The approach works largely, in a more miniaturized fashion, thanks to the crispness of the action, whose fight sequences have a similarity to the kinetic aspect of the Bourne saga in the form of superhero-style pyrotechnics, although in that it is appropriate. That too in quantity. Yet what really defines the film is meeting the title character’s other “family,” whose members are equally colorfully eccentric and deadly.
The mission reunites Natasha and her sister Yelena, played by Florence Pugh with a scene-stealing flair that’s not only as deadly, but gets the best thick accented lines. A little dwarf, Yelena – like everyone else here – has watched Natasha’s career with interest, leading to lots of Avengers references between battles and memories.
Other key figures in the pair’s youth are the self-absorbed Alexey (“Stranger Things” David Harbour), who exaggerates his glory days as the Soviet hero Red Guardian; and Melina (Rachel Weisz), whose role is important if relatively limited.
From a script directed by Kate Shortland to which Eric Pearson (“Thor: Ragnarok”) is credited with contributing others, “Black Widow” was intended to be positioned as a stand-alone adventure looking at Natasha’s final fate. The advantage is, though it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without the splurge that could be cut elsewhere. Inevitably, the climate part is a bit chaotic in seeking to feature mixed players together.
The film thus plays like an emotional closing of a door as the company pivots into its next carefully orchestrated phase – the chance to say goodbye to an old friend while broadening her limited view of the world.
If it’s not the same epic experience as the last time fans saw Natasha, it certainly isn’t a bad excuse, especially after this long wait, to be back at a movie theater.
“Black Widow” premieres July 9 in US theaters and on Disney+ for a premium fee. It has got PG-13 rating.