Natasha Romanoff blasted onto the scene in 2010’s ‘Iron Man 2‘. Her scene-stealing nature led to her becoming a fan-favourite. Naturally, people wanted more and begged Marvel for a solo movie. Eleven years and an unnecessary death scene later, she finally gets her time to shine. Only the movie is constantly shadowed by its strong case against her reason to die in ‘Avengers: Endgame’. ‘Black Widow‘ is literally a counterargument against her own death scene. It’s a love letter to the fact that family is never restricted to blood relations. It’s a deeply personal film (at times) about loss, regret and family yet the MCU ironically treats this movie as her send-off. Need I remind you this is a prequel and Natasha never even got a funeral in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ because apparently, Tony Stark’s sacrifice was much greater than that of Natasha. ‘Black Widow’ is not a send-off, it’s all the reasons she should’ve been the one to stay.
major spoilers for ‘Black Widow’ are featured in this review.
Whether you want to admit it or not, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not the ideal example of how a huge franchise treats its female leads. The singular shirtless scene every male lead has done is nowhere near the outright sexualisation Natasha has faced in the earlier films. The constant need for her to be paired with one of The Avengers was honestly infuriating. The incredibly unnecessary flirting between her and Tony in ‘Iron Man 2’. The insanity that is her and Bruce’s relationship in ‘Age of Ultron’. She was rarely ever treated as an equal to them, she still isn’t. Her movie is coming out after her literal death, it cannot get any worse than that. They didn’t even use this movie as an opportunity to explore Natasha’s morally grey past or her time in the Red Room. Its existence is to introduce new characters and set up future plotlines. It’s actually abysmal that they use her actual death as a jumping-off point for Yelena to appear in Disney Plus’ upcoming ‘Hawkeye‘ show. This never felt like Natasha’s own movie, it feels like a sequel to a movie we should’ve gotten ages ago. It’s actually insane how she’s always the least valued character in every movie she’s in.
Even apart from the outer elements that affect this movie, ‘Black Widow’ is still simply not as great as it could’ve been. The potential for a sophisticated, dark and mature story about a morally grey character who seeks revenge on the man who caused all her trauma was never fully reached. A movie about making your own family and finding a familial presence within a community was also another fantastic idea they teased and yet they always shied away from it. It’s especially frustrating considering they breeze over the horrors Natasha went through in the Red Room over the opening credits. The movie never goes outside the MCU comfort zone, something the Disney Plus shows are doing quite effectively. Its ideas always factor in the fact that Natasha is an established character. While that may be true, all we know about her is stuff we’ve been told. The closest we’ve ever gotten to character development for Natasha is her role in ‘Civil War’. This movie should’ve had a much bigger focus on her. It is very clear that this movie had tons of ideas clearly suited for a more long-form type of entertainment like hmmm… a Disney Plus show. There wasn’t a single character who really got a decent character arc because we didn’t really have a main character and the movie had too many ideas to juggle. It is a goddamn mess, I honestly don’t know how anyone thought this was a fitting send-off.
On a much lighter note, the reason why ‘Black Widow’ is a frustrating watch is that the potential is so evident. The movie has all the pieces and it refuses to utilize them to their highest potential. Scarlett Johansson is once again doing the most with what she’s given. The first act spotlights the despair left from ‘Civil War’ and how deeply it affected Natasha and Johansson nails it. There’s a scene early on where Yelena mentions Tony and Steve and her reaction alone said a thousand words. This movie may not be what we had hoped for but it portrayed Natasha’s brokenness perfectly, even if for a brief time. This is a character who’s lost so much and sadly enough never really experienced any form of emotional security. The Avengers weren’t that good a family and the moment she reconciled with her Widow family, she leaves off to help fight Thanos in ‘Infinity War’ where she loses a whole lot more. Then not only does she die but she obviously doesn’t get to see anyone return or help fight in the grand battle. She finally gets a sense of familial love from Yelena and her Widow family and then the movie takes it away from her. I cannot fathom how badly they treated Natasha.
Overall, I think my inability to maintain a positive tone about this movie speaks for itself. ‘Black Widow‘ is not a horrible movie, it’s definitely one of the more average entries. Despite the lacking focus on its main character, the new addition of Yelena was a much-welcomed surprise. I would consider this Florence Pugh’s movie far more than Johansson’s. She stole this movie with a captivating and charismatic performance and I can’t wait to see her again. The action sequences were fairly slick and entertaining, it was one of the few movies where I actually got excited about an action sequence. The disappointment more so lies in how it never did Natasha Romanoff justice. Just like the other movies, Romanoff is not only sidelined here but she isn’t even given a proper send-off, rendering this movie the final nail in her own coffin.
‘Black Widow’ is now streaming on Disney Plus as well as in theatres.