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Black Widow (2021)

Josh Reviews Black Widow

The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have finally returned, after their longest hiatus since the earliest days of the MCU, with Black Widow!  I have not yet ventured back into a movie theater, but I was delighted to be able to watch Black Widow on Disney+.  Marvel’s Phase 4 was supposed to launch with this film back in May 2020, but it was of course delayed by the pandemic.  This Black Widow solo film shines a long-awaited spotlight on Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, and it’s another strong outing from the fine folks at Marvel.  (Beware minor spoilers in this review — to go into the film completely unspoiled, you should watch the film first and then read this review!)

The film is set after the dissolution of the Avengers at the end of Captain America: Civil War, and before the events of Avengers: Infinity War.  I was wondering if the film would open with a framing sequence set after the events of Infinity War/Endgame (the “present” of the MCU, though I believe that Endgame takes place in 2023), but I was impressed that the filmmakers evidently thought that wasn’t necessary and that the audience would be able to quickly figure out this film’s place in the MCU timeline.

We’ve gotten hints in previous films, especially in Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, about Natasha’s past as a Russian assassin who has a lot of “red on her ledger”.  It’s exciting to finally get to explore her backstory in more detail here.  I wasn’t expecting the film to open with a set-up reminiscent of the wonderful TV show The Americans, in which we see Natasha and her sister Yelena as young kids living in Ohio with “parents” who are actually undercover Russian agents.  I loved that whole opening sequence and the great car/plane chase sequence it builds to.  That was a great way to open the film!

I was a little dubious of Scarlett Johansson’s casting as Natasha Romanoff back when she first appeared way back in Iron Man 2.  Ms. Johansson is a great actress, but she seemed so American to me that she felt miscast, and that film didn’t make the best use of her.  But I loved her immediately in The Avengers, right from that wonderful introductory scene when Coulson interrupts her on the phone when she’s undercover… and then the terrific next scene when she makes contact with Bruce Banner.  Suddenly the character seemed to come into focus, and I’ve enjoyed following her story through the films, building to her very moving sacrifice in Avengers: Infinity War.  I was sorry to see her go!  Thankfully, Marvel decided to give a gift to the … [continued]