You might ask yourself, “Why is Marvel releasing a movie about a dead Avenger?” That’s a good question, but “death” hasn’t stopped them from building stories around other departed heroes. Take for instance Vision and Loki, who now have successful series bearing their names. Marvel isn’t just mining old material with these characters. It is using them to further the ever-expanding Marvel universe.
Black Widow finds Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in the months between the Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War films, where she reconnects with her lost family. This reunion dredges up painful memories and brings her face-to-face with the man who stole her life, Dreykov. Romanoff decides to dismantle his system, which is still creating Black Widows, and enlists her family for help.
Black Widow suffers from the usual pit-falls of Avengers films, with muddled backstories and overly-long action sequences. There’s also a surprisingly weak bad-guy in the form of Dreykov (Ray Winstone). He’s given little time onscreen and uses his big moment to explain every step in his plan (like an old-school Bond villain). Dreykov also seems a bit frail, lacking the strength to best Natasha Romanoff, much less exact a plan for world-domination.
Longtime Black Widow fans will be disappointed to see that she still doesn’t get a funeral. It’s omitted (once again) to focus on her sister Yelena, played by Florence Pugh. Pugh is fantastic, by the way, and an immediate jewel in the Marvel crown, but it still feels like Natasha’s robbed the heroic send-off of her peers (namely Captain America and Iron Man).
I’ve always wondered why Natasha was never allowed an onscreen love-interest (outside her unrequited Hulk-lust). It’s especially apparent in this film, when an adorable arms-dealer (played by O-T Fagbenle of The Handmaid’s Tale) keeps turning up in her bed. Most of the Avengers are allowed significant others, so why is Natasha (and, come to think of it, Captain Marvel) always alone? Writers would probably claim that she’s too busy saving the world but I think they might just be uncomfortable writing “sex” into her life.
Despite these gripes, Black Widow is a solid Avengers film filled with power-packed and some truly inspired action sequences. Director Cate Shortland has introduced sharp new characters to carry the weight of future Marvel universes. I just hope they’re eventually allowed to date. (B)
***PARENT REVIEW: Parents who hope to see Black Widow with their youngsters should know it’s rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence/action, some language and thematic material.” If your kid has seen earlier Marvel films, they shouldn’t have problems with this one. There are some upsetting scenes early on of little girls being kidnapped and taken to Russian spy-camps. This might be harder for parents to watch though, with most of the “Red Room” violence implied instead of onscreen.
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