BAXTER — Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive!

“Black Widow” stars Scarlett Johansson as the titular Russian spy and an estranged member of The Avengers superhero team. The new release is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.

RELATED: Now showing at Lakes 12 Theatre and Sunset Cinema

It is the first solo outing for the femme fatale Natasha Romanoff that takes place pre-“Avengers: Infinity War,” a blockbuster released in 2018 as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But the new two-hour motion picture delves into her backstory in a superhero origin story.

A mysterious woman all clad in black leaps over a motorcycle pointing a handgun. Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash.com
A mysterious woman all clad in black leaps over a motorcycle pointing a handgun. Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash.com

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Johansson has played the role of Black Widow in eight movies, the most recent of which was in “Black Widow,” which was simultaneously released this month in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access.

Actress Florence Pugh nearly steals the spotlight from Johansson in the feature film as Natasha’s estranged sister Yelena Belova. Belova reaches out to Romanoff from Budapest, seeking the Avenger’s help in bringing down a general played by veteran actor Ray Winstone.

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The opening scene depicts Romanoff and Belova as surrogate children in 1995, part of a nuclear family embedded in Ohio and comprised of the Russian undercover agents Alexei Shostakov and Melina Vostokoff, who pose as the children’s parents.

David Harbour of the Netflix original series “Stranger Things” plays the would-be patriarch while Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz, whose film breakthrough came in “The Mummy” in 1999, plays the matriarch in “Black Widow,” which is rated PG-13.

The trees surrounding the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, are mostly bare of its leaves in the winter. Photo by Michael Parulava on Unsplash.com
The trees surrounding the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, are mostly bare of its leaves in the winter. Photo by Michael Parulava on Unsplash.com


Forward a couple of decades and the dysfunctional “family” reunite to bring down the general and his “Red Room,” a covert program that uses mind control to train orphaned, unwanted or selected girls to become Black Widows like Romanoff and Belova.

“Before I was an Avenger ... I made mistakes ... and a lot of enemies,” Romanoff says in a voiceover in trailers for “Black Widow.”


"Before I was an Avenger ... I made mistakes ... and a lot of enemies."

— Natasha Romanoff aka "Black Widow" spy


Romanoff and Belova were taken from their surrogate parents by the general after the family’s mission in Ohio as part of the Red Room program, which produces young women operatives who are manipulated by the general through mind control after years of grooming them.

Johansson has said in interviews promoting “Black Widow” that the new release became Marvel's #MeToo movie because of the women in the action-adventure film who experienced abuse by men of power in real life.

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The ideas of sisterhood, female empowerment and holding powerful white men accountable for their transgressions feature prominently in the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first big-screen solo film of the comic book character of the same name.

The film was directed by relative newcomer Cate Shortland from a screenplay by Eric Pearson, who wrote the screenplays for "Thor: Ragnarok" that came out in 2017 and starred Chris Hemsworth and "Godzilla vs. Kong" that was released theatrically and on HBO Max in March.

"Black Widow" captured a massive $80 million in its first weekend, “crushing the benchmark for the biggest opening weekend since the pandemic,” according to Variety, proving once again that Marvel Studios’ winning streak at the box office.

Featuring incredulous action sequences and a more thoughtful-than-normal plot than the average summer blockbuster, “Black Widow” was delayed three times from an original May 2020 release date due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Audiences may want to stay for the post-credits scene, which has become a mainstay of movies from Marvel Studios and acts as a teaser for future comic book-based movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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“Black Widow” holds an 80% approval rating among critics and a 92% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at RottenTomatoes.com: “ … but it remains a solidly entertaining standalone adventure that’s rounded out by a stellar supporting cast.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum.