Black Widow film review (2021)

Although it’s more of a setup for the next character to take over the Black Widow mantle and it has a huge villain problem, the film is full of phenomenal character moments and some solid action sequences.

It’s hard not to think Black Widow is over a year too late. As we all know, it was supposed to release last year, but COVID-19 really pumped the brakes on that one. Fortunately for us, we’ve gotten plenty of fantastic Marvel Cinematic Universe content on Disney+ with WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and most recently, Loki. All three have been incredibly fun shows to watch and I’m very much looking forward to more content in the near future. I was finally able to see Black Widow in theaters, which is the first MCU movie I’ve seen in theaters since Spider-Man: Far From Home, in almost two years. In hindsight, it’s pretty insane, considering how dominant the MCU was in terms of box office success and a new film hasn’t released in theaters until now. So, let’s talk about it.

This was one I was very excited for, and it’s not only because it’s been so long. I was genuinely interested in a solo film for this character for many reasons. Most importantly, considering what happened to her in Avengers: Endgame, I feel her character was due for a proper sendoff and she’s one of the main characters who really hasn’t gotten the opportunity to shine in her own movie. On the other hand, was Black Widow the sendoff I was hoping for? In some ways, yes, since she does have some great moments, but as a whole, it feels more like a set up for a new character to take over.

In Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff is forced to confront her complicated past after a dangerous situation arises, leading her to regroup with familiar faces from her upbringing and trying to repair these damaged relationships.

The story is one I can get behind, for sure. It’s an interesting take on this idea and although some aspects are familiar, the movie does enough to make it stand apart from the rest. It isn’t anything groundbreaking or award worthy, but I believe it works perfectly for this kind of character. In many ways, it didn’t always feel like I was watching a superhero film, similar to the same feeling Captain America: The Winter Soldier left me with. There are plenty of spy and action/thriller vibes in this, which is a breath of fresh air for a genre that is mostly dominated by fantasy sci-fi and superpowers. Don’t get me wrong, some still feel a bit grounded, but it’s good to see ordinary stories of regular people (mostly) with very little to no superhuman abilities and it still feels grand.

One immediately impressive aspect is the action scenes. I rarely found any sequences where the CGI seemed off or poorly done. In fact, most of the fighting sequences seemed a bit practical and they actually worked. I wish there was a bit more of them since I did enjoy them when they did happen. However, I have to say this film is all about the characters, their individual stories, and how they interact and connect with each other.

By far, my favorite character was Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova. In many ways, I feel this was her movie more than it was Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. As you continue watching, it becomes blatantly obvious they’re trying to usher in a new era in the MCU with Yelena as the new Black Widow, but this was always in the plans, in my opinion. In fact, I don’t necessarily have a huge problem with it. My only issue is how it’s at the expense of Natasha’s last hoorah. I feel many of her moments are overshadowed and downplayed because of the character and world-building the film is trying to accomplish. In many ways, it’s a missed opportunity to really give this character the payoff she deserves. In reality, it feels like another spy, action-thriller Natasha so happens to be a part of.

Don’t get me wrong, she most definitely has her important and standout moments. But, overall, I was expecting a bit more for her, considering this will more than likely be her final appearance in the MCU. I mean, never say never, but to reiterate on my point, look at the send offs for other characters, such as Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. There was some closure there. Now, the only ending we have for Natasha is her falling to her doom in Vormir. It’s a heartfelt and touching sacrifice, sure, but I think she deserved a bit better. The movie is good, of course, but maybe not as a tribute for the character who’s been a vital role in the MCU for many years.

Speaking more on Pugh, she’s fantastic as Yelena. She’s an intense individual when she needs to be, but she’s also surprisingly witty, charismatic, and many times childish. I won’t touch too much on why she is the way she is because of spoilers, but I’m sure you’ll see what I mean once you watch. In many ways, she’s the baby of the family and sort of brings everybody together because of it. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of her in future MCU projects. David Harbour is also hilariously great as Alexei/ Red Guardian. Then again, I’ve come to expect this kind of greatness from Harbour with all the good he’s done, most notably his role as Hopper in Stranger Things.

Rachel Weisz was also great in her role as Melina. For most of the movie, you aren’t really sure what to think about her based on the story, so much of her portrayal is a big mystery. However, it does end up paying off in a big way and she’s one to root for. I wish we could’ve seen a bit more of O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason. He’s barely in the movie and I thought he would have a much bigger role. It doesn’t mean his role isn’t vital, but just a bit thin.

Black Widow definitely has a villain problem. You know as you’re watching, there’s one man behind the scenes, that being Ray Winstone’s Dreykov, but there’s also the awesome Taskmaster. I love Taskmaster as a villain, at least in the comics and the video game adaptations he’s been a part of. Unfortunately, the character didn’t really do it for me in this movie. For the majority of the film, Taskmaster is a more like a robot and truly lacks the character and attitude Tony Masters gives him in the comics. The menacing and intimidating factor is definitely there, sure, but I was expecting much, much more. The reveal doesn’t cut it for me, either. It was disappointing. I have to say the same about Dreykov, who’s a pretty generic villain overall. The last couple of years, Marvel Studios has done a great job crafting villains with a relatable psychology and method to their madness. The studio missed the mark on this one.

I mostly enjoyed Black Widow for engaging character moments and the fun action scenes. I wish I could’ve enjoyed the villains a bit more, and I was hoping for a proper sendoff to Natasha’s story. Despite all that, it does set up future stories in the MCU that I’m very excited to see and I hope we get to see even more of these characters in some capacity moving forward.

Score: B


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