It’s been over 10 years since Natasha Romanoff first appeared kicking Tony Stark’s butt in the boxing ring in Iron Man 2 (2010). They’ve had a decade to craft her story, so how does it stand up in the franchise?
With little more than passing comments hinting at her dark past in previous Marvel flicks, BLACK WIDOW is one of the stand alone Avenger flicks I was most excited to see. But as the years passed, my hopes for an origin movie dwindled; even the naturally stunning Scarlett Johansson would struggle to pull off playing her young self. But where she came from and how/why she defected to S.H.I.E.L.D made for such fascinating content, I couldn’t see the studio giving up the chance to tell her story.
As a movie-goer who still enjoys being surprised, I didn’t read up on where BLACK WIDOW fell in the timeline, but kudos to the writing team as they found the perfect slot to fit this film. BLACK WIDOW slides in comfortably after CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR when the “super friends” have temporarily broken up, leaving Romanoff in the bad books with S.H.I.E.L.D and at a personal crossroads with no powerful pals on hand to help. This creates the ideal opportunity for Romanoff to return to her roots and confront her past alone.
Starting in 1995, we learn of teen Romanoff’s involuntary recruitment to the Widow Program and, bumping forward to 2016, we enjoy watching her do all she can to take it down…. I will say no more in terms of synopsis as it’s too fun to spoil! Ably supporting Johansson is a stellar ensemble cast headed by a brooding Florence Pugh, a hilariously cocky (and oblivious) David Harbour and a warm Rachel Weisz. They make a great on-screen team, with undeniable chemistry.
BLACK WIDOW is a little “heavier” than other films in the Avenger series (as to be expected when you’re dealing with girls essentially being stolen, brainwashed and enslaved), so it’s not as family friendly as the movies before it. The fight choreography is sensational, which also ups the feeling of “violence”. The film kicks off with a powerful – and quite dark – opening segment (killer soundtrack here too!) that feels quite different to the other, more cheesy flicks in the franchise. Although, for better or worse, it climaxes in a typically Avenger-esque suspend-belief action sequence.
BLACK WIDOW may not answer all your questions or fill in all the Romanoff origin gaps, but it certainly succeeds at rounding out her story – and makes her sacrifice in AVENGERS: ENDGAME slightly more bittersweet as we discover the closure she managed to gain pre-Thanos. The flick starts with a unique vision and tone, but becomes more conventional and Avenger-like towards the end. Regardless, the film is highly enjoyable and stands strong in what has been a consistent franchise (it’s also super awesome to see a film lead by strong women characters who aren’t forced to show “tits and arse” to sell tickets).
I rate it 7.5 stars