Browsing through the reviews of “Black Widow,” there’s one thing critics agree on: Natasha Romanoff should have had a solo adventure years ago.
Part origin story, part swan song, the film explodes with kinetic fight scenes and nimble transitions between spy thriller and family comedy. “Black Widow” is likely to be the last Scarlett Johansson fans will see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her character’s fate was sealed in “Avengers: Endgame,” making the film’s stakes seemingly nonexistent and giving the film a bittersweet melancholy.
“Black Widow” is set in the space between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War”, giving the audience a thorough explanation of the titular hero’s whereabouts after he went on the run from authorities for violating the Sokovia Accords.
While hiding, Natasha meets her “sister” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a fellow member of the Red Room, a top-secret Soviet brainwashing and training program. The pair enlist their “parents,” two Soviet spies who acted as the girls’ father and mother during a mission in the 1990s to dismantle the Black Widow program that turned them into assassins.
The film will hit theaters Friday after a 14-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s possible it will rack up its highest opening weekend ticket sales since the health crisis closed theaters for months last year. Advanced ticket sales have moved quickly, according to Fandango.
It will also be available for an additional fee through Disney+ Premiere Access.
Disney’s “Black Widow” currently has an 82% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes out of 213 reviews. Here’s what critics had to say:
Angie Han, Mashable
“Black Widow” is “blessed with both muscular action and endearing warmth,” Angie Han wrote in her review of the film for Mashable.
“With relatively few superpowers or even super gadgets in play, the action sequences tend more towards the kind of vehicle chases and hand-to-hand combat you might see from a Mission: Impossible or James Bond movie, as opposed to the more overtly fantastical displays. from a Thor or Spider-Man movie,” she said. “It’s for the better.”
Han praised the film’s action sequences, but noted that the climatic final action sequence follows a similar path to previous Marvel features. Namely, the presence of a “hugely expensive but disappointingly generic set piece that flattens out any nuance or complexity into a simple good-versus-bad frame.”
The action is balanced by the family dynamic between Natasha, her “sister” Yelena, and her “parents,” played by Rachel Weisz and David Harbour.
“You can just discern the shape of a family when you squint, which of course is the part that hurts enough to care deeply about what eventually becomes of all these people and their relationships,” Han wrote.
Read the full review of Mashable.
Dana Stevens, Slate
Dana Stevens describes herself as a “theatre-loving but generally Marvel-indifferent viewer.” So when she says that “Black Widow” is “an unexpectedly welcome reminder of why big screens and comic book superheroes go together so well,” it holds the weight.
Stevens praised the dynamic between Johannsson and Pugh, who show real sibling chemistry on and off screen.
“Johansson brings new layers of vulnerability and self-doubt to a character who has been given little to do but hold those poses for too long,” Stevens wrote. While Pugh proves she’s the casting directors’ golden girl for a reason, she can capture every emotion from grim determination to childish neediness and explode off the screen with energy in the action sequences, all while speaking with a Russian accent. That while I can’t speak to its exact fidelity to the real thing, it’s both believable and consistent throughout the film.”
A post-credits stinger with Pugh as Yelena, signaling that the young starlet will return in future installments of the MCU.
“I think for the first time in years I can say about a Marvel property that the next chapter can’t come soon enough,” Stevens said.
Read the full Slate review.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
“Black Widow” may be Natasha Romanoff’s first Marvel film, but it’s more of an ensemble piece, Matt Singer writes in his review for ScreenCrush.
“Pugh’s Yelena” [is] the co-lead and [the] character who undergoes the most significant arc over the course of the story,” he said. “Once Harbor and Weisz are added to the mix, they all steal scenes from Johansson, who retains an air of stunned detachment as the solid centerpiece of this surreal family reunion.”
“‘Black Widow’ acts less as a showcase for the title character and more as a sneaky introduction to Pugh, who is ridiculously hilarious as the deeply cynical Yelena,” he added.
For those wondering whether to pay a ticket and go to the theater or pay $30 to watch “Black Widow” at home, Singer reminds readers that Marvel’s budget for its theatrical releases is much higher than its Disney+ productions. .
“If you’re a little short on the action in Marvel’s small-screen productions, you shouldn’t have that problem here,” he said. “There’s a reason Disney has waited all this time to release the film. Obviously, it wasn’t cheap to produce.”
Read the full ScreenCrush review.
Clarisse Loughrey, independent
The film’s action sequences, emotional undertones and brutal comedic moments are overshadowed by one question: why is Marvel telling this story now?
In the wake of “Avengers: Endgame”, Disney has released three Marvel shows on its streaming platform. Each has covered the aftermath of the Avengers’ fight with Thanos and explored what happens next. “Black Widow” returns. The only forward-thinking moment is a post-credits scene that suggests Yelena will take on the mantle of Natasha in future MCU adventures.
“Of all the heroes in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow deserves the greatest apology from its creators,” Clarisse Loughrey wrote in her review of the film for Independent.
Over the course of a decade, she’s been treated like a figure to salivate (the actor herself has criticized the hypersexualization of her character in 2010’s ‘Iron Man 2’), dubbed a monster for inability to get pregnant, then leave murdered without even the dignity of a funeral in ‘Avengers: Endgame,'” she wrote.
“The Russian cop with steel thighs, emotionally bruised, otherwise known as Natasha Romanoff, has been hollowed out like a china doll year after year by writing bad screenplays… Now, after all this time, she finally has her own movie.”
Like many critics, Loughrey’s review points out that “Black Widow,” while a welcome addition to the MCU, “has come a little too late.”
Read the full Independent review.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.