And if the wait hadn’t already been long enough, the pandemic has seen the release of Black Widow postponed for more than a year until now, as it hits theaters and on Disney Plus simultaneously (with a price tag). Premier Access). It has now been two years since an MCU movie hit theaters, although recently the streaming series (WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki) has reassured fans.For a film that kicks off Marvel Phase 4, Black Widow is an atypical franchise installment. Out of necessity, it’s a prequel, with Natasha sacrificing herself for the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame. As it mostly takes place in the era between Captain America: Civil War (where the heroes sided with the Sokovia agreements cutting down on superheroes) and Avengers: Infinity War (where makeup was essential for the fight against Thanos) , Black Widow does not. have the propelling momentum of what will happen next that the MCU swaps often. Instead, it’s a hiatus, a chance to shine a light on a character who has never been center stage and dig into her turbulent past.
Although mostly set around 2016, it kicks off with a prologue in 1995. In Ohio, a seemingly perfect family plays outside, admires fireflies, cooks dinner. It is only when Dad gets home – after such a difficult day at the office that they have to evacuate the house almost immediately – that it becomes clear that all is not quite what it seems. . It’s a hugely effective kickoff and demonstrates the key strength that director Cate Shortland (Somersault, Lore) brings to the table: intimate moments of character brought to the fore in a film that is still largely a race to the side. non-stop action.
When the story picks up 21 years later, Natasha drops General Ross (William Hurt) and heads to a safe home in Norway, where a trusted repairman (OT Fagbenle) has her installed with the essentials. Of course, it doesn’t take long for Natasha to be sent explosively on the run again and into the orbit of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, another widow with whom Natasha shares an intensely personal bond. Their determination to destroy the Black Widow program and her overseer, Dreykov (Ray Winstone), sends them on a mission across the world to track down parent figures Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei Shostakov (David Harbor). Melina is an OG widow, and Alexei is Russia’s response to Captain America (at least in her mind), the Red Guardian.
Marvel films have often found success by grafting comic book characters onto recognizable film models and Black Widow cradles from the Bourne films. The imprint of this series is particularly visible in an early fight scene in a Budapest apartment, in which the curtains and the kitchen towel become potential weapons of crime, and it is also visible in car chases, places and the Title hero: a super-skilled assassin still troubled by past misdeeds half-forgotten. There are also references (direct and indirect) to Bond. The taskmaster is Taskmaster: a mysterious villain with a skull helmet employed to carry out Dreykov’s orders. The key skill of Taskmaster is being able to impersonate any opponent’s fighting style to use against them.
Despite a battery life of over two hours, Black Widow never hangs out. Pugh and Harbor are particularly welcome additions to the universe. Pugh’s fierce and funny Yelena is a character you’ll definitely want to follow throughout the franchise, and Harbor is a blast as a heavily tattooed super-soldier looking for Cap fame levels. He walks away with the biggest laughs in the movie, even though he has to shoulder Marvel’s burden of never making any jokes, even when it seems offhand.
While at some levels, Black Widow refreshes like a “smaller-scale” Marvel movie (don’t worry, there are still prison escapes, armored vehicle chases, and air skirmishes) and it does. amuses to point out the lack of superpowers of Natasha the god of space must take an ibuprofen after a fight ”, jokes Yelena), her more entrenched Marvel movie status sometimes causes eyebrows to rise, for example when Natasha comes out practically unscathed a particularly brutal fall from a tall building. And some of the most ridiculous tech in history (including Dreykov’s method of self-protection) and OTT flourishes aren’t quite comfortable with Bourne’s aesthetics and grim allusions to traffic and Forced hysterectomies.
Black Widow is also content to have her cake and smash it to pieces when it comes to violence – while Johansson and Pugh convincingly struggle with the immoral missions they have been forced to accomplish on behalf of the Red. Room, they’re also happy to take down gangs of goons with bazookas and ignore the massive collateral damage when the mood hits.
Ultimately, however, Black Widow manages to inject some emotion into Natasha’s backstory and make the idea of a standalone movie a worthwhile endeavor, even after her MCU arc has found. its conclusion in Endgame’s sacrifice. Watching Johansson add nuance to the character while kicking him in the ass is fun we’ve long known it would be, and Pugh is proving to be just as capable; together they are electric. If ever proof was needed that Natasha could easily make her own film, here he is, fully trained. Better late than never.
Black Widow is in UK theaters from July 7 and in US theaters from July 9. Order it on Disney Plus with Premier Access starting July 9. For more on Black Widow, check out our interviews with Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, and more on the making of the Marvel movie.