Black Widow (2021) Review
AFTER nearly 18 months, Marvel returns to theatres with their latest superhero blockbuster Black Widow. Although her presence in the cinematic universe is no longer felt following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Natasha's heroine personality is reignited in Black Widow as the film successfully develops her shadowed past; even if it doesn't always stick the landing in key departments.
The film follows Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) between the events of Civil War and Endgame as she is sent information relating to her past from an unknown sender who turns out to be her younger sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). Yelena has uncovered a secret serum which can stop a man by the name of Dreykov (Ray Winstone) from forcibly training young girls to become super spys through means of intense torture; a pain both sisters suffered during their childhoods.
The film begins with a flashback to Natasha and Yelena's childhoods, depicting a suburban life for the sisters with their father Alexei (David Harbour) and mother Melina (Rachel Weisz). This much-needed change of scenery was a breath of fresh air amongst an otherwise explosive universe, however, this is a Marvel movie after all as mere moments later, we are treated to a high-octane car and aeroplane chase before the opening credits roll. For a film attempting to humanise the character of Black Widow, it never gives itself the chance as uninteresting, passionless fight and action sequences ensue, disrupting the movie's highest qualities: familial interactions.
Scarlett Johansson's performance isn't bad in any way, but despite being the star of her own solo movie, she is ironically outshined by Florence Pugh who plays the role of her younger sister Yelena. Pugh continues to prove why she is one of Hollywood's fastest rising actresses as the 25-year-old Oscar nominee delivers an outstanding performance as a younger sibling with an inferiority complex who attempts to mask it with consistently funny humour that never feels overbearing or out of place. In fact, one of the best scenes in the entire movie doesn't involve any explosions or stiff fighting, but rather is a grounded conversation between Johansson and Pugh as the newly-reunited siblings reminisce about the good and bad times, all while Yelena criticises Natasha for embracing her Avengers family rather than attempting to seek out her true family; a valid criticism that felt genuine where no side was wrong.
One of the major reasons this film just didn't do it for me was that it never felt like a "big deal". A major example of this is that all throughout Black Widow, Natasha mentions a mission in Budapest where herself and Hawkeye had to hold off numerous soldiers for days upon days. No flashbacks of this apparently important mission were shown, causing you to think more about that mission, resulting in a severe emotional disconnect that makes you want to watch that Budapest movie rather than the current one you're watching.
Marvel has proven they can succeed in creating more grounded superhero films, whether it be a high school teen comedy or a man that must go through an endless trial in order to redeem himself after losing everything, and while Black Widow nails its emotional moments early on, the film sadly fizzles into mediocrity as lacklustre action and bland stakes turn what could have been a family spy thriller into just another forgettable Marvel movie that feels 5 years too late.