BLACK WIDOW Review; "BOURNE Meets BOND Meets TERMINATOR...With Two Outstanding, Badass Female Leads"

The review embargo for Black Widow has finally lifted, and we're here to give your our spoiler-free verdict on what to expect from Scarlett Johansson's highly anticipated return as Natasha Romanoff...

Reviews Opinion

When Spider-Man: Far From Home swung into theaters back in July 2019, little did we know it would be the last Marvel Studios movie we’d see on the big screen for nearly two years. Well, here we are, and with Black Widow just ten days from arriving in theaters and on Disney+’s Premier Access Service, it would be all too easy to get caught up in the hype. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a fan, but make no mistake about it, this is one of the strongest solo outings from Marvel Studios to date, and a movie that delivers on epic thrills, emotionally powerful character beats and the sort of blockbuster action only Marvel Studios can deliver in its superhero movies.

Some have questioned the necessity of a Black Widow movie that takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, but this proves to be a vital new entry to the MCU mythos, and one that adds a whole host of exciting new characters who will likely have a recurring presence in this shared world in the years to come. That does mean Natasha Romanoff is occasionally overshadowed in her own movie, though not because Scarlett Johansson doesn’t give it her all. With the opportunity to take centre stage, the actress makes the most of it and delivers a powerful, moving performance that serves as a fitting farewell to her tenure as this Avenger. After a gripping opening sequence exploring her tragic childhood, the movie follows Natasha after she escapes from General "Thunderbolt" Ross and goes on the run after breaking the Sokovia Accords. However, she’s quickly pulled into a whole new adventure, reunited with her "family" and forced to battle Taskmaster, the pawn of the sinister ruler of the Red Room: an on top form Ray Winston as Dreykov. Charming and vicious, he makes for an effective big bad, though one we’d have liked to spend a little more time with.

Taskmaster certainly isn’t going to go down as one of the MCU’s best villains, but Black Widow makes good use of the character and what he lacks in personality, he more than makes up for by being a seemingly unstoppable force. An absolute beast of a character, he pursues Nastasha like the T-800 gunning for Sarah Connor, and definitely delivers in terms of fight scenes that will leave you on the edge of your seat. However, Taskmaster is someone in desperate need of another appearance in a movie or TV show before we get fully invested in his journey.

The real star of Black Widow, though, is Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova. The actress commands every scene she’s in and plays a character you’ll quickly fall in love with. Charming, funny, and one of the most exciting additions to the MCU in some time, if Marvel Studios’ intention was to use this movie as a way of establishing her as a major part of Phase 4 and beyond, it worked. Another scene-stealer is David Harbour as Red Guardian; he may be here to deliver the laughs we’ve come to expect from these movies, but he also has a lot of heart and is an absolute joy to watch on screen. Rachel Weisz is similarly fun to spend time with, and while neither William Hurt nor O-T Fagbenle make much of an impact, they serve a purpose (which is all there really is to say about them).

Negatives are few and far between, but the movie definitely wraps up a little too quickly; it's as if Marvel Studios had suddenly remembered they had to get Natasha where she needed to be for Infinity War, and that results in a weird jump that makes it feel like there's a scene missing. Some of the key moments in the hero's life that have been referenced in previous movies also only get a passing mention, meaning anyone hoping to relive those in all their glory - which feels like a big part of why fans wanted a Black Widow movie in the first place - could be disappointed. 

Marvel Studios has been taking some big swings in Phase 4, and Black Widow is a departure from the norm that delivers a home run. Whether it’s the James Bond-style opening credits (set perfectly to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Think Up Anger ft. Malia J) or a tone that jumps between Bourne and Mission: Impossible, this is a powerful and moving story about human trafficking, the way young women are treated by powerful men, and, perhaps most crucially, family. It deftly balances all these different elements, simultaneously delivering those hard-hitting moments with the sort of action that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Black Widow is Bourne meets Bond meets Terminator...with two outstanding, badass female leads. Action-packed, funny, and at times surprisingly gut-wrenching, Cate Shortland's vision for the MCU is bold, empowering, and utterly unmissable.


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