Plot: After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanova (Scarlett Johansson) aka Black Widow is forced to reexamine her past when her estranged sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) returns insisting they destroy the Red Room—the place that forced them to become assassins.
Hey Red Mango Readers. Editor Jules here. It seems like it has been forever and a day but the latest MCU film Black Widow was finally released! And with a movie so big we can’t just give you one review; we’re giving you three! Let’s dive in!
Editor Jules’ Review
So I watched Black Widow a little while ago so this review is hot off the press. Be careful now! And there were some things I liked and some things I didn’t. Let’s go with the positives first.
My favourite aspect was Florence Pugh as Natasha’s sister Yelena. I didn’t even realise this was the same actress from Midsommar as she completely transformed into the wisecracking, tough-as-nails former assassin. I really hope she takes up the mantle as the new Black Widow because I need to see more of her in the MCU. Her chemistry with Johannson is so much fun and I loved her making fun of Black Widow’s “posing”. I also loved the film’s super dark opening and the James Bond meets Jason Bourne-inspired first act action sequence.
Now on to the negatives. I enjoyed seeing Rachel Weisz (that woman is still a stone cold fox) but she is barely in the movie. And David Harbour’s Red Guardian neither landed the comedic nor the action moments. I understand they wanted to push the theme of family but I felt like they just cluttered up the narrative. The villains were even worse. Taskmaster looked good and had some cool moments but I saw the reveal coming a mile away. And Ray Winstone’s Dreykov is giving Malekith and Whiplash competition for worst MCU villain ever. He was just so bland and sucked the life out his scenes, which thankfully were not many.
But my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t feel like a Black Widow Black Widow movie. There is so much going on that Natasha gets mostly lost in the shuffle. And the action scenes where she is the focus the choreography does not feel like anything we haven’t seen before. The film also feels like it has a bit of an identity crisis as it both wants to be a grounded spy thriller and a bombastic superhero film, but it does not end being great in either genre. And while I enjoyed learning more about Natasha’s backstory this adventure itself does not feel like must-see viewing. Not as bad as Solo, but kinda close.
In the end Black Widow is far from Winter Soldier (which perfectly blended spy thriller and superhero film) but not as bad as the first female-led MCU effort, the uninspired Captain Marvel, but lands pretty much in the middle. I was most inspired by the implications of the post-credits scene though. Make sure and don’t miss that. And I loved the white suit. There’s that too.
Editor Jules’ Score: 6 out of 10
Featured Writer Alice’s Review
After waiting with bated breath for a little over a year, Black Widow has finally been released in theatres and Disney+ as the first film in Marvel’s Phase 4 lineup. It has been a bit of a cathartic experience with all the pent-up emotions from lockdown.
The title sequence and accompanying musical score of Nirvana’s Smell Like Teen Spirit covered by Malia J is hauntingly melancholic and evokes quite the emotional cord. Never lacking in the action, the tedious moments were actually the ones that featured Stranger Thing’s David Harbour (Alexei Shostakov aka The Red Guardian) and Rachel Weisz (Melina Vostokoff aka Iron Maiden). Harbour seemed to struggle with his role although Weisz picked up her stride during the latter parts of the film.
Scarlett Johansson shines as the attractive, defected Russian assassin-turned-Avenger Natasha Romanoff. Her story has always exuded one of intense sadness and regret. Seeing the backstory here gives fans closure and clarity on the character. There is a successful melding of the emotional fallout from Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena’s (Florence Pugh) stolen childhoods together with the sisterly bond between the two. However, the pacing was a bit uneven and the attempts at humour didn’t really stick the landing. Lack of development concerning the main villain, General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) significantly reduced the impact of meeting the cold-hearted person behind the Black Widow program.
MCU’s 2019 film Captain Marvel starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers is the only other female-led superhero film in their universe. While my next statement may trigger some Black Widow fans, I’ve got to keep my honesty here—Captain Marvel is still the better watch for me in terms of execution of the story, fleshing out of characters, pacing, and injection of humor. Black Widow seems to be trying too hard and it comes across as forced. They could have left out Alexei and Melina’s characters and just made it purely about the sisters repairing their bond by having a common enemy. It would have been a bit more cohesive in my humble opinion.
Alice’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
Senior Writer Sommer’s Review
Two years. It’s been a whole two years since we’ve seen a Marvel movie, which may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but to fans of the MCU, it’s been a lifetime. We needed something fun, something action-packed with loads of heart and just enough of an adrenaline boost to get us back into the game, and by Thor’s hammer that’s exactly what we got from Black Widow. It’s a story we should’ve seen years ago (Kevin Feige to the rescue!)
Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow is front and centre in this espionage thriller that explores both her origins and what happened to her after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Scarlett Johannson once again dons black leather and proves just like all of her male counterparts, she’s wholly made this character her own. Of all the Avengers, Widow’s story is by far the darkest, yet Johannson never plays her cold or, worst, inhuman. Instead we have someone who hides her emotions and only shows her true self to those she absolutely trust.
Florence Pugh (Midsommar/Little Women) gives her a run for her money though. She absolutely NAILS the role of Natasha’s younger, more reckless, yet still emotionally vulnerable sister. Their scenes together are some of the best moments of a film packed with awesome moments, and their believable chemistry as sisters makes me want to see so much more of her in the MCU future. I also love how she makes fun of Natasha’s signature pose, only to try it herself later on. Scenes such as these go a long way in selling them as siblings.
I adore Rachel Weisz but I don’t want to go into too much details about her role (mild spoilers only) so I’ll just say she’s effervescent as always. But the icing on the Marvel cake here has got to be David Harbour as The Red Guardian. Not since Robert Downey Jr has the MCU casting been this pitch perfect. His role is mainly played for laughs, but Harbour manages to add such heart and depth to his character, he’ll quickly become your favourite character in a movie filled with great characters. All of them together have a complicated relationship which just makes the family dynamic all that more convincing and engaging to watch.
The action is more Jason Bourne meets James Bond than the over-the-top CGI Marvel films are known for (though we get some of that too) and with the locations, set pieces and great fighting choreography what we have here is a nice companion piece to Winter Soldier and more proof that Marvel is at its best when it embraces the diversity of its heroes instead of trying to make them all the same.
Downsides, if any? Well surprisingly Marvel dropped the ball when it came to their latest villain, Dreykov, played by Ray Winstone. He’s one of the most one-note villains I’ve seen from the MCU in a long time. Here’s hoping they aren’t reverting to bad habits with that one. Rachel Weisz was also underused and didn’t get as much screen time as she deserved. And the Taskmaster reveal, well if you’re not a comic reader it probably won’t bother you, but I’m still on the fence about this one.
All in all, Black Widow was a wonderful return to the MCU for me. Huge props goes out to director Cate Shortland and her crew. Sadly, I had to watch this at home as cinemas here in sweet Trinidad and Tobago are still closed but the atmosphere created is bigger than any television screen could contain. And while I’m still hoping to rewatch this again at IMAX, small screen or not, Black Widow is a winner and a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Sommer’s Score: 8 out of 10
For more of Sommer’s thoughts you can check out her video review on Moviejunkie For Life below:
So how would you rate Black Widow? And you can check out more great MCU content below:
Top 10 MCU movies (REDUX)
Five Weakest MCU Films Ranked