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Review: Despite some missteps, Marvel's 'Black Widow' is a fun summer action movie

Scarlett Johansson is shown as the titular character in Marvel's "Black Widow," which opens in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on Friday, July 9, 2021.

Scarlett Johansson is shown as the titular character in Marvel's "Black Widow," which opens in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Marvel Studios)

THE RED ROOM — After multiple delays and a lot of excitement, the Marvel action flick "Black Widow" is finally ready for audiences.

The movie is headed to theaters and Disney+ Premier Access for an additional $30, but does the long-awaited title live up to the buildup of more than a year from its original release date?

I think "Black Widow" delivers on the action, but overall isn't the best of the Marvel bunch. Here's why:

The good

The action is incredible

I wouldn't call "Black Widow" a superhero movie as much as I'd call it an action movie. The fight scenes are well choreographed and well shot. Director Cate Shortland isn't a well-known name, but she could have a place in big-budget action films following her efforts here.

The action is fast paced and almost constant. There are some pacing problems here and there, but for the most part, Shortland is just waiting to hit you over the head with another big action set piece with either helicopters crashes, car chases or good, old-fashioned fisticuffs.

The characters are lovable

Natasha Romanoff has never been the most interesting Avenger to me. And she isn't even the most interesting character in her own movie, but that's because there are some great supporting characters stealing the show.

Rachel Weisz is quietly infuriating as Melina Vostokoff, Florence Pugh is tough and witty as Yelena Belova and David Harbour is hilarious and touching as Alexei Shostakov.

While not all of the principal characters get the depth of backstory we're hoping for, there's enough there to get attached and intrigued. As the story unravels we care more and more about these offbeat heroes and, before you know it, you find yourself cheering for your red comrades.

Scarlett Johansson does a great job as Romanoff, but it turns out the other characters are just more fun, and that's due to the script and not her performance. With that said, I'd be happy to watch another adventure with Shostakov and Belova specifically.

It's a different kind of Marvel movie

While this is another movie within the giant Marvel cinematic universe, this one feels different. It's not different like the irreverent "Guardians of the Galaxy" or off-the-wall "Thor Ragnarok" — it has a totally different vibe.

Sure, it's a "superhero" movie, but it's missing the superheroes. There is no Hulk or Thor to come in and throw people around. There's no Tony Stark with his quick mind and indestructible suit or Ant-Man with his shrinking powers ready to outwit and downsize to beat the bad guys.

Instead, you have a group of people using their natural strength and training to stop the villains. Because of this, it has the feel of a fun action movie and not a superhero flick, which I think is a good thing.

In a lot of ways, I'd say the first two-thirds of "Black Widow" are more like a "Mission: Impossible" movie than a Marvel movie. I have no issue with that; I love the "M:I" series.

"Black Widow" raises the stakes in that if Natasha gets hit with a Volvo, she's probably going to die and it won't just crumple around her. Or if Yelena gets sliced with a sword, she won't just shrug it off and snap the blade with her bare hands, she's probably going to bleed out.

This forces the characters to take a different approach to the fights, and it adds a level of excitement that I think Marvel movies have been missing for a while.

The not-so-good

The final act feels too familiar

Remember when I said the first two-thirds of the movie feel fresh and exciting? That's because the last third feels painfully familiar.

It's not that the finale isn't exciting, but as I watched it I just kept asking myself, "Why do I feel like I've seen this before?"

Then it hit me: It's way too similar to the finale of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." The action set pieces, the reveal and the resolution are a bit too close to "Winter Soldier" for me.

I still had fun with the end of the film, but it felt like the filmmakers had this great action movie that stood on its own in the Marvel cinematic universe, and then they just kind of gave up at the end and borrowed some script pages from one of the studio's earlier efforts.

The villain was a missed opportunity

Taskmaster is the big baddie in "Black Widow," and the mimic is terrifying and looks fantastic. Taskmaster is creepy and imposing and I got excited every time the masked villain popped up on screen. But without giving up any spoilers, I have to say I felt like the character was wasted.

The twist of who is in the suit is given up really early if you're even paying a little bit of attention, and I feel like it took the teeth out of a really great villain and the potential of Taskmaster.

Is it OK for my kids?

"Black Widow," like all of its predecessors in the Marvel cinematic universe, is rated PG-13.

But this felt like one of the most violent films in the Marvel catalog. Truthfully, it may not be any more violent than any of the earlier entries, but the fact that it deals with real life makes it feel more violent.

These aren't aliens the protagonists are maiming and killing, these are people that aren't going to get back up after that explosion. Knowing they aren't make-believe spacemen or something created in a lab adds an added level of awareness of how violent the film is.

There is no blood, but we do see some broken bones and a lot of people lose their lives throughout the film. It also has a lot of psychological manipulation and abuse that could be scary for younger audiences.

There's no sexuality to speak of, but there is some bad language that shows up throughout the film.

I think "Black Widow" easily earned its PG-13 rating. Had the filmmakers decided to add blood and gore to the mayhem, then I think it would earn an R rating. I don't think it's much more intense than the other Marvel films, but I'm still debating about whether I'm going to show my 10-year-old and 8-year-old.

Is it worth watching?

"Black Widow" isn't my favorite Marvel movie, but it's a fun summer action flick and I think it's worth a trip to the theater if you're ready to head back. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in action sequences and humor.

"Black Widow" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence/action, some language and thematic material.

About the Author: John Clyde

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about. To read more of his articles, visit John's author page.


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