Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenle, Ray Winstone, and William Hurt
Director: Cate Shortland
Black Widow is basically the MCU meets Red Sparrow, with a hint of the Bourne movies. It generally follows the Marvel formula, which leads it to be decently entertaining, but also gives it a "going through the motions" vibe: The action scenes are well-done, but not super exciting; The one-liners are amusing, but not funny; and Taskmaster is kinda cool, but just a henchman. It drags a little in the middle too. Florence Pugh is a highlight, but overall, it’s a little paint by-numbers. As a standalone MCU entry, it's better than Captain Marvel, but not as good as Ant-Man.
Black Widow shines when it's a spy thriller with emotional stakes. When leaning into these aspects of Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) life, it feels less like an MCU flick and more like a solid Bourne sequel. Florence Pugh shines every second she's on screen, to the point where Johansson, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz seem like they're supporting her movie. Still, with Johansson leading, Black Widow is a good time, if a bit predictable. But with Pugh next to her, it’s the movie we've been dying to see for two years.
Black Widow can't help but feel a bit like a placeholder due to its setting. Plus, it has a balancing issue that makes it difficult for the film to fully succeed. In the beginning, the action is too frequent; in the middle, there's not enough. It also falls prey to a lack of character development, as Taskmaster isn't particularly compelling as an antagonist. That said, most other things, such as the action, performances, and visual effects, are pretty well in line with Marvel standards, reinforcing that even lesser Marvel is still a damn good time at the movies.