Marvel’s first film in two years since Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow is an entertaining origin story (of sorts) for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff.
The Production: 4/5
On the run as a fugitive for violating the Sokovia Accords after the conclusion of Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff has been able to stay several steps ahead of Secretary Ross (William Hurt) and elude capture. Hiding out in Norway, her supplier Rick Mason (O-T Fagbenle) hands over her belongings she left behind at her safehouse on Budapest. One of the items is a case sent to her by her “sister” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) that contains vials of a synthetic gas that neutralizes the mind control agent that General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) uses to control his team of Black Widows he has trained in the Red Room. Natasha heads back to Budapest to find Yelena, but their reunion is interrupted by Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) and a team of Black Widows. The two escape, and realize they need to find out where the Red Room is located in order to free the Black Widows and take down Dreykov once and for all. Along the way, they will be reunited by their “father” Alexei (David Harbour), aka The Red Guardian, and “mother” Melina (Rachel Weisz).
As stated above, Black Widow takes place within the MCU timeline after the events in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, but along the way touches on Natasha’s backstory. It’s not quite the origin film many fans were expecting, instead filling in the gaps in her character between those two films. As a spy thriller, the movie works fairly well, and the dysfunctional “family” (they were placed together undercover in the US during the 1990s to steal intelligence from S.H.I.E.L.D.) elements help to bring some much needed humor to the story. Black Widow does fall into the traps of a prequel though, putting our heroine in constant danger and peril that never feel life-threatening, since we know she will survive in the end in order to appear in the next movie in the timeline. Johansson is perfect as Natasha, a role she has played for ten years and ten films, starting with Iron Man 2. The film is something of a passing of the gauntlet to Florence Pugh, who is set to reprise her role as Yelena in the Disney+ series Hawkeye this November. Harbour and Weisz have some fun moments as the would-be parents, and Winstone is menacing while never quite going over the top. The action sequences are fine, never boring but not exactly spectacular. This is a good Marvel film, but not a great one.
3D Rating: NA
Black Widow was captured in primarily 8K and 6K resolution with some high-speed shots in 4K on various cameras by Panavision, Red, and Sony, then completed as a 4K digital intermediate in the 1.90:1 aspect ratio for IMAX and 2.39:1 for standard theatrical presentations with Dolby Vision HDR for premium engagements. Disney’s HEVC-encoded 2160p transfer for this UHD disc release retains the 2.39:1 aspect ratio throughout, utilizing HDR10 high dynamic range. The image is ultra sharp, providing rich detail throughout, from facial features to fabric textures to peeling paint on the walls. Contrast is excellent, with deep blacks and strong shadow detail, giving the film a nice sense of depth. Colors are bold and vivid without appearing overly saturated.
The default Dolby Atmos track is a real treat. It’s a quiet track when it needs to be, then an immersive demo-worthy track during the action sequences. LFE is on full display during those action sequences, particularly the big finale during explosions and rustling wind. Sounds are placed perfectly and move seamlessly throughout the listening/viewing area. A very pleasant surprise for a Disney release.
Special Features: 3/5
As expected with most Disney UHD disc releases, the UHD disc contains no extras whatsoever. All of the special features can be found on the included Blu-ray edition of the film.
Introduction by Director Cate Shortland (1080p; 0:57): The director quickly discusses what her goals for the movie were. Unfortunately, this is buried in the play submenu on the Blu-ray edition and can only be played with the movie.
Sisters Gonna Work It Out (1080p; 5:24): A look at the two “sisters” and their relationship with each other.
Go Big If You’re Going Home (1080p; 8:50): A brief look at the making of the film.
Gag Reel (1080p; 2:54)
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 14:11): Nine scenes are included – Grocery Shopping, Bike Chase, Gulag Fight, Smile, Come After Me, Walk and Talk, Widows in Training, Kiss and Ohio.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a UHD digital copy of the film on Movies Anywhere, which also includes the EPK featurettes You’ve Been Waiting For This (0:53), You Got A Plan? (1:03), and Cooking with Gas (1:52).
Black Widow, while being a stand alone film with some origin roots for Natasha Romanoff, plays more like a James Bond or Mission: Impossible film than a traditional Marvel superhero film, yet the perils Natasha is placed in aren’t as suspenseful since we know what the outcome is beforehand. Presentation on UHD disc is excellent.
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