Black Widow (USA, 2021)

In her final outing, we get a “bridge” film to see what happened to Natasha Romanoff after the events of Captain America: Civil War, but before Avengers: Infinity War.

Due to her actions at the Berlin airport, “Black Widow” Natasha Romanoff is now wanted for betraying the Sokovia Accords. She evades Secretary of State Ross and heads to Europe. Her plan is to go to Budapest and find her sister, Yelena Belova. Yelena and Natasha were once members of an elite Russian assassin force who trained in an area known as the Red Room. While Natasha had escaped, Yelena was an elite assassin until a mission in Morocco and the creation of an antidote against the mind control drug Yelena had been under causes her to revert to normail.

Returning to Russia, Natasha and Yelena discover that their adoptive father, Alexei Shostakov, who was the former Soviet Union equivalent of Captain America known as the Red Guardian, is now in a gulag. Natasha and Yelena successfully rescue Alexei and the trio looks for the girls’ adoptive mother, Melina. However, on their trail is the creator of the Red Room, General Dreykov, and his greatest weapon yet, the Taskmaster, who has the ability to mimic anyone he comes across.

For her final film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scarlett Johansson triumphantly returns as “Black Widow” Natasha Romanoff despite her fate being sealed in Avengers: Endgame. Instead, the script by Eric Pearson, based on a story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson, bridges the gap between Civil War and Infinity War, as the story revolves around the origin of Romanoff as well as introducing us to her “family” and for our protagonist, a possible shot at redemption after regret.

Johansson once again shines as Romanoff, who we see first forced to evade the authorities for her turnaround role in the big Civil War rumble scene. Florence Pugh, fresh off a stellar year of films including Midsommar and Fighting with My Family, is excellent as Yelena, a young stalwart who proves she can almost as lethal as her big sister. However, what stands out with Yelena is that she has the mind of a little sister, someone who can be rash and in a very emotional dinner scene, learns the truth about her family and is just miserable. David Harbour provides some laughs as the former svelte and now somewhat rotund Red Guardian. His character is reminiscent of Thor in the Endgame aftermath while Rachel Weisz shows that years after her action stint in The Mummy, can still throw down as the matriarch Melina.

O-T Fagbenie provides a little comic relief as well in the role of Mason, who becomes sort of like Romanoff’s equivalent to Q of the James Bond films but more of a private contractor role. Ray Winstone is salaciously evil as General Dreykov, who once championed the Red Guardian, This comes after the opening shows a young Natasha and Yelena escaping to Cuba with a more svelte and clean-shaven Andrei and Melina, who looks ageless here. It should be noted that the daughter of actor Milla Jovovich and director Paul W.S. Anderson plays the young Natasha in the opening sequence. Of course, Dreykov is revealed to be one of our two main villains as he is the mastermind behind the Red Room, where Natasha and Yelena trained to be the elite assassins they are today. Only his intentions are clearer to prove his dominance over the world.

Which brings us to the piece de resistance. The villain known as the Taskmaster. Sporting a look that differentiates from the original comic design, this villain does follow the abilities of their comic counterpart. From the moment we see Natasha face off against Taskmaster and this is within the first 20 minutes of the film, you know this is going to be a villain worth watching. When the villain reveals itself in the second half of the film, the identity is extremely jaw-dropping and goes perfect with the story.

Black Widow isn’t a perfect MCU film as it does deviate from the timeline with no fault. However, the film does take a final look at one of the original Avengers with great performances by Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh (who looks to now be taking the mantle of the Black Widow as seen in a post-credit scene that explains her involvement in an upcoming Disney+ series).

WFG RATING: B+

A Marvel Studios production. Director: Cate Shortland. Producer: Kevin Feige. Writer: Eric Pearson; story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson. Cinematography: Gabriel Beristain. Editing: Matthew Schmid and Leigh Folsom Boyd.

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, O-T Fagbenie, Ever Anderson, Violet McGraw, William Hurt, Olga Kurylenko, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Michelle Lee, Liani Samuel.

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