Scarlett Johansson’s run as Russian superspy Black Widow comes to an end in her solo movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). For years, fans have demanded a Black Widow movie, but it wasn’t until 2020 when things began to pick up for her solo film.
The film opens up with a young Natasha Romanoff in Cleveland, Ohio playing with her younger sister, Yelena. The two return home to their parents, Alexei and Melina, where it’s revealed that the entire family are Russian spies sent to steal info from SHIELD. The family quickly escape in a stolen aircraft with the police and FBI hot on their trail. They meet up with their boss, General Dreykov, in Cuba; where he enlists both Natasha and Yelena into the Red Room to become Black Widows. Cut to 2016, Natasha is on the run after defecting from the Sokovia Accords. At the same time, Yelena discovers that Dreykov infused all the Black Widows with a chemical that makes them loyal to him. She finds a serum that frees the Black Widows from Dreykov and contacts Nat, hoping that she and the other Avengers would come to her aid. Nat meets Yelena in Budapest and the two work on a plan to free the Black Widows. Meanwhile, Dreykov sends a powerful masked assassin, Taskmaster, to stop Nat at all costs.
Rumors of a Black Widow movie stretched all the way back in 2004, with Director David Hayter planning to adapt the character onto the big screen. However, his vision was cut short when several female-led action films of the time flopped. The project was shelved, but was plans were in development for a solo Black Widow movie, with various directors wanting to make it. In 2018, Director Cate Shortland was hired, with Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson looking forward to working with Shortland. Black Widow (2021) was initially going to be released on November of 2020, however was pushed back to July of 2021 due to COVID-19.
What I liked about the film was its focus on a smaller story, at least in the first third. The focus on a small family in Cleveland, Ohio is a breath of fresh air from the various big city locations in other films in the MCU. The main characters are all likeable, with Florence Pugh acting as the heart of the movie and David Harbour blending humor with wit. My favorite sequence would be the elaborate opening credits scene that interweaves footage of Natasha’s Red Room training with footage of actual terrorist events around the world throughout different times in history. Additionally, the action sequences were well choreographed and Taskmaster was a very intimidating villain.
Despite its strengths, Black Widow (2021) has its fair share of flaws. The film seems to try really hard to be a spy-thriller, similar to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). This is the most evident during the third act, when Natasha goes up against Dreykov and the Red Room, as the film delves into a “villain taking over the world with a secret organization” trope. While I didn’t have a problem with Taskmaster being a woman in the movie, as opposed to being a man from the comics, I wished that they kept her as a villain rather than redeeming her in the end. She really could’ve been a major villain for not only Nat, but the rest of The Avengers.
Overall, Black Widow (2021) is a decent movie. Although I wished they could’ve done more to differentiate it from other present-day Marvel films, this isn’t a bad film in the slightest. Go check this movie out if you want to see a decent send-off to a beloved long-running Marvel character.