A Black Widow movie had been in talks for the longest time. It was beginning to look as though it wasn’t going to happen, especially after a Saturday Night Live sketch about this topic. With her passing in Avengers: Endgame, it seemed like we would never see that movie.
Well, better late than never. The Black Widow movie arrives outside the current timeline and may exist for most as a prequel than a side story. But for asking fans to take a step back in time, it’s a film that proves to be a decent addition to the MCU.
Black Widow Movie Spoilers Below
The film takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Between these wars, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) finds herself on the run from authorities. She decides to lay low until she can get the band of Avengers back together.
Her hiding is hindered, however, when she’s roped into a plot involving the mysterious Red Room. The Red Room was an operative organization that originally trained Natasha to be an expert assassin. She escaped and was hoping to have those days behind her.
Natasha’s sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), was not so lucky. She still works for the Red Room and is only able to escape once she comes into contact with a mysterious gas that removes her microchip control. Now on the run herself, Yelena seeks the help of Natasha in taking down the Red Room.
The Black Widow Movie Changes The Character Arc of One of Its Most Dangerous Villains — Taskmaster
They need all the help they can get. Not only does the Red Room have a series of assassins to send but also the expert agent Taskmaster. As the standard Marvel costumed villain, this masked villain can duplicate the fighting styles of any opponent and is quite unstoppable. In Marvel Comics, under that mask is Tony Masters. He is a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned mercenary and assassin who can replicate the fighting style and physical skills of his opponent thanks to his photographic reflexes.
Natasha and Yelena have little time to catch up when constantly pursued. To get answers quickly, they’ll have to dig back into their darker past. This includes breaking out their washed-up dad of a Soviet super-soldier, Alexei “Red Guardian” Shostakov (David Harbour), and contacting their scientist mother, Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz).
Their reunion is approached with all the awkwardness of an uncomfortable homecoming. The parents try to argue that they were justified in their actions of abandoning their kids. They speak with humor as though it’s water under the bridge, even though Natasha and Yelena are not having any of their crap.
The family draw is by far the most interesting aspect of this Marvel movie. Sure, it still boasts all the big set pieces and elaborate action we’ve come to expect from this universe. That being said, this may be the universe’s closest attempt at weaving more compelling drama than action.
This isn’t to say that the action isn’t enthralling. Scenes with a car chase through Budapest and a climax amid a crumbling airship are great showcases of fine stunts. Even the fist fights are rather brutal at times, with Natasha ending up battered and bruised from many of them.
The thematic core of the picture manages to be the most interesting aspect though. Big action is pretty much a given in Marvel movies. Having something more substantial that the character is fighting for and trying to prove makes this spy thriller just a bit more than just another Marvel dabbles into other genres.
One area where these Marvel films still haven’t improved upon is the villains. Taskmaster is a silent antagonist, kept a secret for an obvious twist. The characters are mostly interesting for the fights and little else with such a humdrum costume among the rogue’s gallery of this universe.
Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the leader of Red Room, is more interesting as an idea than a character. He wants to control the world and represents oppressive patriarchy that feels they can take advantage of the weak. He’s so vanilla as a sexist mastermind that it’s no wonder he’s hidden until act three.
Florence Pugh and David Harbour Steal The Show
The acting is by far the highlight. Florence Pugh has such an effortless approach that she steals the show as the wonderfully witty Yelena. David Harbour provides comedic backup as the out-of-touch super-soldier who simply can’t relate to his daughters.
I also really dug how Rachel Weisz takes this cowardly approach to just accepting the way of the world. Paired with Harbour, their characters represent an aged view of the world that the next generation has to conquer.
Scarlett Johansson does her best to keep up but she’s honestly the weaker aspect as the more stoic hero. She has her moment here and there but her scenes mostly succeed when playing off Pugh. She can still kick butt but isn’t quite given that extra dose of character past her motivations.
Marvel’s Black Widow movie is far from a game-changer from the MCU and won’t cause very many waves in future films. That being said, it’s still an entertaining romp and manages to stick to its themes well without much messy writing. Held together with pathos and levity, it’s a fitting swan song for the character.