A review of the new super-hero movie “Black Widow”

I’m a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and I’ve seen virtually all the previous 24 movies in the franchise, but these films have been released over a period of 13 years and I’ve only seen each offering once at the cinema on its release, so I struggle to remember all the cross-linkages – not helped by the fact that the stories told in the (now) 25 movies are not presented in chronological order. And this time I was viewing the production with someone who was totally new to the MCU (I know …).

In fact, this is the ninth outing for Natasha Romanoff – aka the eponymous Black Widow – played by the wonderful Scarlett Johansson, but all was well because effectively this is a stand-alone origin story and so welcome after its release was postponed for a year by the global pandemic. And we saw it in IMAX which was a blast.

The movie has a female director, Australian Cate Shortland, and three leading roles for women, so it could be seen as the most feminist of the franchise, except that the robot-like army of women fighters is not exactly an advertisement for female empowerment.

After an exciting opening segment showing Natasha as a child, we jump to a time after “Captain America: Civil War” and before “Avengers: Infinity War”. Natasha is now a fully-fledged Avenger, while her ‘sister’ Yelena (an excellent performance by the British Florence Pugh) is now herself a Black Widow who wants to team up with her sibling to bring down the notorious General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and his evil plan to control the world via a network of ‘widows’ who are lobotomised and given forced hysterectomies (the ultimate misogynist?).

The plot is all rather silly (why are there these red vials that are the antidote to the lobotomisation?) and there is more than a hint of James Bond villainy around (references to “Moonraker” especially), but there are lots of thrilling fight and chase sequences, some huge explosions, and touches of humour, making for a very satisfying addition to the franchise and a final farewell to Natasha.

But, of course, the franchise rolls on and an end-of-credits sequence sets us up for “Hawkeye”. I’ll be there …


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