Twenty-four films and 13 years, plus a pandemic, later, Marvel Studios has finally placed the lone female original Avenger at the front of her own cinematic property. Overdue and worthy of inclusion as a standalone film with other espionage favorites like the Bourne series, Black Widow honors Natasha Romanoff as one of the best Avengers, even as it tries to move past her death in Endgame by looking to the future.
Placed between Civil War and Infinity War in the cinematic timeline, Black Widow follows the titular Avenger as she seeks to dismantle the system that made her and so many others victims of the Red Room and its special kind of training. Along the way, she reconnects with her former family, a group of USSR spies including Red Guardian(David Harbour), the Soviet’s response to Captain America, and Melina, one of the Red Room’s lead scientists. Her sister, Yelena Belova(Florence Pugh), is a recent defector from the Red Room and determined to use Natasha’s Avengers connection to bring it down.
This group of actors brought together brings a charming dynamic to the screen. Harbour and Pugh both fill the screen when they enter the frame, with Pugh ready to take on some of the heavyweights of snark in future Marvel films, even landing an ongoing gag about the comic book grade poses Black Widow has been seen in during her time on screen. Johansson provides the anchor of the film as Natasha, one of the steadying influences of the entire MCU thus far, and placing her as the center of a film intended to honor her character and launch the character intended to honor her legacy will be a bittersweet reward for her fans.
The film uses its runtime to fill in the gaps of Natasha’s character history, including the vague reference to Budapest in 2012’s The Avengers. Revealing this was the act that cemented Natasha’s defection to SHIELD, and the red in her ledger was still able to come back and haunt her in the form of the Taskmaster, a foe able to copy the fighting styles of anyone they face, drives Natasha to new heights in her quest for redemption. As seen in the trailers, much of the action takes place in the sky, with an extended period of the final act spent in a free-fall back to Earth in what may be one of the more challenging VFX sequences in the series.
Black Widow is a deeper film than other spotlight films, even as it falls victim to the same weak villain issue plaguing other solo outings. The difference here, however, lies not in how the villain may or may Black Widow is a deeper film than other Marvel spotlight films, even as it falls victim to the same weak villain issue plaguing other solo outings. However, the difference here lies not in how the villain may or may not be a corrupted mirror of the hero but in how the villain represents the deeper emotional and mental traumas facing not just Natasha but other women like her. Illustrated with a chilling intro sequence, the focus here on the trafficking and sexual abuse that faces women around the world places Natasha not as a victim but as a survivor who has the will and power to fight back. By giving Natasha this power to confront her past, Marvel has given this female hero an agency unparalleled by her Avengers family.
Synopsis: In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller “Black Widow,” Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow 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. Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Natasha/Black Widow, Florence Pugh stars as Yelena, David Harbour portrays Alexei/The Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz is Melina. Directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige, “Black Widow”—the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—will launch simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ marketson July 9, 2021.
U.S. Premiere: Friday, July 9, 2021 Simultaneous Theatrical & Disney+ with Premier Access
Directors: Cate Shortland
Executive Producers: Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Brad Winderbaum, Nigel Gostelow, Scarlett Johansson