Writers: Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson (story by), Eric Pearson (screenplay by), Stan Lee and Don Heck and Don Rico (based on the Marvel comics by)
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Finally, Black Widow gives Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) a long-overdue standalone film.
Finally, this film reveals what happened in Budapest on Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow’s mission first teased back in 2012’s The Avengers.
Finally, after having its release date moved back in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Widow hits theaters and Disney+ on July 9.
And, after all of the delays and build up, Black Widow’s standalone film is … fine.
The story, which is set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, has Natasha reconnecting with Russian spies Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz).
Back in 1995, when Natasha and Yelena were children (and played by Ever Anderson and Violet McGraw, respectively), the four Russian spies posed as a family in order to smuggle information out of America and back to Mother Russia. For Alexei and Melina, this was just another mission. But for Natasha and Yelena, it was a chance for normalcy in an otherwise bleak and chaotic childhood where they were groomed to be “Widows;” an army of female spies working for the sinister Dreykov (Ray Winstone).
After Natasha is forced to go on the lamb for violating the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War, Yelena reaches out to her for help with a mission. This gives them the opportunity to reunite their makeshift family in order to thwart Dreykov’s plans.
The film struggles to find its footing early on as it leans heavily into tropes better utilized in other spy thrillers like The Americans, the Mission: Impossible franchise and the Jason Bourne films. However, things pick up once Natasha and Yelena reunite and set off in search of Alexei.
Johansson and Pugh have a natural sister chemistry and its fun to hear Yelena poke fun at Natasha’s fighting style and her standing within the Avengers. Yelena also provides a sweetness that contrasts with Natasha’s stoicism.
And Harbour is such an utter delight as Alexei. Alexei is a super soldier who was once billed as the Red Guardian. In his own mind, he was as famous and revered as Captain America, though no one else holds him in such high regard. Alexei is a mess, but in Harbour’s hands, you can’t help loving him.
The action scenes are solid, but many of them feel perfunctory (including a bizarre battle between Natasha and Yelena that only seems to exist because someone decided it would be fun to see them square off, even if it makes no sense within the story). Up until the final battle, the action doesn’t feel distinct or impressive enough to stand out amongst all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s many other similar sequences.
However, the final battle is a lot of fun and includes a thrilling moment where two characters are exchanging blows while free falling from the sky.
It is, ultimately, an uneven film. There are some great moments and fun characters, but it’s hard not to feel a bit underwhelmed after years of waiting for Natasha to finally get a standalone movie.
Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.