'Black Widow' Reviews: What Are the Critics Saying?

The MCU is back in business on the big screen. Still on the fence about going? Well, "Black Widow" reviews are in and (spoiler alert) they're all positive.

Matt Lissauer

By Matt Lissauer

Black Widow Reviews - Scarlett Johansson in poster art for "Black Widow."

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

It's been two years since we last had a Marvel movie in theaters. The last big-screen Marvel adventure was "Spider-Man: Far From Home," a fitting epilogue that closed the book on the Infinity Saga. Now, after two years, and seven months of Disney+ streaming adventures, the MCU spectacle is back on the big screen. And reviews for "Black Widow" have been very positive.

It wasn't planned this way, but the time gap between movie releases can work to the film's advantage. Like a popular series coming back from its summer hiatus, anticipation hasn't been higher. "Black Widow" might have had a tepid response hitting screens ten months after "Spider-Man: Far From Home." But "Black Widow" coming out after two long years and a bunch of streaming shows that make you miss big-screen MCU spectacle? Well, there's no reason to think that this Marvel film won't break the box office record set a few weeks ago by "F9."

But don't take our word for it. Here's what the critics are already saying about "Black Widow."

'Black Widow' Reviews - The Character

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Noovie favorite Perri Nemiroff couldn't be more excited that the MCU is back in theaters. Not only does "Black Widow" pack in the action spectacle fans expect, but the film lives up to the expectations. This holds especially true for fans looking for more from a character that's been largely left on the sidelines. Here's what Nemiroff has to say:

"Black Widow meets the immense challenge of enhancing the past and future of the character, while also functioning as a full experience in and of itself." -- Perri Nemiroff, YouTube

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It's not just Scarlet Johansson's show. Along with delving more into the past of a character we only had hints of in other films, Marvel fans have been long speculating that "Black Widow" will serve as a sort of baton pass from Johansson's character to Florence Pugh. Without dropping spoilers, it looks as though there's some merit to this. As Matt Singer of ScreenCrush notes:

"While 'Black Widow' is billed as Johansson's first solo Marvel movie after more than a decade as a supporting player in other heroes' movies, it's really more of an ensemble piece, with Pugh's Yelena as the co-lead and character who undergoes the most significant arc over the course of the story." -- Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

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'Black Widow' Reviews - The Story

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

It certainly seems like there's a lot of story here, and you may need to watch a bunch of Marvel films to catch up. But you need not worry. For the uninitiated, the great thing about "Black Widow" is that it's notably not an interconnected tale. Unlike other Marvel films, you will not need to catch up on a decade's worth of films just to sit and watch. "Black Widow" is a standalone adventure, so the barrier to entry is down. The only movie you may need to watch is "Captain America: Civil War," just to understand where Black Widow is at this stage in the canon. As Angie Han of Mashable notes:

"[It] feels like such a relief that the series' latest, 'Black Widow,' isn't super interested in [the interconnectedness of past Marvel films]. Sure, there are references to the Avengers, and Black Widow's reintroduction makes more sense if you remember it's a prequel that takes place just after Captain America: Civil War. And yes, obviously we are going to see at least some of these characters again...But for long stretches, it's almost possible to forget 'Black Widow' is a Marvel movie at all, and that's a good thing." -- Angie Han, Mashable

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Jake Coyle of the Associated Press agrees:

"Even before COVID-19 delayed the release of 'Black Widow' and subsequent installments a year or more, 'Avengers: Endgame' felt very much like the conclusion of something. Can the most all-powerful juggernaut in movie history just pick up where it left off?...'Black Widow,' thankfully, isn’t exactly designed that way. It’s as close to a one-off as Marvel gets. -- Jake Coyle, Associated Press

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Bottom Line - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Looking beyond story elements, "Black Widow" might even be empowering, if not altogether engaging. Slate critic Dana Stevens found that "Black Widow" succeeded in not only correcting the "sexism of Marvel movies past" but it also reminded her "why big screens and comic book superheroes go so well together." Lessons we all learned from streaming "Wonder Woman 1984" on HBO Max. Of course, the action/adventure is not without its faults:

"Black Widow is too long, too loud, preposterously overplotted, and slightly headache-inducing—all arguably features and not bugs when it comes to big tentpole blockbusters. But walking out of it I felt like summer had finally—finally!—begun" -- Dana Stevens, Slate

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Of course, not all "Black Widow" reviews are raving and not all critics are on board the Marvel train. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle laments the "emptiness," not just of "Black Widow," but of the superhero genre itself.

"'Black Widow' is what happens when movies abandon human values for the emotional deadness and emptiness of the superhero movie. The audience and the players still crave the authenticity of something warm and human, but they're constrained by the superficiality of the genre and can't escape it. Within those constraints, the filmmakers concoct and present emotionally false, fake relationships and the actors try their best to flog them into life. But their efforts are hopeless, a matter of trying to trick the devil from inside the devil's pocket." -- Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

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Oof, that's a hot take. Certainly, if you're looking for some pathos and catharsis, perhaps a Marvel movie isn't your cup of tea. Would it be great if Marvel films offered something deeper and heady? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with movies that just exist for entertainment value. "Black Widow" is not as brainless as "F9," but critics agree that it's just as fun, if not more so.

Black Widow Poster

Black Widow

PG-13

Action

July 9, 2021

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Matt Lissauer

Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.

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