Black Widow Finishes Strong In Johansson’s Last Marvel Movie

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Marvel Studios is such a finely-tuned instrument almost two decades in, that it’s actually hard for them to fail. Cate Shortland’s new blockbuster Black Widow is a test to see how much the studio can play it safe while also hitting all the right notes for entertainment. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow’s (AKA, Natasha Romanoff) own solo feature had been in development for nearly a decade since the success of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers (2012).


Like a lot of movie fans, once we started getting films for new superheroes like Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018) or Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel (2019), the idea of a Widow standalone project started seeming less appealing. And on top of that, we had to wait a whole extra year for Natasha’s own big-screen adventure because of a global pandemic. Now, after so much time and exposure, has the godmother of the Avengers’ crew still got it?

We start in 1995, with an idyllic suburban family in the Midwest, who are actually Russian secret agents on the run. Surrogate sisters Natasha (Ever Anderson and Johansson) and Yelena (Violet McGraw and Florence Pugh) grow up to be trained assassins, with Natasha eventually switching sides from KGB to SHIELD. After two decades apart from each other, Natasha, Yelena, Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei (David Harbour) reunite to take down the man responsible for their training, Gen. Dreykov (Ray Winstone), who wants Natasha dead for using her skills for good.

Black Widow is set in between Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War (2016) and the Russo Bros’ Avengers: Infinity War (2018). If you haven’t seen either in a while, it probably wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your Marvel continuity. While it might not feel like five years since Civil War, quite a lot has happened in the MCU since then – some of which I had forgotten about until viewing the new feature.

Like most Marvel directors, Shortland makes her big studio break after spending almost two decades in independent filmmaking. With Black Widow, we get a more traditional espionage thriller along the lines of Jason Bourne or Jack Ryan rather than the usual comic book variety. There’s a bit of a mature edge to the direction and tone. But then the action sequences have a bit too much of a Bourne influence with us sometimes thinking: “These fight scenes are so dark and shaky, I can barely see what’s going on.”

After spending over ten years in the action heroine game, Johansson appears comfortable as ever leading her own Marvel flick. Pugh is already a critical darling with modest hits like Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019) and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (2019), but in her first action-adventure, she’s a revelation as the new Widow. She can work any genre, plot or character to her liking, and nearly steals the show from Johansson here. Weisz is always a pleasure to see on film, and Harbour surprisingly doesn’t overdo the goofy sidekick/comic relief schtick too much.

The script itself is fine and appropriate, though by the end it feels a bit redundant since we already know Natasha’s ultimate outcome with the Russo Bros’ Avengers: Endgame (2019). This being Johansson’s final movie with the mega franchise does also make it seem like the studio and producers are throwing her a bone at the last minute. Nonetheless, Black Widow is generally a decent film for the summer movie season as Johansson’s swan song and Pugh’s introduction into the big screen series.


Have you seen Black Widow? Do you think it was a good farewell for Natasha’s character? Let us know in the comments!

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