The world has gone without a Marvel film for over two years. Spider-Man: Far From Home gave us all a tease on how the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would play out. Thankfully, that drought ends now.
Natasha Romanoff—played by Scarlett Johansson—has been a pillar in the MCU since the second Iron Man film, with Marvel fans quickly falling in love with the fierce assassin.
Throughout the first decade of Marvel films, we saw brief glimpses of Natasha’s past. Fanatics have been begging for her solo film, and fortunately, the time has come. Sitting on the cusp of a new age for the MCU, Black Widow is a surprisingly heartfelt reminder of what made us fall in love with Marvel in the first place while finally doing Natasha some long-overdue justice.
On the run
Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, we catch up with Natasha fleeing from the law. She reunites with Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), and the two team up to take down the Red Room once and for all.
The film presents dark, haunting cinematography as it takes the audience all over the world. From warm Cuba to cold Norway and even timeless Budapest, Natasha’s emotional journey is visually conveyed. One will feel the rush thanks to the heart-racing set pieces, masterful explosions, and vigorously choreographed fight sequences. But despite all the intensity, the ounces of signature MCU comedic flair lends a heartwarming tone to the film.
Dangerous young women
Johansson’s portrayal of the titular Black Widow is nothing short of stellar. It builds on the qualities we’ve already seen in Natasha’s characterization from past films: her tenacity and willingness to go to any lengths to protect her family. Black Widow gives Johansson the chance to provide more depth and complexity to Natasha.
Although Pugh is a newcomer to the MCU, she fits like a glove. Her Yelena is charismatic and cunning, often stealing the show. The chemistry between Johansson and Pugh is one of the film’s highlights, and Yelena is an instant fan favorite to watch out for in future MCU outings.
Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) complete Natasha’s family. Serving as the girls’ parent figures, they draw out Natasha’s caring and vulnerable side while also undergoing their emotionally fulfilling arcs.
To the bone
General Dreykov, the film’s big bad, is your quintessential Marvel villain—one that you want to punch through the screen. While his role in the story is a bit cut-and-dried, it makes way for the film’s larger, more impactful themes.
Natasha’s battle becomes so much more than just defeating yet another shadowy organization—it’s symbolic of women’s struggle for agency. There’s even a jab at how the male gaze shaped the previous depictions of Natasha via her trademark pose: “It does look like you think someone is looking at you all the time,” says Yelena.
Director Cate Shortland seamlessly weaves commentaries on human trafficking and the patriarchy into the action-packed plot. After all, is it far-fetched that women’s bodies are used to further greed and personal agenda? It is often the task of women like Romanoff and Belova to work nearly their entire lives to dismantle it.
A better future
The film tells its viewer that, like Natasha, you are more than your past. Despite all of the challenges that come with pain and sorrow, the freedom that you receive in the end is more than worth it.
Black Widow is more than just Natasha Romanoff’s origin story—it’s an allegory for the emancipation of all the women whose lives were stolen. Given the license to kill the very root of her pain and suffering, Natasha is a hope for a better future for girls all over the world. Dead or alive, the Black Widow that is Natasha Romanoff is and always will be a hero.