It’s been over two years since the MCU ended Phase Three, and Black Widow serves as an exciting and surprisingly funny entry point into the new era.
By Sean Blanford
Ladies and gentlemen, the Earth is back spinning on its correct axis. Finally, after two long, arduous years of not having a new MCU film on the big screen after getting two to three per year for well over a decade, normalcy reigns supreme. Being pushed back a year plus from its initial 2020 release date because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we finally have our Black Widow solo film that we have been pining for since she first appeared in Iron Man 2. Thus, we now enter the Fourth Phase of the MCU. With the events of Endgame in the review mirror, Black Widow serves not as the origin story that we have seen with so many of the prior standalone Marvel films but as a well-constructed piece of connective tissue that fills in gaps in the timeline and introduces a new star in the Universe in indie darling Florence Pugh.
Mainly taking place in 2016, right after the events of Civil War, we see Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from SHIELD and Thunderbolt Ross. Trying to connect the dots from her past with her “family” that raised her and her “sister” in Ohio, Natasha is re-connected with Yelena Bolova (Pugh) to find Alexei Shoktakov, aka The Red Guardian (David Harbor) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and take out the mastermind of the Widow program Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and the Red Room, a place utilized to train new Widows. While there are flashbacks to be had, starting with an extended introduction seeing the foursome in a circumstance akin to The Americans, this is less an origin story and more a way to introduce characters, raise stakes, and create a bond that flows throughout the film. While we see many of the familiar set pieces (big battle, moment to rest and forward the story, repeat), it’s easy to forgive the potential predictable nature of the story thanks to the comradery between Johansson and Pugh, with the latter being the true shining star of the film.
So much of the greatness of Black Widow comes in the dryness of the humor and the tongue-in-cheek jabs that Bolova takes at Romanoff about being an Avenger and things like how Natasha always poses we she lands, or how God’s don’t have to take ibuprofen after a big fight. So it’s no surprise that the humor of the screenplay is the star of the film, with writer Eric Pearson being behind the hilarious nature of 2017’s Thor Ragnarok. If this does serve as our final farewell or Johansson and the Romanoff character in the MCU, then as we advance, it will be exciting to see where Pugh and the Yelena Bolova character fits into the universe as a whole. 2019 was a landmark year in Pugh’s career with breakout roles in Midsommar, Little Women, and Fighting With My Family. She has garnered a fanbase that has extended past her indie roots and into franchise films. It’s too early to tell, but this is an exciting introduction to what could be a new beloved character.
With a well-rounded screenplay and a story that, while familiar in its overall structure, does justice to the Natasha Romanoff character. She will be missed, but with much of the future of the MCU, it will be exciting to see where it all goes next.
Grade: 4.25/5 (A-)