The last time we saw Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) was in Avengers: Endgame, where she fell off a cliff on Vormir, sacrificing her life so that the Avengers could retrieve the Soul Stone in order to reverse the damage Thanos had done to the galaxy. It seemed like her story was complete, and it was an emotional, fitting, satisfying finale for one of the original Avengers.
So why make a Black Widow and release after her character arc is complete? That was the struggle I had watching this movie. As a spy thriller, Black Widow is a pretty entertaining, globe-trotting action film with some good performances. But as an MCU movie, it feels like a “thanks for playing” participation trophy.
Black Widow has been a character in the MCU since 2010, where she made her debut in Iron Man 2. Following Iron Man 2, she appeared in six other MCU movies (and one more uncredited part in Captain Marvel). But in the nine years from when she first appeared to when she died, never once did she get her own movie. Wouldn’t have made more sense to place a Black Widow movie during this time? Maybe place it between Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War? A Black Widow movie any time during her nine-year stint as an Avenger would have the most sense. It would have allowed us to understand the character more while she mattered in the universe. But with her death, all emotional connection to the character vanished.
A Black Widow movie following her death would have been interesting had it told us something really insightful about the character or somehow expanded the MCU. A perfect example of this is The Godfather Part II, in which half of the movie is dedicated to telling the story of the rise of Vito Corleone even though he died in the first film. We learned about Vito coming to America, his life in New York City, and how he became the eventual Don while also telling us more about Michael and his family in the present day. But in Black Widow, all we learn that Natasha kind of had a family, but they were a fake family, but they are still kind of her family. The movie doesn’t tell us anything really new about Natasha beyond that and actually felt more like a launching pad for Natasha’s sister, Yelena Bolev (Florence Pugh), to be in the MCU. Bolev is the most interesting character in the movie and a large part of that has to do with Pugh’s performance. She’s funny, sad, and badass and she balances them all perfectly.
It’s a shame this movie is part of a connected universe and not a movie that stands on its own because some of the judgment on the movie has to be how it fits in the universe. If you look at this as a globe-trotting, high-tech spy thriller, it’s rather entertaining. Director Cate Shortland constructs some fun and exciting set pieces while adding layers of humor, emotion, and thrills. Johansson knows how to play Romanoff like the back of her hand and once again to does a solid job. David Harbour and Rachel Weisz are excellent and even though his character is forgettable and his accent is a little shaky, I really enjoyed Ray Winstone’s performance as our villain.
Though for all its fun and entertainment, Black Widow still felt like a consultation prize movie. Of the original Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye are the only ones without solo movies. Hawkeye is getting an upcoming TV show, but that makes sense because he is still alive and he still has a story to be told. But Black Widow’s story ended on Vormir, and that’s where it should have stayed. Black Widow is a movie that should have come out five years ago and it would have made sense and done justice to a beloved character. Instead, it felt like a movie that was forced and unnecessary.
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