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A “Black Widow” movie should have been done a long time ago. There were rumblings that Marvel didn’t think a female-centric movie could garner the box office buzz as some of the MCU’s other big-name heroes. That was early in the process, but now we know different.

Every Marvel movie has a specific genre. “Thor: Ragnarok” is sort of a buddy cop movie, the Captain America flicks are action and espionage, “Ant-Man” is light-hearted comedy, and “Black Widow” is a spy-thriller packed with familial drama.

The entire movie feels like it could exist outside of the MCU and be just fine. It’s a fully realized set of characters and story without packing on the extra weight of the Avengers.

Here we get Natasha’s (Scarlett Johansson) full backstory along with her sister Yelena’s (Florence Pugh). As kids they were a family of Russian moles planted inside the U.S. Their father Alexei (David Harbour) and their mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) are both spies helping out the cause of Russia by undermining the United States.

Natasha and Yelena are too young to understand what their parents do for a living and instead grow up in an idyllic every-town-USA neighborhood playing outside, riding bikes, and simply enjoying their lives. That is, until one night the entire family must pack up and leave suddenly.

The mission is blown, they must fly back to Russia — a place both kids have never known. They’re separated from their parents and so begins Natasha’s and Yelena’s journeys of becoming super assassins controlled by the Russian government.

The strain and anxiety felt between the family members is real. This is probably one of the more emotionally resonant MCU films to date. These feel like real people dealing with real problems. The stakes are small, the world isn’t going to explode or anything. But, when the stakes are small, we’re able to focus in on the characters, their lives, and what sort of demons they’re dealing with.

“Black Widow” doesn’t lack in the action department either. There are some seat-gripping set pieces that rival anything the MCU has to offer.

David Harbour offers up a wonderful performance as an old, washed-up super soldier nicknamed the Red Guardian. Ray Winstone plays a believable bad guy even if his Russian accent isn’t up to snuff.

It may not end up being everyone’s favorite MCU film, but it’s a nice departure from the “save the world” trope. Instead we get to focus our attention on a family drama and a well-crafted spy thriller that delivers in action and emotion.

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