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August 8, 2021

One of the weaker chapters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Black Widow is an uneven send-off to a vital Avenger.

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Black Widow   ☆☆☆

Staring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz

Directed by Cate Shortland

Tagline: She’s done running from her past.

Natasha Romanoff and her indestructible plot armour breeze their way through Black Widow, Marvel’s latest superhero caper that seems to have been designed not just to entertain (which it does) but also to give your suspension of disbelief skills a workout (which it very thoroughly does).

The movie – the unveiling of which was delayed numerous times due to the ongoing pandemic – is set after the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016) and would have probably seemed more essential had its release shared a closer proximity to the Steve Rogers adventure.

The film reunites us with Natasha (portrayed, once again, by the lovely Scarlett Johansson) and sheds light on her backstory by introducing us to her so-called family: super-soldier Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and scientist Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) – the Russian operatives who raised Nat and her surrogate sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) for three years when they were kids before handing them over to the brutal Red Room for training.

Some two decades later, an unexpected contact from Yelena ends up bringing the quartet back together, as Natasha goes on the hunt for a long-time adversary: Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the mind-controlling head of the Red Room who has been brainwashing women and turning them into assassins.

As the heroine sets off to dismantle the very program that created her while handling fitful family drama, the film struggles to find a cohesive tone that could bring these two elements together effectively. These aren’t the most exciting or convincing action set pieces we have seen in the MCU while the attempts at family bonding feel forced.

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Coming from the high of Endgame, the stakes also seem awfully low this time around. That could have potentially worked in the film’s favour – an intimate spy thriller that gently dissects a much-loved character – but here, the script and story are too weak to achieve any of that.

It’s the central character and another on-point performance by the lead (who is currently in a legal battle with Disney over her contract for this title) that keeps things interesting. We are already invested in Nat’s tale which makes it hard to pass on the chance to spend a little more time with her.

As it stands, Black Widow is still an enjoyable popcorn flick built around an intriguing character and powered by some solid acting performances. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that Marvel missed a chance by not giving Black Widow her own solo movie sooner. And even if she were to get one post-Endgame, Nat could have had a more satisfying send-off (presuming this is one; with superhero sagas, you never know). A highly trained super assassin’s past must definitely hold a more exciting tale than this.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

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