After a delay of more than a year, audiences are finally going to get to see the newest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow, and the question that everyone has to be asking right now is whether or not it was worth the wait. A forgettable but watchable thriller lacking in inspired action, there are some strong moments here but it isn’t to the quality of the recent output of the MCU.
Set between the events of Civil War and Infinity War, the film follows superspy Natasha Romanoff as she unearths a conspiracy with ties to her mysterious past. It’s a relatively bland espionage thriller storyline, and the only thing that really distinguishes it from a generic Russian spy flick is its ties to the Marvel lore.
For the most part, the movie is relatively predictable as it is building to a big reveal and final battle at the end. However, both of these things are quite anticlimactic. It’s nice to see a Marvel film like this have much lower stakes in which the fate of the world doesn’t lie on the hero’s shoulders, but they needed to build excitement some other way.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the movie is that the action is horribly generic. This film takes on a new genre that is much darker and more serious than a lot of what the MCU has done to date, but in terms of fight sequences, it’s relatively plain hand-to-hand combat and gunplay. And the movie’s attempts to infuse humor are quite atrocious.
It’s nice to see that director Cate Shortland was able to give the film a visual style that feels distinctive from the rest of the MCU, with some great use of the sterilized environments, but the script doesn’t give her a whole lot of room to do her thing. For better or worse, it’s a very formal and self-serious movie.
Spin-off solo films typically exist to take existing characters deeper or in new directions, but this movie does not do anything particularly interesting with the Black Widow character. It’s simply an opportunity for the character to go on a solo mission, and her arc is pretty much the same as it has been in other entries. Additionally, the new characters, especially villain Taskmaster, feel entirely wasted.
The ensemble for this film is really great, although they don’t do anything particularly stellar. Scarlett Johannson is doing the same thing that she has always done in the franchise. Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh are both really talented, but their performances feel very half-baked. The only person who is firing on all cylinders here is David Harbour, who is fun to watch but seemingly out-of-place.
If it weren’t a Marvel movie, Black Widow would have come and gone rather quickly. It’s a competently-shot but frustratingly dull movie that could have represented a new direction for the MCU but is really just a self-contained and unimpressive one-off.
Black Widow hits theaters and Disney+ via Premier Access on July 9.