Black Widow 2021 Movie Review
After starring in other Marvel projects for years, Scarlett Johansson will soon receive her very own solo film. Cate Shortland’s Black Widow is currently set for release in theaters and on Disney+ in early July, giving fans their first MCU movie in over two years. In the latest issue of Total Film, Johansson says working on the project was “extremely stressful” because of the storytelling laid out in the predecessors to her solo film, like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Because Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff dies in Endgame, the actor — who’s also listed as a producer on the flick — and the filmmakers behind the feature had to get especially creative in their script. Because of that, they opted to set Black Widow between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War.
“It gave us the opportunity to really show her when she’s kind of off her game, you know? Because of that, anything was possible,” Johansson tells the magazine. “You’re trying to map out all of this…which is actually extremely stressful because there’s no guidelines.”
In the same piece, Johansson applauded Florence Pugh’s work on the film, teasing the actor’s bright future, both inside and out of the MCU. “She has a really beautiful career ahead of her… she’s a very special person,” Johansson said in the most recent print issue of Total Film.
On potentially succeeding Johansson as Marvel’s new Black Widow, Pugh said, “Even though that’s obviously where everybody wants to go and wants to think about — to think about what’s next — this film never really felt like that was what it was trying to underline.”
“What Yelena does is to kind of point out Natasha’s pain,” Pugh added. “She’s part of Natasha’s history. And I think that’s why we get this opportunity to look into Natasha’s history, because Yelena comes knocking, and says, ‘Yo, let’s deal with this pain.'”
Black Widow is now set to hit theaters and Disney+ on July 9th. If you haven’t signed up for Disney+ yet, you can try it out here.
Scarlett Johansson has played Black Widow in seven movies dating back to 2010’s “Iron Man 2” — eight if you count her cameo in the closing credits of “Captain Marvel” — so it’s high time she gets a chance to shine on her own.
She finally gets that opportunity in “Black Widow,” a punchy standalone effort in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that feels like a breather from the perpetual get-on-with-it momentum of the series. There are no interruptions from other Avengers, no need to link up with her pals to save the world. Sure, there are bad guys to fight and action scenes to choreograph — the MCU isn’t doing straightforward character studies, at least not yet — but “Black Widow” is a chance to stop and smell the roses, or as close as we’ll get in this massive franchise.
Black Widow is Natasha Romanoff, a trained superspy who doesn’t have superpowers like her fellow Avengers, she’s just really good at fighting and for a long time she was excellent at avoiding death. (But not good enough, apparently; she met her demise in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.)
She was always around in the “Avengers” movies but often ceded the spotlight to Thor, Hulk, Iron Man or the other scene hogging bros who were bigger, bolder and had more weight to throw around. She was no slouch, but she always kind of kept to herself.
“Black Widow” gives her a juicy origin story to sink her teeth into. We open in Ohio in 1995, where a teenage Natasha is sporting blue hair and living an average suburban life along with her sister, Yelena.
One night, her father (David Harbour) comes home and informs mom (Rachel Weisz) and the kids they have an hour to blow town. Soon S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are in hot pursuit and the fam is on board a small plane to Cuba. (Dad’s on the wing, somehow.) When they land safely, the kids are drugged, the innocence of their childhood gone with the plunge of a needle.
Turns out that idyllic family life was an elaborate decoy. Natasha’s father is Alexei Shostakov, or Red Guardian, the Russian counterpart to Captain America, and mom is Melina Vostokoff, a Russian spy. The kids were part of their cover. And now Natasha and Yelena are sent off to General Dreykov (Ray Winstone), who trains them to be spies in his army of Black Widows. So much for a quiet life in the ‘burbs.
Picking up in the story’s present, Natasha is on her own and laying low; “Black Widow” is shoehorned in the MCU timeline between the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” and 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” When she tracks down her sister, now played by Florence Pugh, it’s no happy reunion; they have a knock-down, drag-out fight in Yelena’s Budapest flat, and only after they’ve both nearly killed each other do they sit down to chat.
Yelena is well aware of her sister’s career as an Avenger, but she’s far from star struck, and she razzes her for her cheesy superhero three-point stance and the way she dramatically flips her hair. Johansson and Pugh have a natural back-and-forth chemistry, and it’s their dynamic and the sense of family that propels “Black Widow.” The script sets up the sisters for a reunion with mom and dad that gives the movie its purpose, beyond its fight scenes and dizzying location hopping.
However it had to happen, “Black Widow” gets Natasha and Yelena in a helicopter above the Russian prison where dad’s being held to stage a daring breakout. Forget the logic of the sequence; once they’re together — Yelena greets dad with a fist — the family element really takes hold, and “Black Widow” gives its characters a sense of grounding and rooted reality that sets it apart from other entries in the Marvel world.
Harbour, especially, is a cut-up, and he steals scenes as a haggard, aging, jealous superhero put out to pasture. He’s also a terrible father making up for lost time and past wrongs, and there’s an element of “Black Widow” that’s about the acceptance of one’s family unit for what it is, flaws and all.
It all builds to a showdown with Winstone’s Dreykov at his Red Room training facility; Winstone is always a presence but Dreykov is a third-tier villain without much to play with. (His use of weaponized pheromones recalls “Batman & Robin’s” Poison Ivy, and not in a good way.)
Australian director Cate Shortland certainly takes care of the superhero business at hand — Marvel’s gotta keep the lights on, you know — but “Black Widow” finds its center in its (relatively) quiet character moments. The world’s biggest franchise should makes these kinds of side trips more often.