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Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ movie spoiler-free review

The long wait for the next Marvel film is finally over! On July 9, “Black Widow” arrived in theaters and is streaming on Disney+ for Premier Access. Fans worldwide have been eagerly anticipating a Black Widow solo movie for eleven years since her debut in “Iron Man 2.” It’s a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, except the new characters introduced in the film soak up most of the spotlight. Unfortunately, this leaves Natasha Romanoff relegated to the role of a side character in a movie where she owns the title.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

“Black Widow” suffered another stroke of bad luck when the COVID-19 pandemic affected the world and stretched the wait time even further by adding another year. Ultimately, the film’s delay changed Marvel Studios’ future film slate, removing the title as the beginning of Phase Four for the MCU. 

Now that “Black Widow” is here, how does it stack up to the other Marvel movies, and is it the send-off Natasha Romanoff deserves? Let’s find out as we break down Widow’s final cinematic adventure.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

The movie’s opening shows Natasha’s life during her childhood and reveals she had a sister figure, Yelena Bolava, and a parental unit (Red Guardian and Melina Vostokoff) who separated the girls and put them in the “Black Widow” program. Decades later, Natasha is on the run after defying the Sokovia Accords in “Captain America: Civil War.” Her path brings her back to Yelena (Florence Pugh), who was freed from her brainwashing and needed her sister’s help releasing the minds of the other captive Black Widows around the globe. Their adventure eventually leads to a conspiracy where they come in conflict with multiple assassins, including Taskmaster, who can copy the moves of anybody he fights. Natasha has to confront her past and take down her former captors.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Most would agree that Marvel Studios should have made a film about Black Widow at least a minimum of ten years ago. This statement is shocking because she has grown to be one of MCU’s most popular characters in recent years. The idea of Black Widow seems so easy not to pass up as it’s about a spy with incredible skills who goes up against assassins at every turn. But despite fans’ demands for this film to exist, it wasn’t even considered until now. However, thanks to the constantly changing landscape with all kinds of characters getting their movies and shows, Marvel Studios finally caved in and gave the fans what they wanted.

Despite the film being the most recent addition to the MCU, there will be a few elements that people have to be aware of going in. One of them being how this film is a prequel to the events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” so people know what’s going to happen after this. Second is that the movie was made after the character’s tragic death in “Avengers: Endgame,” which means that the film is going to feel underwhelming to certain people because they know what’s going to happen in the future.

With that said, many of the critical components that fans consider to be good in a Marvel movie are also recognizable in “Black Widow.” The cast, as expected, is excellent. Scarlett Johanssen in the iconic role, as always, is fantastic. Florence Pugh as Yelena is outstanding in the sister/partner dynamic, and we can’t wait to see this character return in more MCU films/shows. David Harbour hilariously portrayed the Russian version of Captain America, Red Guardian, and every scene with him brought a lot of enjoyment. Rachel Weisz does her job well as Melina at serving the human side of the film. Whenever all four are on screen together, it’s delightful. They have a dinner table scene which felt like the cabin scene from “Avengers; Age of Ultron,” as it involves only these characters in a closed environment interacting and having some downtime. Much of the time spent here may feel simple, but director Cate Shortland does this in the best way by adding more necessary character development.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Overall, the film did keep us invested with its characters and plot. It felt very reminiscent of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” with its grounded story and mature themes. You can tell that the people behind the scenes wanted to maintain a specific tone throughout the film. While you have a few humorous moments, most revolve around Red Guardian. “Black Widow” is not heavy on humor like many other Marvel films, but it still keeps a good balance between drama and fun. Seeing as how we get to see Natasha’s past, half of it is done through flashbacks, while the other half is told as exposition. For example, we find out what happened in Budapest which was brought up in prior films. But we don’t see the full scene as half of it is discussed through exposition. While that may disappoint some fans, the actors make it work just enough to where you have an idea of what happened and what is going on.

The action portrayed in “Black Widow” is handled well for the most part, aside from a few examples which you can expect from an action movie; stunt doubles are noticeable at times, and many of the scenes like the third act have a generous amount of CGI work. Nonetheless, the fight choreography, the set pieces, and the stunt work look great on the screen. Though sometimes the cinematography can be very shaky, the editing process could have found itself tampered with a bit in a few scenes. The filming style of “Black Widow” doesn’t go too far with the camera like in “The Bourne Trilogy.” Admittedly, there aren’t any scenes that will compare to the rest of the MCU’s larger-than-life action setpieces, but it felt solid and consistent for a standalone film.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

We think the plot itself had a lot of what fans wanted in a Black Widow movie. There’s a sinister organization that captures abandoned girls and brainwashes them to be remorseless killers. You have an unlikely team of agents who function very much like a family, as they constantly work together or off of one another. These aspects are handled really well, as the alliance of convenience combined with this family dynamic go hand in hand. We say this because a lot of this works because the cast performances are what brings this film together.

Expect that some of the heavy material explored in “Black Widow ” will make you look at the titular character differently. Thus, we find ourselves in disagreement with a few of the choices presented in the film. For example, the famous Marvel villain Taskmaster makes its MCU debut, and at first, the character is exciting. Taskmaster is an assassin character who can copy combat moves from Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Panther, etc., which is thrilling to see. But when you discover the villain’s identity and how it’s worked into the story, you can’t help but find it underwhelming. We can see why they made this choice narratively as it ties into Natasha facing her past mistakes, but we wish they went with the comic route and did more with this character. 

Photo courtesy of Disney.

The best way we can describe “Black Widow” without spoilers is that it’s more of a filler movie, albeit a very entertaining filler movie. Most of that does stem from the details we previously mentioned, as they will always be present in the viewer’s mind. Honestly, we feel like a lot of the film’s intention was to introduce other characters such as Yelena, as we see a lot done with this character in the future of the MCU. Who knows? Maybe this will lead to more “Black Widow” films down the road with different personalities and missions. Simply put, there wasn’t enough time in the movie spent with Natasha when most of the attention went to new characters instead. 

After two years without any Marvel films, this was a pleasant return to viewing traditions. We are glad that this film wasn’t the start of Marvel’s Phase Four as series like “WandaVision” and “Loki” have more creative ideas and concepts. Although it’s debatable how differently this movie would have landed if released after “Captain America: Civil War” or right before “Avengers: Infinity War.” But at least audiences can be satisfied knowing that there is finally a “Black Widow” movie out in the world. 

We think it’s worth seeing on the big screen versus streaming on Disney+, as many people put a lot of effort into developing this project. It’s not the best MCU film by any means, but it will give fans the Black Widow fix they’ve so desperately craved for years.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Spinnaker Sails.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

About the Contributors
Photo of Michael Tracey
Michael Tracey, General Assignment Reporter

Michael is finishing his last semester and intends on using his degree in communication to continue his work as a writer, host, and podcaster. His passion...

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