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Black Widow Movie Review - Natasha Romanoff's Tragic Origins

Updated: May 11

The only other spy thriller in the MCU, Black Widow plays on the heartstrings of the audience, covering Natasha Romanoff's tragic backstory. The movie recounts the events just after Captain America: Civil War and before Infinity War. They maintain the same graphics as in Civil War, displaying the city names in large white fonts.


Scarlett Johannsen as Natasha Romanoff in Black Widow Movie
Black Widow 2021

MCU fans will finally discover what Nat and Barton meant when they dropped a mention of Budapest in both Avengers I and Avengers Endgame. It's this inside reference that points to an adventure or an experience they both shared. The movie focuses more on the emotional elements of the Black Widow's past.

Plot of Black Widow Movie


Human trafficking is referenced in this movie through the Red Room which is a facility that trains abandoned children to be assassins. Of course, there is a lot more nuance to this, and I won't go into the details to avoid spoilers.



The main plot device in this movie is mind control, more commonly known as brainwashing. This is referenced in various movies across the MCU, Loki using the mind stone on Barton, and Nat confessing to Barton on the Shield carrier about knowing what it means to be "unmade."



There's also Wanda Maximoff's "mind games" (quoting Ultron here) which dismantled the Avengers in "Avengers: Age of Ultron". The mind control in Black Widow has real-life parallels and a long history across the world.


A book called The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn discusses how political dissenters in Stalin-led Russia were sent to labor camps called Gulags. Here various techniques were used to extract information from the inmates through methods such as sleep deprivation, the use of insect pests on the inmates (bedbugs), and extreme isolation.


Olga Kurylenko as Taskmaster in Black Widow Movie
Task Master

This is not to say that other countries have not dabbled in such questionable practices. There is literature on the US agency CIA using LSD on people without their knowledge while under observation. This was called Project MKUltra. There are similar incidents across the world that might induce varying levels of horror and disgust upon reading about them.


In the Black Widow Movie though, methods beyond psychology are employed to ensure complete subjugation by the black widow agents. The Task Master adds an element of mystery to the movie, leaving you guessing who's behind the mask.



Cast


The movie has an amazing cast, with David Harbour, Rachel Weiz, and Florence Pugh playing dad (Alexei) mom (Melina), and sister (Yelena) to Nat. I do wonder whether Florence Pugh ever thought she would be fighting with her family again onscreen, especially after "Fighting with my family."


Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff and Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova in the Black Widow movie
Ride or Die - Natasha and Yelena

The Russian accents seem good enough, with the cast portraying a scarred and dysfunctional family well. Ray Winstone plays a mean Dreykov and all the other Black Widows are total knockouts who are great at action sequences. William Hurt also briefly reprises his role as the surly General Thaddeus Ross.



Should You Watch It? Yes, Why Not?


Although the trailer makes it out to be an action movie all throughout there are certain slow stretches in the movie that might disappoint those expecting a faster pace.


But overall, it's a Marvel movie, so it's pretty good (definitely better than Iron Man 2) and serves up good exposition and backstory. You can definitely stream this on your day off.


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