Marvel’s first film since 2019 has released in cinema and has been hyped up by the brand for several years. However, while the film is an enjoyable watch it doesn’t live up to the hype Marvel has created for it. (Warning: big spoilers ahead).
This film does add some much needed detail and backstory to the character of Black Widow, though apart from the post credits scene it doesn’t point to where Marvel is going.
Throughout the film, it is clear that this has to be one of the darkest that Marvel has gone.
Firstly though, the elephant in the room needs addressing. The timing of the film. The plot took place in the aftermath of Civil War, which came out in 2016. The film could have come out anytime after that and before Infinity War, but it didn’t. Many fans believed that the film itself would help set up ‘Phase Four’, though that is largely untrue. The main film itself could have come out anytime after Civil War, and it would have improved Natasha as a character in Infinity War and Endgame.
Only the post credits scene would have needed changing, but that doesn’t warrant the film to have been delayed until after Natasha’s death in Endgame. Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic further delayed the film, but that isn’t Marvel’s fault.
The opening of the Black Widow is extremely intense. It shows Natasha as a child, with her adopted family, as they are forced to leave as Alexi Shostakov (David Habour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) steal information from a S.H.I.E.L.D. base.
The opening credits then show Natasha’s traumatic childhood, as her and her sister Yelana Belova (Florence Pugh) are forced to join the Red Room. This effective opening serves to highlight the villain Dreykov (Ray Winstone), and the torture he put so many women and girls through.
This film was action heavy throughout. This is shown in the scene within Morocco, the introduction to Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), the escape from Budapest, breaking Alexi out of prison and the events on the Red Room and as it falls apart. Though there was ample breathing time between each set piece, allowing the characters time to talk, and grow, I would have loved to have seen more of the Red Guardian, because he got little time in the field to show his strength in the film.
A standout in the film comes from Yelena, who proves to be the film’s strongest character. She is the most compelling and is also humorous when mocking superhero poses. The scene in Melina’s house is the best for her, as it is here, we find that she found the time she spent with her adopted parents as a child as real.
Furthermore, her delivery when she told Melina that the chemical compound stolen from the S.H.I.E.L.D. base was tested on her, and other girls like her was very powerful. At the end of the film, it is great to see her acceptance of her family and of the other Widows. The post credits scene also confirmed she will be appearing in the Hawkeye TV series set to debt on Disney+, which is very exciting for us Marvel fans.
The villain, in General Dreykov and Taskmaster, was unfortunately somewhat disappointing. We are never told how he and his daughter survived the explosion in Budapest, which left a mysterious plot-hole. The Red Room is established as a covert organisation controlling the world from the shadows, but this is on top of HYDRA, who are also doing the same thing. This makes it confusing as to how the two interacted, as it is hinted that they did. Out of universe, it is a very similar type of villain that has already been shown, with little twist.
Taskmaster is an excellent idea in concept, a mimic that can copy other powers just by watching, but the execution was subpar. Only a few heroes powers were mimicked, Widow, Captain American Hawkeye, and Black Panther. It would have been amazing if someone like Thor’s powers were mimicked. This would have tied into a line Yelena said, that Thor was a bigger Avenger than Black Widow. Widow defeating the Taskmaster Thor could have prove Yelena wrong.
The reveal of Taskmaster being Dreykov’s daughter was also quite disappointing, as it undercut Black Widow’s darkest moment. While Marvel shouldn’t be constrained by the comics, this is a departure from the character that simply doesn’t work.
Overall, this film was an enjoyable watch, with good action and an OK villain. The talking points throughout show effectively how Black Widow is without the Avengers, with her learning that she has another family outside of that group.
While definitely not the swan song the character deserved, it is certainly a worthwhile watch. The post credits sets up an interesting conflict for the Hawkeye series, which I am looking forward to exploring, where hopefully, other characters such as Red Guardian and Melina show up in future projects.
By Kieran Burt
Feature image: Disney/Marvel Studios