At this point, Black Widow has been dead for two years. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett) threw herself off the cliffs of Vormir in 2019’s Avengers Endgame in order to secure the Soul Stone. Although the character has been around in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man 2 (2010), she has never been granted the level of depth some of the other side characters have enjoyed. Black Widow attempts to change that posthumously with a deep dive into Natasha’s backstory.
The film is set (sort of) in the middle of Captain America: Civil War, leaving Black Widow a fugitive with nowhere to hide, and no one to count on.
During Natasha’s adventures, viewers are introduced to her long-lost family – Red Guardian (David Harbour), Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) – all of whom are trained assassins, just like her.
After discovering The Red Room – the evil Soviet organization that brainwashes girls and turns them into deadly killers – is still alive and kicking, Natasha recruits her family to take down the evil force once and for all.
What follows is a relatively messy plot filled with rambunctious and memorable stunts that are sometimes reminiscent of the Mission: Impossible franchise.
Throw in a mysterious masked assassin – Taskmaster, a villain who can mimic the fighting style of anyone – and Black Widow has the makings of a great popcorn movie.
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Unfortunately, not every piece of the puzzle is a perfect fit.
The narrative seems to jump from one event to another in broad swathes and little-to-no reason between them, making the story feel hugely disconnected from itself.
Despite this, the interactions between Black Widow and her family are where the film’s strengths lie.
Scarlett is fearless yet thoughtful during her various heartwarming scenes. Gone are the days of Natasha’s by-the-numbers cold-as-ice routine.
The actor’s more gentle approach to the role truly sets up the sacrifice she will go on to make in Endgame.
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Black Widow really feels like the movie not only Natasha deserved, but also Scarlett. It opens up her character greatly while daring to delve into the darker side of her origins.
With that said, Marvel does not go deep enough on the topic of Natasha’s traumatic upbringing. It has previously been revealed that Black Widow was trained in the deranged organization that created young assassins whilst forcefully performing hysterectomies. This truly haunting aspect is barely touched upon. Such a dark story deserved more.
Between the shades of darkness, comic relief is provided by some hilarious exchanges between Red Guardian and Natasha. But, again, viewers will be clamouring for more detail about the two characters’ backstory.
Meanwhile, Florence’s Yelena is the star of the film.
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The 25-year-old British actor has been blowing up in recent years by starring in such films as Little Women, Midsommar and Lady Macbeth – and Black Widow proves she has the versatility to star in blockbusters.
While it hasn’t been confirmed just yet, it seems likely she will take over the role of Black Widow going forward, and she will be an absolutely perfect fit for the new Avengers line-up.
Yelena’s emotional bond with Natasha is the heart of the film that allows Scarlett and Florence to bounce off one another wonderfully.
Their chemistry on-screen distracts from the absolutely woeful villain, Dreykov, played by Ray Winstone.
Although the forgettable villain is perhaps on-screen for a grand total of ten minutes, his moustache-twirling bad-guyism is utterly ridiculous.
On top of being really bad for badness’ sake - and having a plan that doesn’t completely make sense - Winstone really phones in the entire performance. Truly, he is one of the worst villains in a Marvel movie for a long time.
Black Widow is competent. The two-hour film does well to establish a bond between Natasha and her long-lost assassin family with great results, but in return, the plot falters. To its credit, the confusing and simply uninspiring writing is bolstered by some incredible set pieces and stunts. What’s more, Scarlett is fantastic and should have received her own lead film a decade ago. It’s a damn shame we won’t see more of her version of Widow because she is fantastic. Still, Yelena’s introduction was phenomenal and the character shaped up to be absolutely fascinating. The Black Widow franchise is in good hands if she continues to be involved.
Black Widow hits cinemas on July 7 and Disney Plus with Premier Access on July 9.
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