By Keiran Southern, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
The reviews are in for Marvel’s delayed superhero blockbuster Black Widow – but was it worth the wait?
The first entry in phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe sees Scarlett Johansson reprising the role of former KGB spy Natasha Romanoff.
She is joined by an all-star supporting cast including Stranger Things’ David Harbour, Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh.
Directed by Australia’s Cate Shortland, the standalone Black Widow follows the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and finds Romanoff reckoning with her past.
Originally set to arrive in May last year, the chaos of the pandemic resulted in its release date being shifted multiple times and it finally settled on July 9th in Ireland and the UK.
Reviews have been largely positive and critics are broadly in agreement Black Widow is a successful addition to the MCU.
Writing in the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw gave the film four stars out of five, praising it for both being entertaining as a standalone feature while delivering something new for long-time fans.
He suggested Harbour could be rewarded for his “scene-stealer” performance with his own film.
Bradshaw wrote: “For fans of Black Widow and everyone else, this episode is great fun and Harbour could well ascend to spinoff greatness of his own.”
Black Widow also received four stars from the BBC’s reviewer Caryn James.
She described the film as “entertaining and full of action,” noting it was “unexpected” that Black Widow “may be the least Avenger-like movie in the series so far”.
James praised Shortland’s handling of the film’s high-octane moments, writing “she quickly demonstrates that she can create exhilarating action”.
In another four-star review, the PA news agency’s Damon Smith described Black Widow as a “hugely entertaining spy thriller”.
He applauded the film’s action sequences, script and score, which comes from Scottish composer Lorne Balfe.
— Black Widow (@theblackwidow) June 11, 2021
Smith said while Shortland’s “vertiginous denouement falls victim to the same CGI overload as other MCU strands,” there is a “clear focus on characters in peril in the eye of a digitally rendered storm that breaks the film’s fall”.
The Hollywood Reporter’s verdict was also positive.
Shortland’s direction was commended for its “propulsive excitement, humour and pleasingly understated emotional interludes”.
The film “proves a stellar vehicle” for Johansson, while the supporting cast is “first-rate,” the review states.
And it compares Black Widow favourably to another Marvel female-led film.
The reviewer wrote: “It makes a far more satisfying female-driven MCU entry than the blandly bombastic Captain Marvel.”
Variety celebrated Black Widow’s balance between blockbuster thrills and its more understated moments.
The film “features just enough kinetic combat to give a mainstream audience that getting-your-money’s-worth feeling,” the review states, but “most of it has a gritty, deliberate, zap-free tone that is strikingly — and intentionally — earthbound for a superhero fantasy”.
The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin offered tempered praise for Black Widow.
In a three-star review, he wrote the film is as “briskly enjoyable as the studio’s output tends to be,” but found fault with how it handles some of its heavier themes.
Villain Ray Winstone delivers “blood-curdling” commentary on the female recruits he transforms into operatives, Collin said.
However, he found “the film lacks either the nerve or the moral vocabulary to so much as spell out, let alone reckon with, the implications of his statement”.