After 14 months of delays due to the pandemic, Natasha Romanoff has her chance to headline a movie that looks at her past. She meets her Red Room family, and tells them she wants to close it down. It’s got a few things to say about how powerful men exploit girls for their own means, and the importance of being free to make a life. While Scarlett Johansson is great, she’s overshadowed a bit by two supporting players (one who may have a future).
When this reviewer went to an IMAX in Sacramento to see it, the crowd applauded when the opening credits started. They’ve waited a long time for this.
It’s revealed that Natasha and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) had a life that was similar to a certain FX TV show. Then came time to bring the girls to their destiny, being Black Widows. Natasha, of course, joined the Avengers while Yeleva became an assassin. However, it’s revealed she got some very special training which keeps her mind on the job. Once something happens to break her training, she’s on the run.
Nat’s on the run, too, for breaking the Sokovia Accords after Captain America: Civil War. It’s pretty interesting to see her on her own without Iron Man, Captain America and the rest of the crew. However, she’s able to keep a step ahead from the authorities.
She gets a special package of vials, and a very dangerous agent known as the Taskmaster. All we can say is this agent is all of the Avengers rolled into one.
It’s not long until she’s reunited with Yelena in Budapest, and it’s not exactly a happy reunion. Once they get chased by the Taskmaster, they decide to work together to take down the Red Room (where they make Black Widows). Nat thought it was gone, but its creator, Dreykov (Ray Winstone), is very much alive and busy. His new Room is in an interesting hiding place.
Later, they spring Alexi aka Red Guardian (David Harbour) out of prison and find Melina (Rachel Weisz), whose science skills trained the girls.
Johansson has waited quite a while to star in her own Marvel movie. She’s still provocative, skillful and deadly as ever, especially in her fight scenes with the Taskmaster and Yeleva. She also shows her heart when she talks to Melina about how she was taken from her family to be trained to kill. It happened to her and Yelena as well. It illustrates the cruelty of girls being exploited by powerful men, even if it’s for a cause. i
Look at the opening credits. It’s a cruel summary of Natasha’s childhood in the Red Room. They’re not girls here. They’re guns…and maybe worse. Even Dreykov considers the girls are raw materials, garbage about to be recycled.
Still, this movie mostly sets up two new members of the MCU. Pugh really lights up the screen as Yelena with her fighting skills but also great wit. Her comments about how Natasha escaped the life while she was stuck are biting along with the “parents” she knew (more on that later). She has to be in more movies, and it’s very likely she will.
Harbour might be even better as Alexei Shostakov, the Communist version of Captain America. He’s a guy who talks about his prime, suddenly taken away by the whims of his bosses. There’s a scene with an action figure that’s pretty funny. This guy wants to prove he’s still got it (and might get it again with a diet, weight training, and a better fitting suit). He also wants to show he really loved Nat and Yeleva as if they were his daughters. He should also be brought back down the road.
Eventually, Natasha has her showdown with Dreykov, and it’s an interesting battle. She may have her skills but he has a few things up his sleeve as well as the Taskmaster (whose true identity is an interesting reveal). This man’s power and influence could even rival that of Thanos, as he claims his agents that start and end catastrophes. It’s too bad he’s got only one extended scene behind a desk. It would have been great to find out more about his past as well, or maybe why he decided to jail Alexei.
Black Widow is a welcome return for the MCU after it skipped a year. It’s also ironic that Nat’s first time in the spotlight comes after her fate in Endgame nearly two years ago. Still, it was long overdue and well done. It may not stack up to the major events like The Avengers or the first Iron Man, but it was a solid effort that will be appreciated more since it was delayed for so long.
If there any complaints, it may be it was setting up Pugh as the successor a bit too hard. Nat should have been emphasized as the leader, and Pugh’s role should have been ramped up a bit slower. Still can’t wait for Yelena to show what she can do next as her own woman and maybe an Avengers reserve.
The events will stick to Nat for a while, as fans have learned. Just check the vest she used in Infinity War and her suit in Endgame.
As for the epilogue, it shows that someone’s story is far from over. We plan to talk more about this very soon.