Black Widow reviews!
It is not any spoiler to say Black Widow is almost certain to be Scarlett Johansson’s last spin around the track as the title superhero, aka Natasha Romanoff. She has been playing her since the character’s 2010 debut in Iron Man 2, appearing in four Avengers films including paying the ultimate sacrifice in Endgame, and also making her mark in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. Finally (and following the pandemic delay of the release) she gets her own stand-alone entry in the MCU set right around the end of events in Civil War, and Johansson makes the most of it.
It appears she is truly done with the MCU (at least as Black Widow), and she goes out with all guns blazing as this first film in Phase 4 of the MCU does not stint one bit on the action, giving us some exciting set pieces that ought to satisfy fans. but more importantly focuses on the human being behind the shield of a superhero. The film marks yet another solo outing for a Marvel movie not only fronted by a female character but also directed by a woman — in this case Cate Shortland, who proves she is up to the CGI challenge of it all but also some welcome quieter moments amidst the mayhem. Otherwise what is the point of revisiting this yet again for Johansson, who has kept the nuances of Natasha close to her vest in previous installments; now that she is toplined, we get a shot at understanding just how the kickass Russian spy and assassin could not only fit so smoothly with an American accent into the Avengers, but also go out as she finally did with such empathy and heart.
Actually the pre-credits opening is set back in 1995, when Natasha (played by Ever Anderson) was about 12 and sporting blue hair and a tomboy attitude living with her younger sister Yelena (Violet McGraw), “father” (David Harbour) and “mother” (Rachel Weisz) in Ohio. However, the action starts right away as dad sets them off to the airport and onto a plane landing in Cuba, where in no time both young girls are injected with something, knocked out, and sent on their way. It turns out this “family” was really Russian spies. Harbour is actually Alexei aka Red Guardian, a Russian answer to Captain America but not as famous (a detail that bugs the hell out of him). Weisz is Melina, a veteran of the Red Room, the Russian spy ring that turns out “widows” and was thought long gone but is still run by a vicious man named General Dreykov (Ray Winstone). It is all kind of like The Americans on steroids.