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By Paul Hall

The Avengers characters and films bring joy and excitement to moviegoers worldwide. Epic battle sequences, classic storytelling and memorable characters come together in one cohesive package. Through the years we have seen origin stories for many of these iconic characters from Iron Man and Captain America to Thor and Spider-Man. Now we are gifted with the long-overdue origin story of Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access.

Most of Black Widow focuses on Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) whereabouts during the period between the Avengers films Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, but we are given a brief glimpse at family life that once existed in Ohio. Natasha loved her sister and yet hated what they went through. Things were about to change.

Both Natasha (aka Black Widow) and her sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) were developed to become trained killers, and while both received virtually identical training, Natasha became an Avenger and Yelena took a very different path.

As we fast forward from the moments in the past, we see Natasha on the run from the United States government as Secretary Ross (William Hurt) is trying to round up all the outlaw Avengers since the signing of the Sokovia Accords. Natasha seems to have everything together for peace and quiet in her own world — that is, until she finds some mysterious vials in her belongings from Budapest and gets attacked for them by a masked super-soldier.

When she finds her sister, the action ramps up as the two, now living very different existences, are forced to team up to stop an enormous threat to the world and the man behind their very tortured past.

Johansson and Pugh are a fun pair to watch onscreen. Both know how to chew up the scenery, whether they are in a moment together or on their own. This feels like a movie that is long overdue, and I wish the tale would have been told to fit more cleanly into the overall timeline.

Every bit of the Avengers film mystique is here, and Black Widow, which had a long-delayed release for theatrical exhibition due to the pandemic, is a welcome sight to see on the biggest and loudest screen at your disposal. While the action sequences explode before you, there are plenty of quieter moments built in with a bit of humor to lighten the load.

Despite being light on other Avengers staple characters, Black Widow does bring a number of talented individuals to the Marvel universe, including Rachel Weisz and David Harbour as the mother and father to the women. And I really enjoyed O-T Fagbenle’s role as Mason, a go-getter who supplied Natasha with everything she needed — within reason.

With a scene after the credits, one can only wonder where the future for Yelena lies and look forward to the development of her character. We know where Natasha’s future lies, but there are two families who dominated her life, and underneath all the craziness and dysfunction of Yelena, Melina and Alexei, and her Avengers family, Black Widow makes clear — family matters.

Paul’s Grade: B-

Black Widow
Rated PG-13
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz
Director: Cate Shortland