Marvel’s Black Widow finally gets her moment to shine

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff in a scene from “Black Widow.”

Marvel’s “Black Widow” is a strong solo superhero effort that feels both timely and also way too late.

Directed by Cate Shortland (“Lore”), the spy thriller (in theaters Friday and on Disney+ via Premier Access) finally gives Scarlett Johansson’s secret agent Avenger her own movie, though the film actually works better as a dysfunctional family drama and high-profile introduction to Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Black Widow’s adopted sister of sorts.

While there’s plenty of action and ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, explaining some things and setting up others, the movie gamely takes a different tack – at least for this expansive mega-franchise – of dealing with female trauma and abuse in an honest way.

While Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff isn’t currently alive in present-day MCU (she sacrificed herself to help save the universe in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame”) this adventure takes place between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” Natasha’s on the run from the authorities and hides out in remote Norway, though, of course, where Black Widow goes, trouble follows and she’s attacked by the mysterious Taskmaster, a figure who mimics perfectly an opponents’ moves.

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