MOVIE REVIEWS

REVIEW: ‘Black Widow’ An Outstanding & Exciting Return To Marvel Cinematic Universe

Jul 9, 2021, 5:51 AM | Updated: 10:25 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The long wait is finally over for fans wanting to see another Marvel Cinematic Universe film on the big screen. It’s been over two years since the box office juggernaut “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” brought Phase 3 of the MCU to a close.  Though there has been some small-screen action on Disney+ to tide us over (“WandaVision,” “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” and the currently-ongoing “Loki” series), the big screen experience has been sorely missed.

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff in Marvel’s “Black Widow.”

Black Widow” was supposed to be the first event of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Because of COVID-19 and postponements, it is now the fourth event—though it is the first movie.  Fortunately, “Black Widow” doesn’t feel out of place on the timeline at all. In fact, it stands very strong in its own right.

“Black Widow” is a story centered specifically around one of the original members of the cinematic Avengers teams, Natasha Romanoff. The movie mostly takes place following the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” though there are some flashbacks to earlier parts of her life.

Romanoff, played once again by Scarlett Johansson, is on the run as a fugitive when some people from darker parts of her past resurface. It forces her to confront the consequences of some of the choices she’s made over the years as both a Russian spy, which she was before defecting to the good side, and even as an Avenger.

We learn more about Romanoff’s past, including that she lived in America in the 1990’s as part of a sleeper Russian spy “family,” and it’s those characters with whom she deals in this film, namely: Her “sister” Yelena Belova, played superbly by Florence Pugh; her “dad” Alexei, played by Stranger ThingsDavid Harbour and her “mom” Milena, played by Rachel Weisz.

Director Cate Shortland, who Scarlett Johanssen personally convinced to take the job, and writers Eric Pearson, Jac Shaeffer and Ned Benson wisely chose to keep the story mostly self-contained, with very little connecting to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is a post-credits scene that ties into the larger Marvel Universe but that’s about it — and that’s not a bad thing.

As with so many Marvel movies, the casting is perfect once again, particularly the choice to bring in Pugh and Harbour. They both play very compelling characters and seem so natural in their roles that you immediately want to see more of them. I thought the best scenes of the movie are when the four main cast members are just interacting with each other, especially one particular scene around a dinner table.

Harbour’s Alexei was the Soviet Union’s version of Captain America during the Cold War, called the Red Guardian, and he plays him with a wistful nostalgia for the things his super-strong character did in the past, and regret for some things he didn’t do.  Pugh is getting some buzz nationally as a potential award nominee for her role.

All of the actors are helped by a story that moves with a quick pacing that reminded me of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”:  Action scene, followed by a moment to breathe, followed by a chase or more action, then repeat that sequence throughout the film.

Speaking of the action sequences, they are expertly done here, as you’d expect from a Marvel movie. You’ll see a variety of different things — hand-to-hand combat, stunt driving, chases through exotic locations, an exciting sequence involving a helicopter and another mid-air, gravity-and-laws-of-physics-defying battle.

“Black Widow” is rated PG-13 for language and violence, including some blood. There are also some sequences of mind control, which some people might find disturbing. The film runs two hours and 20 minutes long, but it didn’t feel to me like it dragged at all, and I watched it twice.

It’s the 24th movie in the Marvel franchise, so if you’re wondering which other films in the series you ought to watch first, I’d suggest “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

So is “Black Widow” worth the extra year’s wait?  Absolutely yes! I think this is worthy of the top 10 of the 24 Marvel films so far and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.  Any skepticism I had going into the movie was gone shortly after Florence Pugh and David Harbour showed up and I can’t wait to hopefully see them in future Marvel projects.

“Black Widow” is an outstanding and exciting return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a great way to kick off Phase 4.

If you want to see the movie you’ve got two options. It is playing in theaters (including IMAX showings) and some analysts expect it to set a pandemic box office record, but you can also stream it through Disney+ Premier. Be warned, it will cost you a one-time, additional fee of $30 on top of your monthly Disney+ subscription to watch “Black Widow” at home, but you will have unlimited access to it.

Regular subscribers to Disney+ will have to wait until Oct. 6 before it becomes available for them to stream.

FINAL RATING: THREE & A HALF OUT OF FOUR STARS


Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth is the movie and pop culture guy for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out some of his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.

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REVIEW: ‘Black Widow’ An Outstanding & Exciting Return To Marvel Cinematic Universe