Film, Pop Culture, Reviews

Why Black Widow is the Best MCU Movie Yet

2021 Film Black Widow Funko Pop covered in neon pink light.

Photo by Juan Cortés on Unsplash

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, finally got what she deserved—a standalone film. The last time Romanoff was on the big screen, she sacrificed herself to the cliffs of Vormir. And that was the end of her story. 

And I’m sad to tell you, but none of that changes after the events of Black Widow. Nat still makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the universe. This installment in the MCU was only a glance into her journey leading up to Avengers: Endgame. And girl, let me tell you it was needed. 

We’ve never really gotten to know Nat. She was always quite secretive, even towards her adopted family, the Avengers. Black Widow sheds light on why. Let’s dive into it!

Black Widow: The Opening Scene

The film opens with a young blue-haired Natasha riding her bicycle through the suburbs of Ohio (hey, I live there). She rides into the backyard where her younger sister, Yelena, portrayed by Violet McGraw, is playing. They have a sweet sister moment, which warmed my heart because it reminded me of my little sister and me when we were kids.

Cut to the next scene and walks in Yelena and Natasha’s mother, Melina. Shortly after, her father, Alexei, storms in looking upset. This is where the perfect suburban family facade falls apart. Next thing you know, they’re all on the run in a helicopter, and Natasha’s “mother” has been shot and is seemingly bleeding out. 

They land and are greeted by a plethora of military men who take Natasha’s mother away. The girls are just devastated, and young Yelena is pleading for her mother. These military men are not too nice and even push the young child away from Melina like literally shove her out of the way. 

Our baby Natasha, portrayed by actress Ever Gabo Anderson, pulls a gun from one of the militia men’s belts and threatens anyone who dares to touch her baby sister. 

Side note: The performance from Ever here was phenomenal and had me on the edge of my seat and in tears all at the same time–a fabulous young actress. 

Eventually, Alexei talks her down. After that, Natasha pleads that “she’s only six,” about Yelena, and Alexei responds, “you were even younger.” End scene. Chills. 

Let’s Discuss The Opening Credits

The opening credits following this scene are very worrisome. We see precisely what happens to Yelena and Natasha. They are pretty much trafficked, separated, and become trained assassins, called “Widows.” 

Watching the stories of these sweet little girls play out so horribly in the opening credits was incredibly jarring. It was so crucial for us as viewers to see this because it highlighted the realities of our world–human and child trafficking. 

We rarely have these conversations in our society, and Black Widow puts this reality in your face, so you can’t ignore it; you can’t look away. And I think that was a pivotal moment for me when watching this film. Nat never got through that trauma, and we see it follow her throughout the movie as she confronts her painful past.

Black Widow Hits All The Right Spots

The Worst Villain in the MCU

Indeed, Nat was forced to do some nasty stuff, resulting in her having many regrets. One of her most notable regrets in the film was seemingly killing Dreykov’s daughter, Antonia, in an explosion meant to take him out. 

Dreykov is the main villain in Black Widow, and he is genuinely the worst villain we’ve ever seen in the MCU, the worst. Thanos has nothing on this guy. Now, Dreykov isn’t a large purple alien from outer space; oh no, he’s homegrown here on Earth. He doesn’t have superhuman strength or infinity stones; his power is closer to reality. 

Essentially, he abducts young girls from around the globe and uses mind control to force these powerless children to do his bidding. And when they no longer serve his purpose, he gets rid of them (that’s all I’ll say about that). He’s just the worst. To drive home the psychopathy of Dreykov, he even indoctrinates his daughter, who survives the attempt by Nat, turning her into a mind-controlled weapon.

Getting to Know the Real Natasha Romanoff

As far as I’m concerned, Nat never got her flowers in the Avengers films. Her character was always in a supporting role designed to help other characters reach their full potential. As viewers, we never really got to see Black Widow as a three-dimensional character. Thankfully, Black Widow sheds light on her life, struggles, and pains which drive her to work for the good guys. 

Black Widow is, at its essence, a story centered around grief and facing that grief to come out on the other side. Nat didn’t have a pleasant upbringing. Her family sold her to Dreykov, and she deals with the repercussions of that throughout the film. We even learn that Dreykov forces his “Widows,” including Nat and Yelena, to have involuntary hysterectomies, further taking away their ability to choose not only mentally but physically, which is just disturbing to me. It speaks to the unrest revolving around bodily autonomy in our reality. 

As shown in the film, she has always had to fight for survival. However, when faced with her “family”–Alexei, Yelena, and Melina; it forces her to look to the past. The scene where she sits with her false family at Melinas’s hideout is where I genuinely feel the weight of her situation. It was like up until that point, she tried to push her pain down, but she couldn’t anymore. 

She expresses how their lives together for the three years they were undercover in Ohio were fake with tears in her eyes. It felt to me like she didn’t want to face that they were false, almost like she was waiting for one of them to say the opposite. It was a rough scene to watch; you could see the pain in Nat and Yelena’s eyes and the shame in Alexei and Melina’s. 

Creepy high-rise building covered in red light. The sky is bright red and the atmosphere of the photo is chilling.
Photo by Max Titov on Unsplash

Black Widow Faces Her Abuser

And it’s not like she can move forward after this encounter because her primary mission is to stop Dreykov from continuing to harm little girls. The same thing that Dreykov did to her is happening to others, and she can’t continue to allow it. 

