Streamer: Disney+ (Premier Access)
Length: 134 minutes
It’s taken ages for Marvel to knock out a Black Widow movie. Iron Man has had three solo outings, same with Captain America and Thor. Hulk has one (even though it starred a different lead actor) and even bloody Hawkeye has a telly series coming out later this year on Disney+.
But poor old Black Widow? Not a dickybird.
Happily, that’s changed as of right now with the release of Black Widow. Even better news? It’s pretty damn solid, too.
Black Widow takes place shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016). Which makes sense, because if it took place after Avengers: End Game (2019)... it would be a pretty short, depressing movie.
Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run from the government and finds herself embroiled in a global conspiracy that relates to her in a very personal way. A very familial way, in fact.
Before long, Nat is teaming up with little sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), with whom she has a… complicated relationship.
Cue loads of globe-trotting action, spectacular set pieces, a rather one-note villain in the form of Dreykov aka Ray Winston struggling to maintain his dodgy Russian accent and you have the recipe for an engaging, if not exactly mould-breaking Marvel flick.
Black Widow has two major assets working for it. First and foremost, Aussie director Cate Shortland. Marvel has made an inspired (albeit rather left field) choice here and it’s a gamble that has paid off.
From the movie’s much darker than usual opening credits, to the skill with which the family-oriented drama skews emotional, to funny and back again is credit to a director in total control of her material.
The other big asset? The cast, of course.
Scarlett Johansson is solid as always, but it’s Florence Pugh who really impresses. Managing to convey a range of emotions, while credibly kicking arse, is no easy feat and yet Pugh (who was similarly excellent in The Little Drummer Girl and Midsommar) brings the goods in every scene.
Combine that with a hilarious, and oddly moving, performance from David Harbour as the Captain America-obsessed Red Guardian (Russia’s only supersoldier, comrade!) and the always welcome Rachel Weisz as Natasha’s deliciously enigmatic mother-figure Melina, and you’ve got a damn fine set of actors to be watching.
On the less positive side of things, the script is a little wonky. A strong and surprisingly nuanced first half leads into a more generic third act with a forgettable villain (which is a problem in a lot of Marvel films, to be fair).
There’s also a feeling that this story is coming a little late in the day. Two years after Endgame - right in the middle of Loki expanding the MCU into the multiverse - feels like an odd moment to spin this yarn.
Ultimately, though, these are pretty minor quibbles. Black Widow is an engaging, action-packed, crowd-pleasing Marvel spectacle with some great actors doing wonderful work.
If it doesn’t quite hit the high heights of top tier Marvel flicks like Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s still a rock solid slice of escapist entertainment whether you’re able to get to a cinema or stuck in lockdown like the rest of us.
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