Last week, Black Widow finally launched in cinemas and on Disney+. After over a year of delays, I went into the film worried that I was expecting too much from it. I had gotten myself excited to see it only to be met with disappointment on multiple occasions. But, one thing I can confirm is that this time around I was everything but disappointed.
Black Widow combined everything I loved about Captain America: The Winter Soldier with the best attributes of Natasha’s character. My only real criticism is that we didn’t get given this film years ago.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
Red in her Ledger
Throughout Natasha’s twelve-year history in the MCU, she’s made many references to her past. When Loki torments her in The Avengers, he mentions Dreykov’s daughter. This is a line that pays off nine years after it was first spoken. Subtle ties ins like this made the film’s place within the MCU clear, but it still felt like a worthy standalone. Having been to space in Guardians of the Galaxy and seen the Avengers battle for the universe in Avengers: Endgame, it was refreshing to see something so grounded.
The action scenes showed us the best side of Natasha. The choreography made them believable but equally exciting. I mentioned in my review roundup article that some critics found the third act lacklustre. Although I understand why some people may have felt like that, I loved how the final standoff between Natasha and Taskmaster went. It was a full-circle moment for Natasha to redeem herself and finally go some way to wiping that red from her ledger. I felt that another high octane fight scene would have taken away from the heart of the story.
I also loved Natasha’s showdown with Dreykov. By the time the film’s third act came around we understood just how menacing and evil this man is. Finding out that he used pheromones to stop the Widows from ever hurting him was another nail in his coffin. I always wonder if I’ll ever get bored of watching women beat on their misogynist abusers, but it just never gets old. Watching Natasha manipulate him was unbelievably satisfying.
Black Widow managed to introduce multiple new characters and their backstories, whilst keeping the focus on the protagonist. From a storytelling point of view, that isn’t always easy. Florence Pugh’s Yelena was a standout for me. Natasha’s younger sister, who was forced to look after herself when nobody else could. She had some really funny moments which helped to break up the darker themes of the movie. The dynamic between her and Natasha carried the film through some of its slower moments.
Opening the story with a flashback helped to map out each of the character’s paths. We see the origin of Yelena, Alexei and Melina living as a family in Ohio. When they flee back to Russia the truth becomes clear that they were on an undercover mission. Both parents were back to business immediately, but it wasn’t as easy for the young girls. The opening sequence that follows both Yelena and Nastaha being drafted to The Red Room is powerful. It shows the gravity of what the girls went through and how the Widows come to be.
Alexei’s arc was another one that held my focus. He was a character who you didn’t want to like for what he did to Natasha and Yelena, but he had some of the funniest moments which made it hard to hate him. He also had a nice full-circle moment by turning his back on The Red Room and finally making the right choice for his daughters. We see Rachel’s Weisz’s character Melina go through a similar revelation. Where we left them, there definitely seems to be room for both characters to reappear in the MCU.
The Legacy of Black Widow
I loved the way the film was rounded off, leading us straight back into Infinity War. Natasha wearing Yelena’s vest gave a new meaning to a Widow outfit that before I was never a huge fan of. We gain some insight into how Steve and Natasha broke the others out of prison, I just wish this film had been released in its rightful spot in the timeline.
The post-credit scene reminded me of the harsh reality that we likely won’t be seeing Natasha in the MCU again. But, I was left with some excitement to see more of Florence Pugh’s Yelena. Especially to see her go up against Hawkeye.
All in all, Black Widow was one of my favourite MCU films to date. It was a grounded story with strong characters and good humour to break up the darker themes. The action sequences were shot and choreographed really well and I think that the heart of the story shone through. It was a satisfying end to Scarlett Johansson’s run in the MCU to see her get her redemption and make peace with her past. It also leaves room for future projects involving The Widows, Melina, Red Guardian and Yelena – I just hope Marvel doesn’t waste this potential.
Black Widow is in cinemas now and available to stream with premiere access on Disney+