Review of 'Black Widow'

black_widow.jpg Two young girls are shocked when their parents quickly pack them into a car which is then chased to a nearby airfield. When their father single-handedly topples a fuel truck then starts firing weapons at their pursuers while the family escapes on a plane their lives are further thrown into turmoil when they land in Cuba and are promptly tranquilised. Fast forward to the modern day and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka “The Black Widow” of the Avengers is a fugitive from the government for violating the “Sokovia Accords”, the superhero registration laws resulting from the events of the “Civil Wars” (see Captain America: Civil War), so flees to a remote location in the country. Meanwhile Natasha's sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), working for the terrorist organisation “Red Room”, kills a former Black Widow who has exposed her to a substance that frees her from the psychological control of the Red Room. Belova sends the “Red Dust” antidote to her sister who is then pursued by the relentless and brutal “Taskmaster” (Olga Kurylenko). When Belova and Natasha finally meet Natasha is determined to put an end to the Black Widow program using the “Red Dust” and shut down the “Red Room” but the odds are not that good…

This is a superhero film with a lot of heart and deeper, personal characters. You are never sure how things will turn out with the odds stacked so overwhelming against the Black Widow. We are thrown into confusion right from the first minutes of the film with the fleeing family only leaning later in the film that this was actually Black Widow's family that was always a “sham”, even more apparent when the family reunites. It is here where we go slightly off-script with the other superhero films as we learn more about each of the characters and their relationships – A very human tragedy in, of course, a superhero world. Things are not quite what they seem and the audience is on the back foot as we have to figure out what exactly is happening. In a good way. We do eventually get up to speed then things proceed as per the normal Marvel script.

In the past Johansson's “Black Widow” has been pretty much a blank slate so it is good to see her here revealing more of herself and her tragic history. She actually has a chance to act…yeah, and kick some more butt. Pugh's Belova is a great foil to Natasha – equally tough and questioning her sister's motives and actions at every turn though this is balanced with her obvious love of her sister (though you wouldn't believe this with the huge fight they have when they first meet that pretty much demolishes an apartment).

Of course, there is oodles of amazing action here with the particular physicality of Black Widow very much on show but we also have a bit of fun being poked by Belova with an on-going joke about her dramatic posing during fights. Only at the end of the film do we get the huge set pieces typical of Marvel films though the ending is we pretty much as we would expect.

An enjoyable film with believable, human characters, with very real, personal jeopardy and a story that keeps you guessing…for about half the film then it goes back on script with the big action.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2021-07-15

Directed by: Cate Shortland

Studio: Marvel Studios

Year: 2021

Length: 134 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure