With wonderful depth and character development, “Black Widow” is an origins actioner that’s a tribute to a fallen hero.
That’s not a spoiler, especially for anyone who has seen “Avengers: Endgame.”
The story goes clear back to the Ohio childhood of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson.) We see Natasha and her little sister Yelena (Florence Pugh, “Midsommar”) leading what appears to be a normal life until their parents, who are not what they appear to be, suddenly take off with them.
Dad David Harbour (who also has a starring role in the latest Steven Soderbergh thriller “No Sudden Move”) is Alexei/Red Guardian and Mom/Iron Maiden is played by Rachel Weisz.
The girls become part of an initiative led by the villainous head (Ray Winstone) of the Red Room, where young women become soldiers. Then the story jumps years later, before Natasha becomes an Avenger and while she tries to elude people who would kill her.
The movie has a lot of James Bond-type action (there’s a brief “Bond” nod on a screen – scenes from “Moonraker” bear a resemblance to scenes in “Black Widow.”) Also, its themes of family and teamwork reminded me – believe it or not – of “The Incredibles” for an older audience.
I like the way the family feels like, well, a family. They have their differences and misunderstandings, but in the end they always have each other. This makes the events involving Black Widow in “Endgame” even more interesting and poignant.
It will come as a surprise to no one that the stinger at the very end of the credits gives us something more to anticipate involving another Marvel character.
The universe just keeps expanding.
3 ½ stars
Running time: Two hours and 13 minutes.
Rated: PG-13 for coarse language and other adult material, and violence.
At Cinemark, Davenport; Palms 10, Muscatine; and streaming on Disney+.