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Review of Marvel suoerhero flick, origin story of ‘Black Widow’
‘BLACK Widow’ is the origin story of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), who already disintegrated in “Avengers: Endgame”. But this movie shows her history before she became an Avenger. It starts in 1995, when she was still a little girl.
She and another girl, Yelena Belova, pretend to be the kids of Russian spies Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour of “Stranger Things”), a super soldier, and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), a topnotch scientist. You’d think they’re a typical American family, but they are actually undercover spies out to steal some intel.
The opening sequence shows them in a daring escape to Cuba. Their Russian boss, Gen. Dreykov (Ray Winstone), take Natasha and Yelena to train them as spies known as Black Widow. They got separated from each other as kids and Natasha grows up as Scarlett while Yelena grows up to be the spunky British actress, Florence Pugh (“Little Women”, “Midsommar”).
Scarlett later betrays Dreykov, bombing his lair in Budapest, killing his daughter Antonia and later becoming an Avenger. Yelena becomes a spy belonging to the elite Black Widow group of killers and gets to kill a former colleague who gives her a gas. Before the agent dies, she gives Yelena an antidote to the mind-controlling drug used by Dreykov to suppress the free will of their agent widows to turn them into ruthless assassins.
She eventually reunites with her long lost “sister”, Natasha, and reveals to her the truth that she did not really succeed in killing Dreykov and he’s actually still in his lair called the Red Room. They have misgivings with each other at first, but eventually combine forces to get Dreykov.
But first, they have to help their former dad, Shostakov, to escape from prison and then they go their former mom in Russia, Vostokoff, who uses intelligent pigs in her experiments in a farm. They then fly to Dreykov’s Red Room, which turns to be a facility up in the clouds.
There, his secret weapon is his own daughter Antonia (Olga Kurylenko), who turns out to still be alive and has been transformed into a deadly robot known as the Taskmaster. This starts the film’s lengthy action-packed climax.
The film works well both as a slambang espionage thriller and a high octane super hero flick with a kick-ass heroine. The film can stand alone and you don’t have to see past Avenger movies with Black Widow in them. The director is a woman, Aussie filmmaker Cate Shortland, and she certainly delivers when it comes to coming up with dynamic, well-conceived and well executed action set pieces that go all guns blazing, even if it’s a face-to-face brawl between Black Widow and Taskmater or over-the-top high velocity action spectacles involving airplanes.
There’s outstanding chemistry between Natasha and Yelena as long lost sisters and they excel not only in the action scenes but also in the acting scenes. Pugh nearly steals the film with her vibrant persona and she’s hilarious when she needles Natasha as a “total poser”, mocking her sister how she poses in her familiar fight stance complete with hair flipping. The preview at the end credits shows Pugh looking like she’s about to star in her own superhero movie after debuting in this one.
Not to be outdone are Harbour and Weisz as the parents. They certainly have their own moments and are apparently having a blast in being part of this movie. Harbour is fat and disheveled all throughout and has a couple of very funny scenes, like him singing “American Pie”. Also effective is Ray Winstone as the menacing main villain, Dreykov.
But of course, the film still belongs to Scarlett as the title-roler. She’s obviously very committed to the role with her lovely charisma as the well liked Marvel character helping her carry the day. She’s compelling reason enough not to miss this film. And looks like she’s not going to return anymore as “Black Widow” as she has sued Marvel for releasing the movie on HBO to help boost its streaming service, which she says is not stipulated in her contract with them.