Black Widow ★★★★
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone
After two long years without a cinema release for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the franchise has finally released its 24th feature film. And although the Disney+ TV shows have given us a little dose of that Marvel magic, Black Widow gives us the kick we've been desperately missing.
Set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow focuses on the on-the-run life that Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) has lead. With an insight into her family and past included, an expert cast was assembled to support her. That family is made up of Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz.
All three actors are brilliantly charming. They slip into the MCU's style with ease; Harbour through its comedy and Weisz through its twisting narrative. It is Florence Pugh as Yelena however that steals the show. She is unbelievably charismatic and will be an excellent addition to the regulars at Marvel, should they choose to use her again.
The film doesn't feel like a trip back down the Marvel quantum tunnel for a while, as its slow start gradually introduces you to new characters and different beats. Because of this, Johansson doesn't appear on screen soon enough, and it's not until she does that the universe feels familiar. Quirky decisions are made in that opening act however and they are clear and undeviating visions from director Cate Shortland (though an opening credits song still feels a bold choice to me). But that individuality in style seems to slip away slightly as more of the classic Marvel tropes enter the fold.
Nonetheless this is striving to be its own entity, and in that it succeeds. With a villain as evil as they come, action set pieces looking as good as ever and finally real triumph and belief in Scarlet Johansson's assassin Natasha, the originality makes this an enjoyable standalone film.
The next phase of the MCU is now underway; and although it feels a cheat for the character to have this gifted to them as a prequel instead of including it in the chronological release plan, what this film adds canonically to the character and who it's added to the universe, can only be praised. By the end credits those MCU taste buds are tingling, and a great female-lead superhero action film has explosively graced the big screen.
Black Widow available in cinemas now and on Disney+ with premier access for £19.99