3.5 out of 5 stars
Most of us would think that The Avengers would not be susceptible to COVID-19. Still, if any of these superheroes have suffered from this pandemic, it is Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Natasha Romanoff did not contract the illness, but the release of her stand-alone film has suffered more than any within the MCU. As the transition to phase four of this beloved franchise, the delays in the release have turned this film into one of the most anticipated cinematic offerings in years. Now the challenge is for ScarJo and company to live up to the expectations that come with these postponements.
For all of those following the Avenger storyline over the past decade, they will know that Black Widow met a grim fate during the final battle with Thanos. This means that this chapter will have to occur in the past. Which makes sense since this is her origin story and the connecting element to the new era of this band of superheroes. Her story takes us back to 1995, where Natasha and her family reside on a peaceful street in Ohio. Yet, things quickly change for them as they have been exposed as a sleeper cell for the Russians, and they must escape to Cuba. Upon arrival on the island, each member of the family is sent to different parts of Russia. With this abrupt change, the illusion of their family dissolves as Natasha watches this all quickly unfold before her young eyes.
After experiencing an extensive montage of her life, audiences are jettisoned ahead to 2016 where Black Widow is now a fugitive after the Avengers split during the battle at Leipzig/Halle Airport. Even though she is on the side of Captain America and others, Romanoff is seen as violating the Sokovia Accords. As she is held up in Norway, the former assassin receives a package from the woman who was her sister in the US, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). This delivery leads to the subsequent reunion with their ‘family.’ This operation means they must venture into Russia to find their father, Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian (David Harbour) and their mother figure, former Black Widow Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). They then work to bring down the head of the Black Widow program, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and his subservient world-wide army. Natasha and the family come to realise that this mission will prove to be nearly impossible as they face the legions of trained warriors and the Ironman-inspired Taskmaster.
No one could have expected the weight of expectation that would be left on the shoulders of this Avenger. With delays and the introduction of Disney+, it feels like most of the world has moved on over the years. Still, Natasha Romanoff’s story packs a punch and provides some closure to an era. Australian director Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) has managed to take Marvel collaborator Eric Pearson’s screenplay and tie off many loose ends while connecting them all to the future of the MCU. By telling Black Widow’s tragic tale, they deliver a narrative that gives this franchise a global feel with a uniquely masterful feminine flair.
With the bittersweet awareness of Johansson’s exit from this series, she is finally given her delayed swansong. This film fills in the historical gaps of the past decade and will allow audiences to honour her with the farewell she deserves. All the while, the production team manages to bring forth some worthwhile future inclusions in this universe of superheroes with the introduction of Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, her ‘family’ and Taskmaster. Even though some of the monologuing sections do take us on a Jane Austin-esque series of discussions, most of this film is a homage to the spy films of yesteryear with Russia as the supreme enemy. Black Widow may not be the pinnacle of the Marvel canon, but it is a character arch that deserves attention. In the end, this movie was worth the wait and brings a fitting close to this phase of the MCU.
Reel Dialogue: Goodbye to an era, hello to the future and Easter Eggs
Natasha Romanoff has been part of our lives for over a decade and we all needed to be able to say goodbye. She will live on in comic books and on Disney+, but it is time for audiences to move into the future of this franchise. Not that Black Widow is the key to everything within the MCU; that was experienced with Avengers: Endgame. Still, her story does provide the closing of a chapter with a hope for more with the inevitable inclusion of a few Easter Eggs.
As a student of the Bible, this has whispers of how the Bible is structured. So much of it is not chronological, but much of it is a fascinating look back at history. It incorporates various story arches and some of the most iconic characters in world history. All the while pointing toward the explosive introduction of the ultimate saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. Then it goes on to offer us a glimpse of what the future holds. Hope that is brought to our attention with the message of Easter or a better title, the Resurrection. Suppose you loved the journey of the MCU over the past decade. In that case, there is another compelling journey to consider in the Bible. One that will leave you with more hope than anything the Avengers can offer. Get started today: Luke