Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Black Widow - Review


Nearly two years after the last cinematic release by Marvel Studios, audiences finally get to see the long overdue Black Widow. After her introduction in 2010’s Iron Man 2, fans have asked and wondered when a story revolving around the famed assassin would release. For years, no headway was made as every other character had their franchise and Natasha Romanoff was doomed to be a supporting hero in ensemble casts. That is until this week, when she gets a film all to herself, and thankfully, it's pretty solid.

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy, and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

From the jump, it’s very clear what kind of tone Black Widow wants to sell to its audience. Director Cate Shortland assembles a hell of an opening sequence that sets the baseline for the remainder of the runtime, and a height that the other action set pieces strive for. Regardless if they reach that standard or not, the idea is established that this is a very low to the ground, grittier film than the over the top world ending stakes of the past few theatrical entries. The story is relatively unimportant, there are some relevant undertones pertaining to trafficking and treatment of women, but generally, the film is just a showcase for its fantastic ensemble cast. 

After numerous performances now, audiences know what Scarlett Johansson can do with this character. It’s been 11 years since her first appearance back in 2010, and the character has changed and evolved into a fan favorite, long overdue for a solo film. Black Widow serves not only as a long overdue showcase for Johansson, and a perfect send-off for the character of Natasha Romanoff, but as an introduction to the newest Marvel darling in Florence Pugh, who nearly steals the whole thing. 

Yes, David Harbour plays a fantastic super-powered idiot who is equal parts funny and jerk at the same time. Yes, Rachel Weisz is great as always as the twisted motherly figure of this makeshift family. But the true star of the show is Pugh. Her snark proves the perfect foil to Johansson’s overconfidence, providing an odd sibling rivalry amongst all the punches being thrown. She’s a great addition to the growing MCU roster of characters, and here’s to hoping she gets more appearances in the future. 

As said before, the action that opens the film is just right. The tension, the pace, and the storytelling it accomplishes is an excellent opening for the film. While it would be an exaggeration to say the rest of the film can’t measure up, there are certainly times where the action gets too bombastic for the more realistic and grounded approach that the rest of the film takes. In classic Marvel fashion, the third act has to up the stakes from whatever has come before. For Black Widow, that means a mid-air fight with the villain (who may seem like an afterthought here, but that matches the film in that regard) as debris and a multitude of other things fall from the sky around them.

Black Widow continues the success of the most consistent franchise in Hollywood. Will it break records or be a worldwide phenomenon? Probably not. But it’s a solid action film, and a fitting send off for another original Avenger. Though it was a completely unplanned two year gap between feature films, the break possibly helps what may have been a little underwhelming after the spectacle of the 2019 entries. But now in 2021, we need whatever solid blockbusters we can get, and Black Widow fits the bill. 

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