After 737 long days, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is back on the big screen with Black Widow, and it comes packed with action and a surprising amount of humor. It also features stellar performances, connects lots of out-of-sequence dots and sets up what’s sure to be at least one plotline going forward in Phase 4.
In Black Widow, Natasha’s family turns out to be another corrupt government construct, and to add insult to injury, she discovers the Red Room and its founder still exist. To best them, Natasha wins the trust of the people she once considered her sister, father and mother and tries to set things right, though Taskmaster is always on their heels. With a film like this, there are plenty of great scenes, but these eight are the best.
8) Yelena and Valentina Have Their Eyes on Hawkeye
Black Widow’s end credit scene teases a whole new storyline for Florence Pugh’s Yelena. As Yelena pays her respects at Natasha’s grave, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine sneaks up on her. It’s clear from their brief conversation that they’re already well acquainted with each other, but that doesn’t mean they’re friends. Yelena tells Val she shouldn’t be bothering her on her holiday time, yet Val thinks she’ll be eager to get a head start on her next target: the man responsible for Natasha’s death. She then pulls out a device that displays a photo of Hawkeye, so while audiences know what transpired on Vormir, Yelena does not.
7) Black Widow’s Opening Escape
We don’t spend much time in Ohio with Natasha’s “family” before their “idyllic” life goes haywire. Alexei and Melina, who are undercover Russian agents, have a tight escape plan: leave everything behind except one important hard disk and some guns and make for the family biplane. Even though viewers know all four characters will survive, the scene is an intense way to start the movie, as Melina is shot and young Natasha has to take off with Alexei barely hanging onto the wing.
6) Yelena and Natasha Reunite
Black Widow is awash with outsized action sequences, but as is often the case, it’s the more intimate hand-to-hand combat scenes that pack the most punch. It seemed likely from the marketing that Natasha and Yelena would fight against and alongside each other. The former comes first when Yelena, recently freed of mind control, draws her weapon as her big sister enters the apartment. Their martial arts skills are impressive, but not quite as sharp as their sisterly banter. It’s in this moment, too, that Natasha learns the Red Room persists, which propels the plot forward.
5) Black Widow Meets Taskmaster
To some people, the reveal of Taskmaster’s true identity was a shock, while others saw it coming. But even if that twist didn’t pay off for everyone, the idea of Taskmaster’s abilities and the character’s introduction into the MCU is exciting. Her first encounter with Black Widow, on a bridge in Norway, is wrapped in mystery. Natasha doesn’t know who Taskmaster is or why she’s after her, and the fight is a good example of showing rather than telling, as Taskmaster mimics Black Widow’s signature moves in real time; although, Yelena explains Dreykov’s “special project” shortly after.
4) Yelena and Natasha Break Alexei Out of Prison
Black Widow is stuffed full of impressive stunts and one-liners, and this scene fires on both cylinders. Plus, it’s Black Widow’s most visually interesting set pieces with its snowy backdrop. The idea that the sisters could break Alexei out of prison with a well-placed action figure, an ear piece and a helicopter is implausible but not nearly as wild as Black Widow’s climax. It’s also the first time Natasha and Yelena suit up and fight together in earnest, which imbues their efforts with palpable energy. Though it’s Natasha who jumps out of the aircraft, the younger Widow is at her best here, quipping left and right as she shoots rocket launchers into mountains.
3) The Return of Red Guardian
David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov injects a surprising but welcome dose of silliness into Black Widow, without which the movie’s otherwise serious subject matter would be too dour. Though Harbour steals several scenes, what’s sure to become his most iconic moment is his reemergence as the Red Guardian after a quick close-up montage of a middle aged Alexei struggling to don and zip up his decades-old supersuit. He interrupts Melina and the girls’ reunion to announce that “it still fits.” His body might be concealed, but his hilariously fragile ego is as exposed as ever.
2) Natasha and Yelena’s Sisterly Bond Is Real
One of the best parts of Black Widow is the dynamic between Natasha and Yelena. There’s isn’t an idealized relationship, as they only had three years together as fake siblings, yet Yelena feels abandoned by Natasha, who escaped the Red Room and become an Avenger. For most of Black Widow, Natasha is often the cool cucumber while Yelena wears her resentful and wounded feelings on her sleeve. However, in their final moment together on screen, Natasha lets herself melt a bit and admits to Yelena that she cares about her, too, implying that she’s sorry she didn’t continue to look out for her sister.
1) Yelena Poses Like Black Widow
Marvel movies have become so ubiquitous it’d be easy for them to feel self-important, so there’s something endearing when they’re self-deprecating. In one of the best instances of this, Yelena mocks Natasha for posing while fighting as if the whole world is watching. That makes it even funnier in Black Widow’s battle for the Red Room when Yelena happens to land in Black Widow’s signature posture. She immediately pops upright and mutters to herself, “that was disgusting” before resuming her own fighting stance. It’s a great joke and a subtle piece of commentary about Marvel’s past tendencies to under represent and objectify the female heroes.
Directed by Cate Shortland, Black Widow stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian, O-T Fagbenle as Mason and Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff. The film is in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access now.
KEEP READING: CBR’s Black Widow Guide: News, Easter Eggs, Reviews, Recaps, Theories and Rumors
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