Black Widow review: A mixed bag of genres

·Contributor
·5-min read
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

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Director: Cate Shortland
Writers: Eric Pearson (screenplay), Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson (story)
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenie, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz.
Release details: In cinemas 8 July (Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines); On Disney+ Premier Access on 9 July

4 out of 5 stars

Alexei (David Harbour) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Alexei (David Harbour) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

Originally slated to be out last May, Black Widow fell prey to the pandemic situation and saw several release date delays, before finally coming out this month. It comes almost two years after the last Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, which was Spider-Man: Far From Home. So as the opening movie for Phase Four of the MCU, how does it fare? It's a decent first film, but it could definitely have benefitted from being released closer to Avengers: Endgame, which is when we last saw the title character.

Melina (Rachel Weisz) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Melina (Rachel Weisz) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

Black Widow synopsis

Black Widow is a superhero film that's the twenty-fourth instalment in the MCU. It focuses on the eponymous character and her adventures on the run after the events of 2016's Captain America: Civil War. A new threat arises as she uncovers more about her past and family, even as she evades the authorities, who are still after her.

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

Black Widow review

The film is a fairly interesting exploration of Black Widow's past, and shines a spotlight on the character and the many different aspects of the past that have been hinted at in other movies. It's not something that we couldn't have pieced together on our own, but it adds more characters to and fleshes out Black Widow's background, giving insight into her personality. This is especially evident in the first part of the film, which is more character-driven in nature.

Yelena (Florence Pugh) and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Yelena (Florence Pugh) and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

However, Black Widow isn't really known for the flashier theatrics and powers of the other Avengers — so does the movie hold up in terms of action? The answer to that is a resounding yes. Act Three of the movie plays out like any other Avengers film, with super-powered romps and evocative set pieces. While Black Widow's own superpowers may not be as visual as other superheroes, the threats that she faces more than make up for it. Her costume design also hews closer to the comics, with her gauntlets (or stingers) looking more like they do in other media.

Taskmaster in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Taskmaster in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

If you've been following the MCU television series on Disney+, you'll also be glad to know that there's a post-credits scene which links the film to one of those shows, so stay back in the cinemas for that. More so than the other post-credits scenes we're used to, this one establishes the movie's place in the MCU and shows us why this film is relevant. It is, after all, a movie about a character that we might not see again, so one might wonder about whether the events in this film have any impact. The post-credits scene will assuage most fears (like this writer's one).

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

In the film, Black Widow rediscovers her family in the form of the Red Guardian (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz) as the parental figures in her life, and Yelena (Florence Pugh) as her sister. However, Red Guardian feels terrible under-utilised in the movie. It feels like he had so much more potential to offer, and his story could have been explored to a greater extent. Instead, he appears for purely functional reasons, before being reduced to comic relief towards the end. Melina and Yelena are great additions to Black Widow's cast, though.

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

However, the film feels like three different genres spliced together, with very distinct seams showing. It starts being a movie that seems to be in the spy genre, before moving on to being a sort-of-family-comedy in the middle, then becoming a full-blown action movie at the end. It's not that a movie can't be of several genres at once. But the way Black Widow does it feels like three different directors got three different scripts, and worked on three different Acts — before stitching everything together in the editing room.

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Taskmaster in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Taskmaster in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

Ultimately, Black Widow sees the MCU growing in another direction, and gives us more inter-connectivity with the television shows. It has all the action and fun you'd expect, although it could have been put together with more finesse instead of being the mixed bag that it is. As the first film of Phase Four, it doesn't disappoint, and signals the start of a new slate of MCU movies. Remember to stay back for the aforementioned post-credits scene.

Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)
Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Black Widow. (PHOTO: Marvel Studios)

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