Black Widow Spoiler Review – It’s Everything We Have Been Waiting For
“The reason that she doesn’t have her own movie is that she’s a pathetic excuse for a superhero,” I hear a man who I would eventually stop seeing movies with telling me after a lively debate following our viewing of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I argue back, defending Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow for the rest of the night. But did I really believe myself, or was I just desperate for a strong female character in a sea of men at all placements in the moral alignment chart? A film featuring our original fem Avenger has been long overdue, and I used to think that it’s a joke we hadn’t received it sooner. But in this spoiler review of Black Widow, we’ll take a look at how it makes more sense than ever and why Natasha Romanoff is no excuse.
If you stumbled on this article while debating if Black Widow is worth a watch, you might be on the wrong path. Head over to our spoiler-free review of the film to convince you to check it out in theaters or on Disney+ with Premier Access, and bookmark this page for when you’re done. Go on; we’ll wait.
Why It Took So Long To Get Black Widow And Its Spoiler Review
Films about women in comics aren’t as rare as some make it out to be. Hero or villain, some stories have been told. There is 2004’s Catwoman, 2005’s Elektra, and a surprising amount of fem-focused hero tales from the 80s, like Supergirl. But no matter how hard their respective actresses have tried, few have lived up to our hopeful expectations. Instead, women have been pushed to the sidelines of comic book adaptations, often serving as the eye candy, the conquest, or the push to pull in a wider demographic.
When Natasha Romanoff, better known as Black Widow, appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2, it was instantly known that she’d be a character with potential. She could hold her own amongst the rest and had enough combat skills to keep giving her some screen time. But she was just another piece of the Avengers puzzle for the next decade. Despite fans begging for a better character arc, back story, or some agency outside of her relationship to men, we had to wait.
That’s not to say that Marvel hasn’t tried to throw us a bone until now. Captain Marvel was an honest effort. Filmmaking duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck created a feminist take on the genre that we thought we wanted. And while it was fun and had moments of sincerity, it read as trying both too hard and not hard enough. Since then, we’ve gotten the phenomenal series WandaVision, redefining the potential of women in hero and villain roles and a merging of the two. But we still needed our big-budget lead to satisfying our cravings. And if it hadn’t been for the coronavirus, we would have gotten it before WandaVision. But alas, the world had other plans, and we’re only getting to Black Widow now.
Image via Marvel Studios.
From A Heroic Civil War To One Within Yourself
We all know where we left off with the character of Black Widow. And as much as the memory hurts to remember, it was with her diving to her death, sacrificing life for an infinity stone. But we can’t have a sequel when our main character has passed, so Black Widow takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Rather than boring us with the Leipzig/Halle Airport summary, the film opens up with something a little bit more important to Natasha’s development: her childhood.
Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), two picture-perfect parents with two beautiful daughters, may look like they have it all. However, when the family patriarch completes his assigned mission in Ohio in 1995, it’s time to split everybody up. But is it really splitting them up if they were never really a family to begin with? Everything about this unit began as a charade, but it ended up with them having a car ride anthem. (Side note: Like the Widow-filled family, Don McLean’s American Pie was also my family’s song of choice for long car rides. Is this a universal thing?)
The harsh reality of working for shady organizations is eventually back to the forefront. Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) are forced to go to the Red Room. This is both a training center and a home for torture, where young girls are sent to be used, abused, and controlled by men who see them as resources to their greater goals.
Image via Marvel Studios.
It’s Back To A Traumatized Black Widow In No Time
Back in a slightly more present day, but still, before the events of Thanos’ takeover, Natasha Romanoff is on the run from detection. Hiding in Norway, all she wants to do is dye her hair, watch cheesy movies, and get some damn peace and quiet, like all women would want to do after babysitting a bunch of over-powered boys for years on end. This doesn’t last for long, as her kinda-sorta-sister pulls her back into the drama of the Red Room.
Romanoff thought that she had put her past behind her after an assassination attempt on Ray Winstone’s Dreykov, the leader of the Red Room. She had gone to Budapest with Clint Barton years prior, willingly killing Dreykov’s daughter, and seemingly him, too. But Yelena proves otherwise after escaping from the hold that he had held her with for years. Plain old manipulation had stopped working at some point after Natasha’s personal escape from the Red Room, and they now rely on chemical mind-control.
United with an identical need for revenge and through the bond of shared family trauma, Natasha and Yelena go on a mission to reunite with their fake parents and take down the Red Room once and for all. But who has a family functional enough to complete a mission that important?
Image Marvel Studios.
The Gang Is Back Together Again In This Spoiler Review Of Black Widow
Once Yelena and Natasha break the Red Guardian (Alexei’s superhero alias) out of prison, it’s time to face mom. While they may have hoped for a joyful visit filled with apologies and acknowledgment of abuse, what the girls get is an awkward dinner of alcohol and a close brush with betrayal. They’re all taken to an aerial base, the secret location of the dreadful Red Room. At first, it seems as if Vostokoff is a true supporter of this form of female slavery, but in an impressive turn of events, we find out that her disloyalty was just a ruse to get them into the sky.
After a satisfying moment of revenge, Dreykov turns the victims of the Red Room against Natasha and co. Not only does he have dozens of strong women under his control, but he has also created an ultimate villain: the Taskmaster. This “villain” had been of great use to Dreykov throughout the movie, as she is a fighter that can mimic the moves of anybody that she watches. But more importantly, she is the presumed dead daughter of Dreykov, proving that his villainous behavior has no limits, even when it is his own blood. This controlled woman becomes one of the obstacles in the way of finally taking down the hell that all of the girls in the movie have gone through.
