Black Widow [Review]

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) as Black Widow in Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2020.

More than ten years since her introduction in Iron Man 2, Natasha Romanoff finally gets her solo film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe that she has long been part of. A long-overdue film that was delayed multiple times because of the pandemic, even being forced to arrive on Disney+ with Premiere Access because of it, a first for Marvel films, Black Widow is long overdue and yet, fails to stick the landing, or at least, stumble to it.

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) must confront the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

Taking place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow tries to be an origin story for Natasha, and Yelena (Florence Pugh) to an extent, but it also tries to feel in the blanks of what happened between Civil War and Infinity War. The problem with this film is that there are no stakes. Because it takes place between two films that we have seen, we know Natasha makes it to Infinity War, we even know what happens to her past that film. So we always know that nothing truly can happen to her, even when she seems to be in danger, we never have any fears that she might be in trouble since we know where she is going in the future.

(R): Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Bad CGI is my Achilles heel, I just can’t stand it. I always get distracted and end up passing too long just wondering how a studio that spends so much money, not take more time and gives the artists that do it time to get their craft perfect. And even with the incredible delays to the film with the pandemic, it is a shame that this film is brought down with the very bad CGI. It’s a film that should have great moments, explosions and all, and yet, it is brought down so much by the clear cuts that were made around the CGI, even when they are on a plane, it is clear that this is a green screen. It’s a shame because Marvel loves to have these big action set pieces that are surrounded by CGI and because of that, Black Widow just fails to be this epic film that it wants to be.

But where the film really shines are in the emotional moments and characters, especially with the relationship between Natasha and Yelena. Natasha never had the big emotional moments that other Avengers had, yes, she had some here and there, but this film lets us see who she was and how she became the spy we know. The film understands that because they are exploring the Red Room and the Widow mythology, they need to give everyone big moments. Except, Florence Pugh steals the film right from under Scarlett Johansson’s feet. There isn’t a moment when she isn’t on screen that she doesn’t steal the show, from her comedic timing, I will need Florence to be in comedies because her deadpan replies had me in tears, but also with her control of the emotional moments. 

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff and Florence Pugh as Yelena in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sure, Johansson gets them and succeeds at making us feel for Natasha, but there isn’t a moment where she isn’t surpassed by Pugh. It’s a shame because this was supposed to be Natasha’s big film, her big moment, and yet, it truly doesn’t feel like her film. Because of how the film was promoted, it had been known for a while that Yelena would take over the Widow mantle in the MCU following her first appearance in this film. And this is exactly why this film just can’t stick its landing. Because it acts as a double origin story, taking away from what should have been Natasha’s big moment and instead, it gives Yelena so many moments that in the end, it just never feels like Natasha’s film.

Rachel Weisz and David Harbour don’t get a lot to do, but they do the most with the little they have. Harbour is clearly there to be the butt of the joke, with Alexei’s obsession over Captain America and this idea that he is his nemesis being the recurring joke, but Rachel Weisz is the one who had the most interesting character as Melina, an older Black Widow who had been in the grasp of the Red Room for longer than anyone, her own trauma being barely touched on and yet, Weisz is capable of selling this concept with just a few words and looks.

Black Widow is good. I wouldn’t say it is the best the MCU has been, but hidden in there is a base of a good film. The chemistry between Johansson and Pugh alone is enough to make it worth it, adding Rachel Weisz and David Harbour to it makes it a film that is surprisingly touching. But, even then, because of the low stakes and our knowledge that there is no chance for them to not make it out, the film just never feels thrilling, pairing that with the subpar CGI, you find yourself with a film that is fine by the end.

(I will say that the post-credit scene had me screaming, so just for that scene, the film was worth it.)