Black Widow impresses with its larger-than-life action and terrific stuntwork. However, it forgets to give a proper close to its titular character. Avengers: End Game brings Natasha Romanoff to a literal close, so it’s a shame her first solo film leaves you wanting more in an unimpressed fashion. An action-packed, fun, emotional, and sometimes hilarious film that delivers the Marvel spectacle. It just forgets to make Natasha a big deal along the way somehow. Black Widow serves as a sendoff but plays out like another fun spy adventure that holds back and never reaches its full potential.
Natasha Romanoff’s solo film had been in the works for a while and after countless delays, Black Widow has finally arrived. While it isn’t the film it shows the potential to be, there’s a lot for fans of the MCU to fall in love with. Set in between Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War, this 24th entry in the Marvel cinematic universe follows Natasha’s actions during this period. Directed by Cate Shortland and written by Eric Pearson, the film stars David Harbour, Florence Pugh, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenle, and Scarlett Johansson. Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow is on the run and forced to confront her past. The rogue Avenger must juggle her history as a spy and the broken relationships that existed before her Avenger days.
Pearson’s screenplay includes a strong family dynamic, humor, and edge of your seat action. While poised as a goodbye to Natasha (Johansson), her counterparts are made to be more important in this story. It’s as if there was a collective decision to not include much development for her character. Building towards the future is fine, but the lack of attention to giving Natasha a full backstory can be frustrating to watch unfold. She reconnects with her former family, which includes Yelena Belova (Pugh), Alexei Shostakov (Harbour), and Melina (Weisz). Together they join forces to take down Dreykov (Winstone), the overseer of the red room and leader to Taskmaster. Dreykov’s an elite member of the soviet armed forces, and his brainwashing program is about to come to an end. He is also one of the weakest MCU villains to date sadly.
Yelena feels more like the star of the film than Natasha, which is partly due to Pugh’s tremendous acting ability. Black Widow struggles to achieve the emotional weight it aims for, but it can be found through Yelena’s character alone. There are some unfortunate realizations for Yelena throughout the film and it provides audiences an opportunity to feel for her. For instance, this “family” dynamic was not genuine, so Yelena struggles with this because it’s the only family she knew. It’s one of the more heartbreaking moments featured in the film. Natasha’s backstory is half-baked at best in this screenplay, so her already established connection with marvel fans is what the film opts to coast on. A solo film about a character that has been present since Iron Man 2 deserved better in terms of expanding on their personal story as a highly-skilled spy.
Despite being held back, Johansson delivers another solid performance as Natasha Romanoff. She’s just as charismatic, strong-willed, and oozes with confidence in every scene. Pugh manages to outshine her and it isn’t forced by any means, the performance Pugh delivers as Yelena packs more energy compared to Natasha. If the demand for her as an actress wasn’t high already, her performance in Black Widow should certainly spark the attention she deserves. Shortland takes you on a rather oddly paced adventure that consistently grows hot and cold. The chemistry between our leads is undeniable, but Black Widow can feel like it’s dragging when the hard-hitting action isn’t occurring. There are breathtaking moments that will have audiences begging for more and then it’s interrupted by sluggish storytelling.
Black Widow doesn’t hit as hard as other MCU films due to its narrative shortcomings and bizarre pacing. Natasha Romanoff’s first and probably only solo film delivers the goods in terms of visual spectacle, great performances, and well-shot choreography. The lack of attention on Natasha’s backstory in favor of setting up the future might not sit well with fans who have waited patiently for this moment. Black Widow is an uneven experience for sure, but it’s held together where it counts to deliver another exhilarating Marvel experience.