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‘Black Widow’ – Review

‘Black Widow’ – Review

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All good things come to those who wait, and after nearly two and a half years without a Marvel Studios release in cinemas we can now bask in the glow of the sheer epicness that is Black Widow. Long time fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been salivating for this release and their devotion and love for this character, and eagerness to experience the next chapter in her story, is rewarded with one epic blockbuster cinematic experience.

Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff finds herself alone and forced to confront a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Romanoff must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

Long time fans of the MCU have been waiting with bated breath for the arrival of Marvel Studios Black Widow and they will be very happy with what director Cate Shortland brings to the screen. If you think you know what you’re getting with Black Widow, think again, as Shortland delivers a film that is a high-octane, gunmetal espionage thriller, and trust me when I say that you’ve never seen a Marvel film like this before. With her directorial vision, Shortland gives Black Widow a dark and grungy tone, and really takes audiences inside the shadowy Black Ops world that exists outside of the Avengers scope. This is a world of shadow battles that are fought with automatic weapons, sharped edged blades and sheer grit, and right from the get-go Shortland seriously raises the stakes.

Placing great emphasis on an early Cold War setting, and the ongoing threat of a post-Soviet spy world, where the tensions are high between the West and the Russian block, leads to a considerable amount of danger, and Black Widow has a serious edge to its storytelling. Going back in time, Shortland takes us inside the mind of Natasha Romanoff and her existence within the feared Red Room, and there’s plenty of moments that will make you jump as Natasha has to contend with her past. Balancing character with action, Shortland keeps her audience guessing the whole way through, and there’s some juicy storytelling to keep audiences engaged. Black Widow is an all-together different kind of MCU cinematic experience for Marvel fans and Shortland crafts one hell of an engaging movie.

Front and centre in Black Widow is of course long time MCU star Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and for the first time, audiences will truly experience her complete story. While MCU fans will of course be aware of Natasha’s eventual fate, the experience of watching Black Widow leads to a completely full circle journey for Johansson’s portrayal of this character as she lets audiences into what actually makes this super-spy turned Avenger tick. Along with allowing us into Natasha’s headspace, Johansson also answers questions related to Natasha’s past, such as the details of the Budapest affair, along with her actions as a Widow, which provides plenty of interesting character depth.

Joining Johansson in Black Widow is MCU newcomer Florence Pugh as Natasha’s adoptive sister Yelena Belova and Pugh is an absolute firecracker in the role. Best described as Natasha’s dark shadow, Yelena is a far darker character compared to her sister and she’s definitely a wild child at heart. Pugh’s Yelena makes for a very interesting mirror in which to analyze Natasha and her actions and with Yelena’s devil-may-care attitude and far more lethal and serious leanings makes their interactions together that much more interesting to watch on screen. I was very impressed with what Pugh brought to the role, and how she changed up the narrative and audiences will love this new Widow that they get to meet.

Bringing a formidable force to the narrative of Black Widow is David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian, the Soviet Union’s only ever super-soldier, and who is now a deep shadow of his former self. A now bloated, washed-up state prisoner, who bears a deep resentment to his former life as a ‘hero’, Alexei is a tragic and complicated character and has a lot to give to the story of Black Widow. Best described as an absentee father, Alexei finds a second chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his ‘children’ and the results are very enjoyable to watch. It’s clear that Harbour had a blast in the role, and he gives his performance a great mix of comedy that keeps things engaging, while also cramming into his uniform to throw down one more time.

Finally, Rachel Weisz brings a very interesting and complicated presence to Black Widow in the form of Melina Vostokoff, a mother figure to Natasha and Yelena and Alexei’s former lover. And her presence in the film is sure to keep audiences on their toes. As the brains behind the Red Room, Melina has a seriously dark history and Weisz excels at giving this character a two-faced quality that keeps the audience on edge. With Melina, you never know what she’s going to do next and Weisz’s resulting performance is sure to keep you amped the whole way through, and she makes for a very interesting addition to this complicated family unit.

The action of Black Widow is simply outstanding! Marvel fans who have been wanting a serious adrenaline rush will not be disappointed, and this is one film that will get your heart pumping. From a helicopter smash escape from a Siberian prison to a full-on assault through the streets of Budapest, the action of Black Widow doesn’t let up for a moment and Marvel fans will love what Shortland and her team bring to the screen. The film’s Spec Ops setting makes the action that much more adrenaline-charged and when Natasha has to face down the unstoppable might of the lethal Taskmasker, things truly get dialled all the way up. We’ve been waiting a long time for this level of epic action and the results are awesome to witness on screen.

But in addition to its epic action, Black Widow also focuses in on some very heavy themes, and this is the most moved I’ve been by a Marvel movie since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2. Shortland’s focus on ideas of family, and the trials and tribulations they go through is sure to affect all who watch this movie. The resulting exploration of childhood trauma and psychological scarification gives this film a dark shadow to investigate, and the concept of free will is inspected with keen interest by Shortland on screen. Black Widow examines what it means to stand up and be a hero and to right the wrongs of your past and audiences will get a real kick out of this thematic study.

Black Widow is without a doubt the film we all need right now and this is one movie-going experience you’ll want to witness up on the big screen as it was meant to be seen. So go out now and embrace the epic popcorn blockbuster fun that is Black Widow…because this is Marvel the way it was meant to be experienced.

Image: Walt Disney Pictures