Marvel Studios has been out of the theatrical spotlight for quite some time. The global pandemic has delayed all theatrical releases from the famed production company for over a year. Black Widow is the first Marvel Studios film to release following those delays, and while it isn’t an Avengers-level event film, as far as Marvel solo movies go, it’s one of the better offerings. Join us as we take a deeper dive into the return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with our Black Widow review.
Black Widow takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It offers a look into the character’s past and allows Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to tie up some loose ends. If you’ve seen Avengers: Endgame, you already know the fate of the character. Despite that, Black Widow manages to move the character forward and push the viewer ever so slightly into Phase 4 of the MCU.
Joining Black Widow on her adventure is Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a fellow Black Widow agent, Alexi Shostakov (David Harbour), also known as Red Guardian or the Russian equivalent of Captain America, Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), and the scene-stealing Rick Mason (O-T Fagbenle). All of these actors are clearly having fun with their roles, and each one fits their character extremely well. With any luck, at least some of them will continue to appear in future MCU projects (some of which you can already spy on IMDb).
Thematically, Black Widow feels a lot like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s essentially a global espionage film with a Marvel twist. There’s nothing particularly unique about the film, but as the 24th film in the MCU, it’s difficult to stand out and not be compared to something else. It’s easy to say that Black Widow borrows from both The Winter Soldier and the first Avengers film. While the action is mostly well done, there are a few hiccups near the end of the film that bring down some of the action and make things feel a bit more generic. While this does bring down the climax ever so slightly, thankfully it’s not enough of a hindrance to bringing down the film as a whole.
Marvel has had issues with villains in the past. Some stand out (Loki and Thanos), while others come and go without much of an impact (just about everyone else). Taskmaster is the most immediate threat in Black Widow, and while most of the comic book elements are intact, the character has absolutely no personality. This is in stark contrast to the comic book version of Taskmaster, who is almost as mouthy as Spider-Man or Deadpool. In Black Widow, Taskmaster is more of a silent, looming threat. This works in the context of the film but is disappointing to anyone who was looking for a more comic-accurate take on the character’s personality.
The new Disney Plus Marvel shows have established a trend of providing backstory for characters that aren’t fully developed in the films. So far we’ve learned a great deal about the relationship between Wanda and Vision, how Falcon and Winter Soldier are dealing with life in general, and now we’re delving into what makes Loki tick. All of these series moved the MCU forward in their own way, but are also very different when compared to the films. The D+ shows are almost like a glimpse behind the curtain, and that’s what Black Widow feels like.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean Black Widow should’ve been a Disney Plus show. It still feels very much like many of the other solo films in the MCU. However, Black Widow offers a more intimate look at the character’s past and helps to move the MCU forward through Phase 4, which is similar to the general themes of the Disney Plus shows.
Black Widow is at an odd place within the MCU. It’s a film that should’ve been released between Civil War and Infinity War, that has the same impact on the MCU as a Disney Plus show, and even serves as a pseudo-prequel to the upcoming Hawkeye series, but yet still works as a Marvel solo film. There’s a lot of Avenger name-dropping, but this is Black Widow’s film through and through. Aside from minor issues with the action sequences late in the film, Black Widow is among one of the better Marvel solo films that are hopefully paving the way forward for several newly introduced characters. It’s unfortunate that Black Widow feels more like a stepping stone than a significant moment in the MCU, but it still serves the purpose of giving Natasha Romanova a proper solo film.
About Black Widow
Synopsis: A film about Natasha Romanoff in her quests between the films Civil War and Infinity War.
Director: Cate Shortland
Writers: Jac Schaeffer, Ned Benson, Eric Pearson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, William Hurt
Runtime: 2 Hours, 13 Minutes
Releases: July 9th, 2021 (USA)
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.