Black Widow. A character who’s not only a core presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) for over a decade but who was also the very first female hero to be part of the MCU’s Avengers.
With such relevance to the MCU, one would have expected her to have had her own solo film by now. So why did Marvel’s Black Widow only release in 2021, years after the character’s death in Avengers: Endgame? The answer is exactly what makes the Black Widow film a class above other origin stories.
Black Widow takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War and follows Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a the Black Widow, while on the run from the former US Army General turned Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross.
Vulnerable and alone, without her Avengers teammates to support her, old memories resurface. Memories of ‘happier’ times with a family she briefly had. As if on cue, her past comes crashing down on her present and she’s forced to reopen old wounds and past traumas.
Right from the get go, Black Widow is filled with intense action, setting the pace of the entire film with surprises and thrills that keeps us on the edge of our seat. Befitting the MCU, no holds are barred when it comes to the action, with an incredibly badass villain who is seemingly impossible to defeat, as well as unimaginable combat and stunts that are visually spectacular.
While action and thrills are one part of what makes Black Widow entertaining, it is the depth of the film’s narrative, character development and the relationships between the characters that truly makes Black Widow a marvel of a film.
The narrative of returning to one’s past to save the present is not uncommon in film, but for Natasha Romanoff, this is all new territory. Despite being a prominent character in the MCU, Natasha’s past has only ever been hinted at, with no real backstory provided, unlike that of her Avenger counterparts. Whilst we understood the people behind the suit when it came to the other Avengers, Natasha was more of a closed book.
Being able to revisit her past while also seeing her in the present, engaging with those she had once cared for, provides us with a much better understanding of just who Natasha Romanoff is – that is, a woman, who despite being a trained assassin, has a good and kind heart. It is this ‘goodness’ that’s left her traumatised by all the horrific killings she had done in the past, making her commitment to saving lives as an Avenger, a form of atonement.
Through her interactions with Alexei a.k.a Red Guardian (David Harbour), Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Yelena (Florence Pugh), who we come to learn are important people in Natasha’s past, we see her growth as a character. Her rigid, no-nonsense demeanour is challenged, especially by Yelena, who reminds her that life is worth living. She’s forced to embrace the past and tackle the present threat head on, with the help of the very people she had tried to forget.
The witty banter between these characters and the laugh out loud moments of humour sprinkled throughout the film was reminiscent of a close-knit family unit. The relationship between Natasha and Yelena, especially, was incredibly familiar and gave the film a heartwarming tone. This theme of family is something Marvel has always done well, making viewers feel as if they’re part of the family or team on screen. This is certainly true with Black Widow.
The narrative and character relationships were important in that it gave us an insight into the importance of family to Natasha, referencing even the Avengers as her second family. Between this love for family, her desire to atone for her past sins, and the hope that the world will be safe in the hands of the next generation of heroes, we can finally truly appreciate the emotional reasoning behind Natasha’s sacrifice in Avengers Endgame. The depth of her love for her family, including the Avengers, and the world, holds far more weight now after Black Widow, making the loss all the more painful.
Had Black Widow been a film released prior to Avengers, or even before the events of Infinity War and Endgame, I for one, personally feel that her ultimate sacrifice wouldn’t be as poignant. The loss of the one and only Black Widow feels so much more personal and heartbreaking.
There’s so much about Black Widow that made the film such a masterpiece. The ultimate confrontation with the very past she chose to run from, the acceptance of the role Alexei, Milena and Yelena played in her life, the goodness of her heart in wanting to make the world a better place, especially for young girls, all add up to creating the perfect MCU film that can be enjoyed by all.
The way in which Black Widow managed to remind us of the legacy Natasha Romanoff leaves behind is magnificent and one that won’t be easily forgotten for years to come.
Thank You Marvel
Thank you Marvel Australia and New Zealand for the kind invitation to the Black Widow World Premiere Fan Event. As a Marvel-obsessed fan for 25+ years, and someone who grew up without many women as lead protagonists in the superhero genre, being able to be the first in the world to watch Black Widow truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The screening was more than just a preview of a film. It was a celebration of Marvel, its fandom and incredible characters that enable the younger generation to believe that anything is possible.