Since first appearing on the silver screens in 2010’s Iron Man, MCU fans have been waiting for a Black Widow Movie. Natalia Alianovna (Natasha) Romanova has been the level-headed, seductive, strong, and independent assassin-spy of the avengers since before the Avengers formally came together. Every MCU film has dropped hints of her origin and insight into who she is as an individual, but none were ever focused on her. Finally, however, in July of 2021, we have a film that does just that, but is it worth watching?
This story about Black Widow takes place between 2016’s Captain America: Civil War [CACW) and 2018’s Infinity War. In the wake of CACW, Natasha is on the run from authorities. While trying to lay low, Natasha is pulled into an international conspiracy involving her former KGB sleeper family and the very organization that created her, “The Red Room.” Natasha is forced to revisit her roots by reconnecting with her former family to take down the head of The Red Room and save the girls that it has enslaved.
Scarlett Johansson’s return as Natasha was fantastic. She did a great job expressing the frustration and pain that a character such as hers would have when dealing with these situations. Joining her was Florence Pugh as Natasha’s younger “sister,” Yelena Belova. Yelena is a younger widow whose training was different from Natasha’s. In this film, she is freshly freed from the control of the Red Room and seeks to help her fellow Widows. I thought Florence did a great job with her role and hope to see more of her in the MCU and other films. Playing Natasha’s mother, Melina, was Rachel Weisz.
Melina is your stereotypical Russian mom. She was forthright with her words and action. I thought Rachel did a good job portraying her though I felt like there was a stark difference in who the character was at the beginning of the film and at the end. Playing Natasha’s estranged Russian Super-Soldier Father (Alexei – Red Guadian) is David Harbour. While I really enjoy David’s acting, I feel like his character was a bit everywhere. There were times at the beginning that you sensed that he really had things together, but then he’d slip into your stereotypical depiction of Russians, strong, passionate, but kind of thick in the head. Admittedly, I’ve not read much about his character, but I wanted more out of this character. For most of the film, he felt more like a comic relief with a few moments of action tagged along. Again, I really enjoyed David’s acting; I just feel like they should have given him something more.
I know some have complained about Taskmaster. Without getting into spoilers, while I appreciate their complaint, I don’t believe Taskmaster was meant to be the proper focus, yet more of a tool for keeping the story going. The true focus of the film was the overarching theme involving the Red Room.
Some fascinating conversations took place in the background of this film. Amid the action, drama, and intrigue of this spy film, there were topics of human trafficking and the lives orphans face. I feel like these topics could have had more light shined upon them, but I don’t fault the writers for trying to keep the film grounded in the overarching feel of the MCU.
Graphically this film was really well done. They did a great job of keeping up to the standards people have expected from the MCU. Explosions, buildings, and sets seemed like they could be real life. Even the one fantastical location seemed pretty well-grounded…literally. There were a few times where Natasha is flown and flung around the space she finds herself in. However, unlike Wonder Woman 84, The CGI of those scenes didn’t come out as rubbery. I thought the fight scenes were well choreographed and also appreciated them taking time to poke fun at Natasha’s signature landing move.
Black Widow holds to the typical standards that the MCU has held for years. Its PG-13 rating is primarily due to the intense action scenes involving gun violence, explosions, and a lot of punching and kicking. There are a handful of curse words spoken in the film, and being a film about Russians, you do see them drinking vodka often, though not showing them getting drunk. There are a few sexual innuendos in the movie though nothing explicit. As I said earlier, the film has a subtext about human trafficking and violence towards and devaluing women. These are there but not heavily emphasized amid the entirety of the film, but if you’re sensitive to these things, you may want to walk into this film with caution.
So is 2021’s Black Widow worth watching? Yeah, it really is. It’s not dull as some have suggested. Some deeper conversations take place between action scenes, but not enough to break the film’s flow. While I was annoyed with the portrayal of Natasha’s family, the film was fun and entertaining. For me, I rate Marvel’s Black Widow as 3 out of 5 Russian Super Soldiers.