Black Widow was finally released in cinemas and on Disney Plus Premier Acess on July 9th after three delayed release dates. The film marks the studio’s 24th entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first big-screen release of Phase 4. Scarlett Johansson returns in the titular role with a star-studded support cast including Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, and Ray Winstone. The film is set in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, with Natasha Romanoff on the run and forced to confront a conspiracy tied to her past.
Marvel’s staple formula is apparent throughout as we follow Romanoff on another globe-trotting adventure that sees her go through real-world locations such as Cuba, Norway, Hungary, and Morocco. As always, these are a welcomed addition to the runtime, as the story progresses through these stunning settings. Budapest plays host to one of the film’s strongest sequences, as Natasha and sister Yelena are on the run from hostile enemies and Hungarian special forces.
Although many traditional Marvel elements are showcased here, the film does have a distinct feel to it– gone are the intergalactic adversaries, replaced by a slick, high-tech espionage thriller. Comparisons to Bond and Red Sparrow will likely be made. The opening sequence sets the scene for Russian operatives infiltrating the U.S and brings with it a very Cold War feeling.
Action and espionage are not the only themes here, with a heavy emphasis placed on their family dynamics. This is after all a prequel story delving further into Natasha’s backstory and the film does a great job in this area. Dealing with our past and what effects it can have on our futures are themes felt throughout, and I enjoyed the way we see this play out. We write our own stories is the overarching message here and both the script and performances do this message justice.
One would be forgiven for believing the attention would be fully placed on Johanssons’ Romanoff, but Yelena shares the spotlight in this one. Florence Pugh brings Yelena’s struggles to life with a movie-stealing performance which adds more to the Black Widows’ past whilst shaping things for the future. The sisterly interaction brings with it some great action, well-placed comedy, and emotional entanglement. David Harbour and Rachel Weisz flesh out the family dynamic to great effect, adding great comedy to the film as both process their past in one way or another.
A quick mention goes out to the stunt work, which has to be applauded here. The fight scenes are brilliantly executed, very physical, fluid, and intense. They don’t constantly cut away to different shots or angles, which really helps you stay with the scene and intensifies the combat.
Every superhero needs their villain, and Black Widow goes against the grain here. Ray Winstone provides a somewhat surprising addition here, as Marvel meets Bond in an ambitious fashion. Marvel is synonymous with its larger-than-life super villains, but Black Widow changes the formula and goes in another direction (think more Blofeld than Thanos.) Winstone’s Dreykov is a villain very much represented in previous pop culture and works well with the timeline. Although he does not play a huge part in the overall runtime, he delivers a satisfying final boss – quietly working in the shadows and pulling all the strings. His own Oddjob comes in the form of The Taskmaster, whose presence is felt much more throughout the duration. Taskmaster proves to be a formidable force who is involved in many of the film’s strong action sequences.
While Black Widow delivers a lot of staple Marvel conventions, it dares to be something new, taking us down a different path that showcases the franchise’s flexibility. Throwbacks to films of generations past add a different flavor to the formula. Great action, effective laughs, and stunning backdrops amplify the story while the script delves into something much deeper. The performances add real emotion to the piece and touch on important messages. Black Widow provides us with another winning entry into the MCU – a befitting backstory to such an important character that answers questions while setting up future possibilities.
My Rating: 3-1/2 stars out of 5
Black Widow is now showing in Cinemas and on Disney Plus Premier Access. Check out the trailer below.
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