Black Widow (2021)

Yesterday, my wife and I watched the new Black Widow movie, which I have to say, we both really enjoyed! It’s a prequel of sorts, taking place shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and the fracture of the Avengers. It struck me as a little bit odd, coming out now rather than at the time, but this is a film that has been in the works, to some degree, for years.

Here be spoilers…

It’s obviously not an origin movie, as we had a lot of that for Natasha in Age of Ultron, but it still manages to give us a similar sort of feel all the same. We get a short flashback at the very start, where we see Natasha and her family, before flashing forward to the “present day”, and Natasha is out on her own once again. After a run-in with Taskmaster, who (it turns out) is after her for some vials she is unwittingly carrying. The vials came from her “sister”, Yelena Belova, and when the two meet up in Budapest it transpires that the vials contain an antidote to the chemical controls used on the Widows by the Red Room. Natasha, who believed the Red Room destroyed when she and Hawkeye assassinated General Dreykov in Budapest, teams up with Yelena to put an end to Dreykov’s control once and for all.

In order to get to Dreykov, they break out Alexei Shostakov from prison – their “father” and 1980s Soviet super soldier. He guides them to Melina Vostokoff, their “mother”, former Widow herself and currently working for Dreykov as a scientist. Melina alerts the Red Room, and all four are taken prisoner, however it soon transpires that Melina is trying to help Natasha bring Dreykov down. The Red Room is revealed to be a floating facility anchored near St Petersburg. Dreykov reveals that both he and his young daughter survived the bomb attack, although he was forced to use technology to keep her alive as the Taskmaster. Dreykov calls all the Widows to help him take down Natasha, but Yelena has recovered more antidote and deploys it just in time. Melina manages to disable one of the engines keeping the Red Room aloft, though fortunately they are all able to escape, Yelena killing Dreykov in the process.

Everybody goes their separate ways, Natasha heading off to help her fellow Avengers. In the post-credits scene, Yelena visits Natasha’s grave and meets her handler, La Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who tells her the next target is Hawkeye, who she says is to blame for Natasha’s death.

I really liked this, as I said at the start. It is pretty much classic Marvel movie, with plenty of action but also a lot of humour. I think the dynamic of dysfunctional family that is used throughout the latter stages of the film really helps with this, though also having the character of Yelena being a bit sassy and stuff was a nice touch. She has a lot of time with Natasha, of course, and I particularly liked the back-and-forth they have over superhero poses. I believe Yelena is being set up to take over the mantle of Black Window in future MCU outings, starting with Hawkeye. I haven’t yet seen any more series’ since WandaVision back at the start of the year, so I definitely need to catch up here. Especially since we have the magnificent Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the role of the Contessa! That was lovely, I have to say.

David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov was almost light relief really, though the film worked really well having so much light relief – even if some of these moments were coming from a dark place. Rachel Weisz as Melina was also a very solid choice, it was interesting to see her in that kind of mother-figure role, after having been in so many action films herself back in the day. In the middle of all the dark humour though, Scarlett Johansson cuts a much more serious figure, as she takes on her personal crusade against Dreykov in an attempt to free the “enslaved” Widows under his control.

There is of course a lot of action as well, with the destruction of the Red Room at the end reminding me a lot of the helicarrier stuff at the end of Captain America 2 – intentional? I don’t know. The earlier film gave us a lot of Natasha, after all. While Black Widow is less the spy movie that Cap 2 manages to be, and more straightforward revenge flick, we do get some elements of espionage to keep us on our toes.

It was really great to finally be able to sit down and watch a Black Widow solo movie, something that I don’t think I’d been expecting after the bumpy road over the last 16 years of its genesis. While perhaps not as tortured as Spider-Man, this is nevertheless a character who was fought over before coming into the MCU for Iron Man 2 back in 2010. She’s popped up in so many of these films since, with some serious parts to play, that I’m just so thrilled that she finally gets her own movie.

I don’t want to get into the whole “female superhero thing”, because people far more eloquent than I have already discussed such things going back to Captain Marvel and before. But suffice it to say, there really was no need for it to have taken this long for a solo film to be made. Black Widow was established as an Avengers headliner back in 2012, after all. I did kinda like the way she was becoming a bit like Nick Fury though, where she had a significant part to play in any film she was in, but like Hawkeye, she wasn’t destined for her own movie. But as time went on, it kinda went beyond the joke. I mean, she was a huge part of Winter Soldier, after all. However, we’ve got her movie at long last, and it’s great. It still feels a bit odd that it’s essentially out of sequence, being released as the first movie in Phase Four while taking place shortly after the film which launched Phase Three. But I guess that’s just me being weird!

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