Reviewed by Tyler Gibson
After eight previous appearances and a release-delaying pandemic, Black Widow finally receives her solo film. While the belated final product is something of a sloppy endeavor, it’s still nonetheless a welcome addition to the Marvel universe due to the charm and star power of Scarlett Johansson.
An ungraceful flashback-set prologue introduces the stakes in sloppy fashion. A young Natasha Romanoff finds the perfect picture of her seemingly quaint Ohio family shattered when her sheepish father (David Harbour) returns home and alerts them of impending danger. Within minutes, mom (Rachel Weisz) and sister embark on a rip-roaring escape that culminates in a jet trip to Cuba that separates the future Avenger from her family. While skipping twenty years into the future, it doesn’t take the expected plot much time to bitterly reunite the long-lost sisters and stage illustrative themes about family. Plainspoken dialogue and overt characterizations pierce the elementary proceedings. Director Cate Shortland is an anonymous presence behind the camera and typical for the MCU, action scenes are droning and play out in muddy and jittery edits. The robust final act places the family in a series of grim encounters as they reconcile amends and seek revenge against the society of villains that wronged them. The vile Ray Winstone is the ideal adversary for Natasha and makes her strides against him all the more investing in ways the creaky script cannot provide. This is when Black Widow’s femininity and iconography is finally carried out to powerful resonation. Playing the younger sister, an explosive Florence Pugh alongside Scarlett Johansson establish a dynamic chemistry that elevates the lazy filmmaking and suffocating genre trappings. Despite the context and luxury of familiarity, Johansson nevertheless appeases the character of Natasha with appropriate weariness.
Over ten years and twenty movies into a franchise, fatigue and repetition is always a risk. Some franchises haven’t even made it half as long! Such concerns plagued Black Widow ever since the film was announced. While it strains itself through great pains to achieve justification, an unusually somber tone and Pugh’s winning breakout character stimulate Scarlett Johansson’s deserving farewell tour.