Movie review: Black Widow
Delayed from May last year and finally opening in cinemas here on July 8, Black Widow is an odd prospect.
It stands out by being the first Marvel movie that is completely standalone.
Its story does not affect past films, nor does it trigger any major movements for future outings.
In culinary terms, it is a palate cleanser – just one that took a very long time to arrive at the table.
That said, this is a great one to catch on as big a screen as possible.
Director Cate Shortland has created a film with some visceral action and –in true Marvel style – some decent laughs along the way.
In fact, it will have you asking why they couldn't fit a Black Widow film into the Marvel boy's club before – spoiler alert –Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) took that sacrificial dive in Avengers: Endgame.
This is closure for the titular character and crosses some t's - while leaving some i's undotted - on her often-alluded-to dark past.
It also introduces us to new characters.
Florence Pugh as Natasha's fellow Black Widow and faux sibling Yelena Belova adds a welcome cynicism to the dynamic and may well have earned a black belt in bickering.
The family is rounded out by Rachel Weisz' senior Widow and David Harbour's washed-up, over-sharing Soviet super-soldier.
Weisz brings the pragmatism while Harbour comes close to stealing the show. They should seriously consider fast-tracking a Disney+ show for Harbour's Red Guardian.
His tragi-comic character is completely at odds with his highly-trained, uber-efficient "family". If they are scalpels, he is a lump hammer.
While overall entertaining, there are aspects of Black Widow that don't sit well.
Some of the spycraft has been seen in other films and the finale can nudge your tolerance for CGI into the red and strain the suspension of disbelief.
Otherwise, this has all the action, humour and twists you could want.
If Black Widow is truly the final goodbye for Johansson as Natasha (well, you never know), this is a decent exit.
FILM: Black Widow
STARRING: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz
DIRECTOR: Cate Shortland
THE SKINNY: Set after Captain America: Civil War, an on-the-run Natasha Romanoff’s (Johansson) past is about to slam into her. Called to Budapest by her estranged “sister” Yelena (Pugh), she is brought into the crosshairs of the Black Widow assassin programme’s mastermind – and her former controller – Dreykov (Winstone).