Movie Review: Black Widow

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Daughter.  Sister.  Avenger.  

At long last, the movie that had been postponed for more than a year due to the pandemic and overdue solo for the character of Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, “The Avengers” series, “Captain America: Civil War,” “Captain America: Winter Soldier,“ “Iron Man 2,” “Hail, Caesar!,” “Her“) arrives at the theaters.  Is it still relevant?  Heck, yeah.  

The movie is both an origin and mid-prequel story, taking back to Natasha’s childhood in America and the period of time between “Captain America: Civil War” and ‘”Avengers: Infinity War.”  Along with her younger sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), she’s raised by her Russian parents, Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz, “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” “The Bourne Legacy,” “Runaway Jury”), in a suburban Midwest neighborhood.  Their seemingly idyllic life came to an abrupt halt when one night they had to flee the authorities and make a daring, harrowing escape back to their home country, Russia.

Fast forward to over two decades later, as one of the Avengers that supports Team Cap, Natasha is on the run for refusing to submit to the Sokovia Accords, an international law that requires superheroes to be registered and monitored.  

While in a hideout, Natasha discovers a message and mysterious vials sent to her by her long lost sister, Yelena.  She’s suddenly attacked by a robotic assassin, who is after the vials, and narrowly escapes.  Those red liquid are antidotes that would deprogram trained assassins, mind-controlled by General Dreykov (Ray Winstone, “Snow White and the Huntsman“) a control center called the Red Room.  These young women were trafficked as children, trained in martial arts and weaponry, and embedded in positions all over the world to do his bidding.  

Reunited with her sister, Natasha hears that Dreykov, whom she thought was dead, is still alive and in business.  The assassin-turned-heroine couldn’t help but join in the mission to track down Dreykov, find and destroy the Red Room.  In order to do this, they needed the help of their super soldier father, Alexei.  From there they find their spy mother, Melina, who has surprises of her own.  When the family reunites at the dinner table, it’s a mixed of painful past and quirky humor.  It’s clear that it’s not even a typical dysfunctional family.  

While the plot may be slim, but the emotional core is there and action nearly non-stop, in close quarters and massive set pieces.  From sliding down rooftops and swinging into windows to brutal fights, high speed chases, prison break, avalanche escape and free falls.  There’s also a twist that reminisces  “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” 

The movie not only showcases Natasha’s reformed spirit and heroic action, but also an excellent introduction to Yelena, who may be carrying the Black Widow mantle following Natasha’s fate in “Avengers: Endgame.”  Less polished than her older sister, Yelena certainly has her own charms.  She pokes fun at Natasha’s fighting poses and ribs her about her Avengers family.  Pugh looks like she belongs in the Marvel Universe and if the post-credit scene is any indication, her story may not end here.  

The movie has Mission Impossible’s escapes and Bourne’s hand-to-hand combat wrapped in a Bond’s sleek style.  The parting shot made me feel a bit nostalgic; I will miss Johansson’s Black Widow in the Marvel Universe.  While the movie should have been released several years ago, it’s better late than never.  The character finally has a backstory and a closure, and a potential for her legacy to continue on.  

Copyright (c) 2021. Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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