This desire to stop Dreykov, I feel, doesn’t necessarily come from a place of revenge; she needs this to heal and help heal others. As we touched on, Nat has done some bad things to people in her life as an assassin, and she greatly regrets her actions. Like Bucky in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Nat seeks to redeem herself by doing as much good as possible.

When Nat finally faces Dreykov at the Red Room, her arc in this film comes full circle. Finally, she meets the man who caused her so much misery. The scenes with them together were suspenseful and heartbreaking; our girl is facing her trafficker.

Again the pain within her shines through; she even seems terrified of him, flinching in fear when he motions to hit her. 

Nat asks him about her birth mother, who earlier was revealed to have never stopped searching for her until her death at the hands of Dreykov. Unfortunately, he only tells her she was buried under a beautiful tree with her tombstone scribed unknown. I. Hate. Him. 

Now, this plea may have been an act to outsmart him because Dreykov uses a pheromone that stops Widows from using violence against him, but it felt too important to Nat for it not to be authentic. They fight, or instead, he hits her, and she’s eating his assaults. 

Finally, after revealing his plans and the device that holds information on every Widow, which amounts to thousands of girls worldwide, Nat breaks her nose and beats his ass (as she should). Unfortunately, Dreykov slips away. 

Nat Heals, If Only a Little

Next, we get a beautiful action scene of Nat navigating the Red Room, which is falling out of the sky thanks to Melina. 

Shortly after, she and Yelena reunite, but not before Yelena sacrifices herself to kill Dreykov as he desperately tries to flee the failing construction. Dreykov dies (as far as I can tell), and Yelena falls out of the sky while Nat plunges after her. 

They meet the ground safely, and Nat releases Dreykov’s daughter from the mind-control her father bestowed upon her, and she falls to the ground in exhaustion and relief, asking Nat if “he’s [Dreykov] gone.” 

Thereafter, Nat and Yelena are reunited, and they have a sweet moment calling back to the original moment they had at the beginning of the movie. Natasha asks for forgiveness from her “little sister.” 

The tears at this point were flowing like a river from my eyes; so touching, and it was nice to see Nat find resolve with this part of her life. Yelena and the rest of the Widows and her adoptive parents leave, but not before Yelena gifts Nat her utility jacket with lots of pockets. Hint: Nat wears her sister’s jacket throughout Infinity War.

Pretty sure this is the last time Yelena and Nat are together, so that makes Yelena’s gift that much more sentimental. It was sad to see them part; I wanted so badly for them to have more time together, but the mission of healing the girls Dreykov corrupted must continue for Yelena.

Cut scene, and Nat has her bleach blonde hair we see in Avengers: Infinity War, and she’s sitting under a beautiful tree. I like to think she found her mother’s grave and was visiting her, but that is not explicitly stated. 

The Actors were Amazing

After watching this film, I thought about it for hours, no lie. It was a sad movie, but hopeful. The actors did a fantastic job of portraying the themes of grief and redemption within the film. 

Florence Pugh delivered a standout performance as Yelena. Not only was she hilarious, but she knew when to get serious and perfectly capture the turmoil that Yelena was experiencing. In Midsommar, she killed it as Danny, so I was so excited to see her in Black Widow; her acting presence is fantastic; I think we have a legend in the making. I cannot wait to see her in other projects in the MCU. 

Of course, Scarlet Johansen hit it outta the ballpark as her last time as Nat. I felt bittersweet about it because I knew this was the last time we’d see Nat her in prime. I’ll miss her in the MCU.

Also, I’d like to give a shoutout to David Harbour, who portrayed Alexei. He brought a lot of humor to the Red Guardian character, and I think without him, the film would’ve felt a lot heavier in subject material than it already was. I hope we see him in more serious roles in the MCU because it would be a crime not to feature such a strong character again.

Bravo to everyone involved in this project!

What Does This Mean for the MCU?

The end credit scene feature’s Yelena mourning at Nat’s grave, which sits under a big beautiful tree (a reference to where Dreykov buried Nat’s birth mother?). This scene drives home the fact that Nat is truly gone, and sheesh, it hurts. I feel like I finally got to know her, and Yelena finally reunited with her sister, and now she’s gone…so sad, ugh. 

Anyways, she’s having a moment of silence, and up pops Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (also seen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), AKA Madame Hydra. It’s implied that she and Yelena know each other and have been working together. Valentina exposes Clint, AKA Hawkeye, as the one who is responsible for Nat’s death. Cut to black. 

At this point, my gears are turning, trying to figure out where Phase 4 will go. Looking back on TFATWS, Loki, and Wandavision, themes of grief and acceptance are consistent so far throughout Phase 4, and I think Black Widow backs this up. How this will all tie into the greater MCU and the next big villain, Kang the Conqueror, I’m not too sure yet.

However, I am sure that Yelena will be coming for Hawkeye and will most definitely appear in the new Disney+ series Hawkeye. 

Honestly, I don’t care for Clint’s character that much, but maybe that’s because he is not too much of a main character in the Avengers franchise and thus not as fleshed out. Hopefully, we discover more about him in the Hawkeye series.

Who knows, maybe this series will end in Yelena taking him out and his daughter taking up the Hawkeye mantle. I’m not sure, but I’m excited to see more of Phase 4. The bar is high!

What did you think of the Black Widow movie? How do you think this plays into the greater MCU? 

I know the Marvel fandom has some interesting theories, and I want to hear them all, so sound off in the comments.

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