In true Marvel fashion, the film finishes off with an impressive and cinematically beautiful fight scene in the air as they fall to their fates. Yelena has successfully killed Dreykov, and Natasha finds a way to unlock the true self of Taskmaster, a.k.a. Antonia Dreykov, without killing her. The picture-perfect family becomes something worthy of aspiration, and the film comes to a close.
Image via Marvel Studios.
But It’s Marvel, So There Has To Be A Post-Credit Scene
I spent the entirety of the credits silently reflecting on the film that I had just watched. While most of my post-Avengers movies are followed by predictions about the next film or awe at the sad ending of the film, Black Widow felt so conclusive that I almost forgot that there would be another scene. But when it does show up, it’s a stark reminder that we’re still in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and our happy ending wasn’t as clear-cut as we thought.
Yelena visits the grave of Natasha, identifying that we’re well beyond the events of Avengers: Endgame. Before we can mourn for too long, she is approached by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), introduced earlier this year in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. She is a handler of sorts for Yelena and convinces her to kill Clint Barton for her next mission.
Was Black Widow Worth Waiting For?
I have spent too many days of my life defending the abilities of Black Widow not to have a lot at stake when watching this film. The MCU is filled with actual Gods, heroes with magical serum pumping through their veins, and sorcerers with years of study behind them. So could a woman with learned skills ever compete with them? Despite the resistance of some who refuse to believe it, director Cate Shortland is able to remind us of why Natasha Romanoff can stand her own alongside the Avengers.
Black Widow manages to weave a story for Natasha that is more intimate and understandable than we could have imagined. Though her past had been hinted at before, and the Red Room alluded to, Black Widow shows just how much of an impact her broken family dynamics and forced life have had on her. Despite all of this trauma, her strong moral compass had been seen throughout the MCU films that come before it. This is no exception, and her willingness to fight for her life to save another Widow proves it. She’s even against stealing the cars of strangers, much to the dismay of a more carefree Yelena.
The way that Shortland creates this story isn’t through the theatrics that we’ve grown accustomed to. Marvel has proven that it’s great at telling explosive stories about villains who exist across universes and kill with gusto. But to tell the story of a woman who went from a child assassin to a worldwide hero with honesty requires a story on a much more intimate scale, and this is where Black Widow thrives.
We see the growing backstory throughout small interactions with Yelena or from reactions to memories. Her grief is with her every step of the way, and we better understand Black Widow’s character as a whole, why she was so desperate for a found family with the Avengers, and her willingness to keep fighting long after Thanos made it clear that she should take a break. Even the violence against villains feels more painful than the bigger fight scenes that we have seen before this film because the desire to see the bad guy perish is more personal than ever.
Black Widow is a superhero film, but it is also a revenge film. The Red Room, and Dreykov, are terrible. There is no understanding of this behavior. Even Thanos could be understood with his backstory, but Dreykov is somebody we need to see beaten.
Image via Marvel Studios.
Opening The Door To The Next Widow
We have gotten to know Scarlett Johansson pretty well over the past decade. It would be impossible to do a Black Widow spoiler review without taking a moment to reflect on how important she has been. Johansson has proven her worth within this character, and Black Widow would not be the character we love without her. What this film really allows, actor-wise is the development of Florence Pugh’s Yelena. In a way, Johansson/Romanoff hands off the baton to Pugh/Yelena, but more importantly, Yelena proves why she’s worthy of her own arc separate from her family ties.
Entering the MCU is a scary jump in any actor’s journey. But Pugh steps into it effortlessly. Her cinematic history already includes taking on controversial characters like Amy March in Little Women and misunderstood ones like Dani Ardor in Midsommar. So, we knew that her acting chops were at the level of other Marvel veterans. But still, we were blown away. It is not just in her sassy moments of humor or during badass fighting scenes. There is one particular scene-stealing moment where Yelena is seated amongst actors far more experienced than her. Her quiet reactions to family secrets coming out prove that she can carry the future of the MCU as far as she wants to.
Image via Marvel Studios.
This Is One That Deserved To Be Seen In Theaters, As Told In Our Black Widow Spoiler Review
For many, Black Widow is a film being seen in theaters after years of no Marvel releases. And while it may still be intimidating to be in theater seats after months of being told not to, the film needs it. It is every bit exciting, tear-jerking, and overwhelming in the best way compared to similarly hyped films like Infinity War or Far From Home. It manages to redeem Black Widow after years of being treated like a side piece and gives the franchise’s future something to look forward to, even amongst all of the other things going on in Phase Four.
We had to wait a decade to see Black Widow at her best. And while it may have been due to various factors in production or even a fear of putting our titular character front and center, it ultimately works out in her story. We needed the past decade to reinforce why all of the aching going through Natasha’s heart is worthy of a mission so special. It’s not some grand-scale, saving the world business, but it’s sparing a generation from going through what she went through. Now these girls won’t need redemption stories of their own, because they’ve been freed.
Our spoiler review of Black Widow could truly go on forever because there are no shortages of thoughts, predictions, or praises that come from a fantastic Marvel film like this. But rather than take our word for it, you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Featured image via Marvel Studios.
Meghan Hale is the kind of movie lover that has a "must watch" that is a mile long... and growing. When she isn't talking about the latest film and television news she is writing one of her many in-process novels, screaming film trivia at anybody who will listen, and working as a mental health care professional. Follow her on Twitter @meghanrhale for some fun theories and live reactions to all things entertainment.