Black Widow – better red than dead (spoiler-free review)

Black Widow
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After a real-world “blip” and over a year since its originally planned release date, Marvel Studio’s Black Widow is finally arriving in theaters (and on Disney+ with Premier Access.) And while the film is opening long after it was first designated, the story takes us back to an even earlier time; a time when it was better to be red than dead – as it were.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

It is a hard job saving the world, and it’s even a tougher job protecting the entire universe; but the hardest job of all is writing reviews of Marvel films without giving away any spoilers. Nevertheless, we’re going to make a valiant attempt to keep the Widow’s secrets secret (and if you’ve seen the BW trailer we’re definitely not giving anything away.)

If you are interested in the Black Widow movie, then you are likely curious as to what Natasha Romanoff was up to between Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Where did she go, what did she do, why did she do it? Her new solo film will answer many of those questions and more.

The movie also takes a close look at Natasha’s Russian/Soviet Red origins and has her meeting up with some old frenemies like Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), who first appeared in Inhumans #5 (1999); Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour), who first appeared in The Avengers #43 (1967); Rick Mason (O-T Fagbenle) who was first seen in Marvel Graphic Novel: Rick Mason, The Agent #1 (1989); Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), whose first appearance was in Marvel Fanfare #11 (1983); and the Taskmaster, who has been around since The Avengers #195 (1980).

The point is that even though most of Black Widow’s audience will come into this story with somewhat fresh eyes, these characters have been around for a long time. Heck, Natasha herself has been with us since she went up against Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #52, back in 1964 (read more in The Avengers: A ‘Widow’ history.)

The new Black Widow film is extremely James Bond-ish and has the former Soviet super-spy globe-hopping to multiple overseas locations to ultimately confront a very Bond-like villain in an exciting, edge-of-your-seat, Bond-influenced climax. This is all a good thing and similar to the way Marvel Studios has approached a few of their films (i.e. the way Captain America: Winter Soldier was an homage to spy thrillers of the Seventies.)  

The cast here is wonderful and Scarlett Johansson is still stunning as the Black Widow; but for me Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova steals the show with her smirky one-liners and sense of humor, not to mention being every bit as badass as Natasha. The two have great chemistry together which makes this a fun buddy-movie of sorts. David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov is also a lot of fun to watch.

Directed by Cate Shortland with a screenplay by Eric Pearson, Black Widow has some great music, some fantastic stunts and an insane final action sequence that… well; let’s just say there is mention of a “Decent Team” in the final credits. Oh and speaking of final credits, you’ll want to stay until they have all run their course to see the famous Marvel end credit scene (and you might want to complete the Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV series on Disney+ so that you are hip to what might be happening.)

Black Widow is not the greatest Marvel film of all time, but it is another fun, wild and action-packed addition to the MCU, and one we’ve been waiting a long time to see.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.