Here comes your friendly neighbourhood Black Widow and while we're at it, we'll throw in several other Black Widows to accompany Natasha Romanoff. Scarlett Johansson returns (or we return to her, considering the timeline) as the titular character but this time she finally gets her solo movie for all the superhero poses and leg scissors that your brain can handle while Cate Shortland lands the directorial duties and Eric Pearson pens the script.
Taking place between the events of 'Captain America: Civil War' and 'Avengers: Infinity War', Natasha has gone off the radar and arrives in gloomy, opaque Norway to lay low for a while. Soon after she hears from her former fake sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) which leads to them plotting a plan to stop the Black Widow program's leader Dreykov (Ray Winstone), breaking out their former father-figure Alexei/Red Guardian (David Harbour) from a Russian prison before meeting with mother-figure Melina (Rachel Weisz) for atypical family adventure.
Fitting for the Norwegian landscapes, the film starts out with a heavy Nordic noir feel in its initial setup which was not only surprising but also suitable knowing where Natasha is at as a character. In that section, there is also the film's second best action scene which is then immediately bested by the first reunion between Natasha and Yelena, showcasing some excellent fight choreography and stunt work.
From there on out, it's pretty clear that Pugh and Johansson are the driving force behind the film as their screen chemistry is great, shared humour lands (nice banter about Natasha's poses for example) and the characters feel like they've been here before. Pugh's prominence is a bit hard to evaluate since while she's the one who really shines, some of it does come with a cost of less focus on Natasha. During all that, the noir aspect however has been thrown out and the MCU formula has started to kick in, a little bit for better but mostly for worse.
At some point you begin to feel like someone got tired of slowly turning the gears and decided to hit the glowing red ''Marvel-ise'' button which is when the film stops paying off those character developments we see in the beginning. Notably the action in the final third is the weakest part, resolving to mindless and digital-double-filled mayhem instead of something more grounded and dangerous to which the setup alluded to.
Dryakov is rather dull as the villain and his sidekick Taskmaster is underdeveloped, that combined with generic action creates the environment where nothing feels to be at stake so you're not all that invested in the ''Romanoff family''. Throughout the film, Harbour gets the great comedic moments alongside Pugh but the family aspect never rises up to be substantial which then leaves Weisz outside altogether, despite her strengths as an actor. Because of all this, Black Widow comes off as slightly insignificant as the filmmaking (costumes, score, camera work) is also just competent enough, it's the actors—mainly Pugh and Johansson, Harbour comedically—who make the material much more interesting than what it actually is.
Smileys: Florence Pugh, Scarlett Johansson
Stick around for the whole review for this rather pointless after-Frowneys scene, that will tell you that more reviews are coming, even though you already knew that.