Written by Luke Barnes
Natasha Romanoff, Scarlet Johansson, returns to fix the mistakes on her past and finally undo the red in her ledger.
The first Marvel release back in cinemas had a lot riding on it, and I think it delivered.
The first thing I will say about this film is that it is very personal. If you are going in looking for the film that will set up the next Avengers this is not it. There is some connective tissue thrown in, but more or less this is quite self-contained. Which I feel is both a good thing and a bad thing, it is good as it allows for Natasha, her story and her world to stand on their own, but it is also bad as it can feel underwhelming at times especially if you go in with crossover expectations.
Moreover, those that did not like Falcon and the Winter Soldier because it was topical and was heavily influenced by racial issues will almost certainly not like this either- but who cares what they think? The beating heart of this film is an angry comment on women’s place not just within the MCU but also in the wider world to, the widows in this film have their literal free will taken away by the villains, they are entirely controlled by the evil man in charge. The commentary isn’t subtle, but it is strikingly accurate, and it does make you aware to how some men/parts of society treat women.
I felt as a swansong for Natasha within the MCU the film works well and gives her ‘final story’ a lot of power and impact to make sure the character goes out on a high. To that end I enjoyed her ‘family’, I thought Florence Pugh was terrific, I don’t like the notion that this is her breakout film as she has been doing great things for a while, but she really knocks it out of the park here and is a scene stealer. Furthermore, David Harbour’s Red Guardian is also a lot of fun and he gets the best jokes in the film. If I had to pick an odd one out of the family quartet it would be Rachel Weisz’s Melina who really doesn’t get much to do and spends a lot of the film as a glorified side character.
Additionally, the film does feature Taskmaster as the film’s sub-villain and though I won’t spoil the identity reveal here, I will say the film flips the character on it’s head and it does not go the way you are expecting. Personally, as someone who is a fan of the comics Taskmaster character I found the new version this film gives us to be sorely lacking, but you know what they say about villains in the MCU.
In terms of the wider big bad of the film that role goes to Ray Winstone’s Dreykov. As a sleezy tough guy type the role is perfectly cast, Winstone doesn’t get a huge amount to do when he is on screen beyond generally being evil, but he does manage to leave an impact. In that regard I just want to say that this may be at times one of the darkest films in the MCU so far, and the opening sequence of the sisters early days in the Black Widow program is particularly troubling, child friendly? I honestly don’t think so.
There is a post credits scene at the end of the film, and it sees Julia Louise Dreyfus’s character from the aforementioned Falcon and the Winter Soldier return to recruit Pugh’s Yelena to go after ‘the man who murdered her sister’, as I predicted setting up for a clash between her and Hawkeye in his Disney + series later this year.
Overall, a strong return to the cinema for Marvel though one that is not without issues.
The social commentary
The poignant emotional goodbye
The new characters established
The post credits scene
Slightly underwhelming at times
Taskmaster and the return of Marvel’s issue with villains
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