant as there’s a competitive edge and some hard feelings after being estranged for so long.
The main foils in the film is Taskmaster, who is depicted as a total badass killing machine that ultimately becomes a sympathetic figure, and Red Room head Dreykov, who is brilliantly depicted by Ray Winston as a manipulative commander without any moral compass. The conflict here is personal for everyone involved and it makes the action all the more hard-hitting as a result. While the timeline makes it clear Natasha survives, there is plenty of drama and uncertainty in the plot as it plays out over its 2-plus hour runtime that goes by rather quickly.
While I wasn’t sure if Black Widow was truly needed before watching, it serves as an interesting piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon and is well worth the watch even if you’re just a casual fan. More than just one last time to say goodbye to Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, it’s an introduction to several great Marvel heroes and villains as well as an exciting spy flick in its own right. It’s a bit of a shame as a viewer that my greatest connection with Romanoff comes after her character’s emotional demise, but the added depth to the character will only make her past appearances stand out all the more in retrospect.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.
Disclosure: The studio provided a screener of the film for our Black Widow review.