Black Widow Review

Fighting with her family is something Florence Pugh’s used to by now, but this jumps up a notch in Scarlett Johansson’s Marvel swan song Black Widow.

It’s 1995 Ohio, and we’re watching a teenage girl with a penchant for dying her hair ride around town on her bicycle before playing with her little sister at home.

Of course, Ohio isn’t Natasha Romanoff’s real home town – and her family isn’t as real as they appear either.

One impromptu nighttime escape from the American authorities later, lead by her superhumanly strong father, and things become a little clearer when their getaway plane touches down in Cuba.

This all American family are actually a Russian sleeper cell who have been stealing information from their cuckolded yankee employers for their Moscow based superiors.

Natasha’s not nearly so keen on going back to the USSR though, and is happy to wave a gun in her military comrades faces to prove the point.

A couple of intravenously applied sedatives later sees Natasha and her little sister safely transferred to a military airplane, and the forcibly conscripted future that awaits them.

Fast forward 21 years and we catch up with Natasha in 2016 – she’s still on the run from some American authorities, but at least this time she’s choosing her own cause.

Back in mother Russia, an elite squadron of female assassins – lead by Natasha’s now estranged little sister Yelena – are in the process of acquiring a target by any means necessary.

When this mission goes awry, there’s only one person Yelena trusts to have her back – as we’re ushered towards a seemingly unlikely ‘family’ reunion.

Black Widow is the long awaited finale for Scarlett Johansson’s Marvel character and, like most Marvel films these days, everything goes according to plan.

So we’ve got a sped up introductory credits montage that sees our heroines go from girls to black widows, big budget action sequences where the bigger the action the less you actually care about what’s going on, and a ridiculously over the top Russian baddie – played ridiculously over the top by Ray Winstone – who has a personal score to settle with Natasha.

Amongst this all too predictable Kevin Feige formula, director Cate Shortland weaves in some far more engaging moments that break out between the main characters who make up this family reunion.

Rachel Weisz’s mother character is wasted in a throwaway role, but David Harbour brings some comic relief to his washed up father figure who sees himself as Russia’s answer to Captain America.

But it’s the sibling rivalry between Johansson and her Florence Pugh shaped sister that lies at the beating heart of this movie, as the baton is passed from old black widow to new.

One spectacular prison break scene apart, and a minor third act twist that’s effectively given away in the opening credits, there’s really not too much going on here.

Black Widow is enjoyable, especially on the big screen, but disposable and easily forgotten – which is unfortunate as there’s a seed of a good film lurking here, especially with this cast.

But the Marvel universe has become so staid and risk averse these days, Black Widow is never allowed to fully bloom.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

July 2021