BLACK WIDOW – non-spoiler review

It was a long time coming – but was it worth the wait?

Marvel’s latest movie, delayed by COVID is finally released in cinemas and on Disney Plus this week.

The film takes place between Civil War and Infinity War, and is the closest to a stand-alone movie we’ve seen for a while.

After a brilliant and gripping pre-credits sequence in Ohio, 1995 (the film keeps the LARGE FONT AESTHETIC from the recent Marvel movies), the film then effectively uses The Incredible Hulk style credits to fly through the training of the young Black Widow Natasha Romanoff (producer Scarlett Johansson). Soon she’s evading William Hurt’s General Ross and heading off-grid following the big ‘Avengers Break-Up’ at the end of Civil War.

We are swiftly introduced to the Black Widows on a mission to apprehend a deserter with phials of mysterious red gas and Yelena (the superb Florence Pugh) is soon on the run too.

Florence Pugh in Black Widow
Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies

While director Cate Shortland has cited No Country for Old Men as an influence, there are elements of the Bourne films in the storyline, although the major references and inspirations seem to come from James Bond.

As a Bond fan, I enjoyed many moments which reminded me of Bond movies (Tomorrow Never Dies! Skyfall! Quantum of Solace!), and chuckled when I realised Nat knew dialogue from Moonraker off by heart. Indeed, many story beats riffed on that 1979 Bond classic.

The cast are excellent, including some Bond alumni in the powerful and hilarious David Harbour and an appearance by [redacted]. And of course, Rachel Weisz is married to James Bond (Daniel Craig) in real life.

The film moves at a cracking pace, and visits many locations like a true spy movie. Nat even has a fixer (O.T. Fagbenle) who provides her with hardware and gadgets just like 007’s Q Branch.

The spectacle we’ve come to expect from Marvel is present too, for this is no sombre espionage tale. The action is great, with inventive fight scenes, car chases, and more. The combat is a little bloodier than other Marvel movies, earning it’s PG-13 (US) and 12A (UK) rating for “intense sequences of violence/action” and “injury detail”. For me, this is a welcome change, especially after the pulling of punches in the airport scene in Civil War.

The humour which looked out of place in the trailer works better in context. Indeed Harbour sells the jokes really well and Weisz‘s comic timing recalls the fun she had as Evie in The Mummy. The good news is that they ALL get fight scenes to savour.

My only gripes are that a potential spinoff storyline that naturally grows out of this film is seemingly rejected, and the post credits scene veers from an emotional coda to a heavy handed passing of the baton to a future project.

The film is worth the wait, for it was great to see the action on the big screen. The story works so well that you wish they could have given Nat her solo story sooner, but then Marvel weren’t ready for that till now.

The Black Widows and Taskmaster are formidable foes (spinoff please?), Ray Winstone is a suitably slippery character, and Lorne Balfe‘s score is epic in all the right ways.


BLACK WIDOW doesn’t make up for what they did to Nat in Endgame, but it certainly makes you want to see more of the Widow’s world, and it’s a shame if we’re not able to get Florence Pugh and Scarlett Johansson fighting back to back again as their on-screen chemistry is so enjoyable.

Dang, Disney, just give us a series set after The Snap with Nat trying to keep The Avengers together, dealing with Black Widows, and slowly losing herself, the state we found her in at the beginning of Endgame.

BLACK WIDOW is ideal for Marvel fans who love the character, and should be seen on the big screen where safe to do so. It’s the spiritual sibling of Captain America The Winter Soldier and the cousin of James Bond.

Without a doubt, Marvel is back with a bang.

This article first appeared on Reel Anarchy.

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