After a near two-year hiatus it’s great to have a Marvel film back on the big screen – even if it does seem a touch overly familiar.

Just like with Fast & Furious 9, Black Widow – while admittedly a more intelligent film than anything in The Fast Saga – feels more like a competent mish-mash of all that has come before it, more than anything revolutionary.

If this had come out six or seven years ago it would have felt a little more refreshing, but even the origin story to Black Widow’s past is pretty standard – even though it is gratifying to see Scarlett Johansson’s assassin-turned-superhero Natasha Romanoff finally on the big screen.

We all know that unfortunately the now-deceased Romanoff gave her life to save the planet during the events of Avengers: Endgame, with this movie being set in between 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War – with flashbacks to her childhood thrown in for the usual storyline set-up.

Said flashbacks are based around her childhood growing up in Ohio, with Dad Alexei (Stranger Things’ David Harbour) – who turns out to be the Soviet super soldier equivalent of Captain America known as the ‘Red Guardian’ – Mum Melina (Oscar winner Rachel Weiss) and little Sis Yelena (Fighting with My Family starlet Florence Pugh).

But all is not what it seems when they have to escape to Cuba with SHIELD closing in on sensitive information that her parents possess – linked with villainous Russian Dreykov (Ray Winstone) – and their idyllic life in the States quickly evaporates, as the ‘family’ life they knew sadly falls apart.

Alexei goes back to active duty, Melina disappears after being badly injured, and the two girls end up being trained in Dreykov’s ‘Red Room’ – an elite program where young women are primed to become ‘Black Widow’ elite assassins.

Fast forward twenty or so years, and Romanoff is on the run from William Hurt’s Thaddeus Ross and co after the events of Civil War – but when the sister she hasn’t seen in years sends her a mysterious package she is forced to confront a dangerous conspiracy.

That is that Dreykov – who Romanoff thought she’d killed prior to joining SHIELD – has a new mind-controlling serum that makes all his highly-trained hitwomen partake in deadly missions across the world at his behest.

To make matters worse, he has also developed a mysterious technological being – known in comic lore as Taskmaster (Oblivion’s Olga Kurylenko) – who can mimic the physical movements of anyone it witnesses in combat.

This leads to an accomplished – if a little paint-by-numbers – story finale that owes more than a few nods to arguably the best of the Marvel standalone films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

But while this probably won’t ultimately end up in most people’s Top Ten MCU films – it’s great to see Johansson finally getting the ‘props’ her fan favourite character deserves.

Even if it’s more satisfyingly solid, than spectacular.

ESP Rating: 3.5/5

Gavin Miller

Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt & Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Running Time: 2 Hrs 14 Mins

Director: Cate Shortland