There’s been a surprising gap of Marvel action on the big-screen, between the events that unfolded from the 2019 films and COVID-19 pretty much stopping the box office dead in its tracks. But things appear to be moving again, and Black Widow has finally arrived after a year’s delay, both in theaters and on Disney+. And it’s a welcome return, even if there are some minor gaps in logic that keep it from being one of the studio’s best.
Scarlett Johannson returns to her signature role, finally getting her own standalone film after the events that unfolded in Avengers Endgame. This takes place a few years prior, after she’s on the run from General Ross (William Hurt, in a fun little cameo) following the events that occurred in Captain America: Civil War. She goes on the run, but events soon catch up to her when a mysterious warrior known as the Taskmaster begins to get on her trail.
It turns out there are ties with her family, namely her sister (Florence Pugh), who has also shaken free of her Black Widow roots – much to the chagrin of the guy in charge of it (Ray Winstone). It isn’t long before other members of her family get involved, including her would-be mother (Rachel Weisz) and her father (David Harbour), who’s considered Russia’s version of Captain America – the Red Guardian.
There are parts of the story that lapse a little bit, particularly with the Taskmaster, who, honestly, deserved better screen time here than they received. But the focus remains on Black Widow and her family, and they manage to steal the show enough to make the movie worthwhile.
Credit goes to director Cate Shoreland, who does a great job keeping everything moving while, at the same time, retaining focus on characters. The actors are game, too, particularly Johannson, who shows an even better side of Natalya than we could’ve ever imagined.
The others are great too. Pugh provides an excellent amount of conflict as her younger sibling, as she tries to grasp onto what little family she has left while struggling with what the Black Widow program put her through. However, Harbour steals the show as Guardian, getting a great deal of laughs while still remaining surprisingly sentimental. One scene where he tries to slip into his old outfit – with great struggle – is pretty hilarious.
Black Widow also benefits from fun action sequences, including a mid-air battle that’s fun to watch, as well as a prison rescue that goes wrong in all the worst ways possible. Again, Shoreland directs with a deft hand, and shows she’s got a knack for action films.
Perfect summer entertainment it ain’t – there are better Marvel origin films – but Black Widow is a welcome return to form for the studio at the movies. It’s good fun, has great characters (for the most part) and sets the stage for Phase 4, particularly with a great post-credit sequence that gets things moving. It’s just a shame that this will likely close the door for the lead character in the Marvel universe. We’ll miss her.