Black Widow begins with a glimpse of the lives of young Natasha and Yelena in mid-1990s Ohio. It then skips forward to the time shortly after Captain America: Civil War.
Natasha (Scarlett Johansen) is on the run from the US government and is hiding out in Norway. She encounters a robotic soldier intent on stealing an antidote for chemical subjugation. The villainous Dreykov (Ray Winstone) is using this chemical tool to keep an army of ‘black widows’ under his personal control.
Natasha believes that Dreykov is dead, however, so she heads to Budapest. Here she encounters her estranged sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), who was trained as an assassin and has just escaped from Dreykov’s black widow army. Together the sisters decide to track down the infamous Red Room, where the widows are trained. They want to stop Dreykov and free the women he has under his control. But this seems to be impossible, so the sisters set off to find their father, Alexei (David Harbour), the only person they know who might be able to track Dreykov down.
After freeing Alexei in a daring prison break, Natasha and Yelena set off in search of their mother, Melina (Rachel Weisz), whom they believed to be dead. It turns out Melina is working for Dreykov and experimenting with increasingly powerful ways to control people’s free will.
Battling the trauma of their younger years, Natasha and Yelena try to come to terms with their past and with each other. They wonder what was real and what was not, whether they can trust the people they thought were their parents, and whether they have the strength to look within themselves, atone for past mistakes, and save the world.
Family breakdown; forced separation of family members; child trafficking; child soldiers; mind control; male oppression and the notion that women are ‘expendable’
Black Widow has a lot of violence. For example:
- Alexei and US government agents have a shoot-out while Melina tries to get the young girls in a plane. Melina is shot while trying to take off. Alexei clings to the side of the wing, shooting and being shot at. As a car gets stuck to the plane and agents close in, Alexei kicks one in the face and blood splatters over the girls. Agents shoot at Alexei and the young sisters until Natasha takes over for her mother and gets the plane into the air.
- Natasha and a robotic soldier fight. They punch, kick, stab and shoot each other until the soldier throws Natasha over a bridge.
- Yelena and Natasha hold each other at gunpoint, neither trusting the other. They smash each other’s heads into walls and cabinets, fight with knives, flip each other over, bash into walls, and strangle each other with dishtowels and curtains.
- Soldiers with lasers blast into the apartment the sisters are sharing and shoot at them. There are explosions as the sisters fight back. Soldiers shoot all over the courtyard.
- People detonate hand grenades.
- Natasha and an assassin fall off a building. Natasha moves to the puddle where the assassin is lying alive but badly injured. The assassin’s hand moves towards her own head and she whispers to Natasha, ‘I don’t want to ... he is making me’. She blasts herself in the face and takes her own life. Natasha watches in confusion and horror.
- A robotic soldier chases the sisters in a massive army tank, shooting at them as they try to escape on a motorcycle.
- The sisters rob a man at gunpoint and take his car. The robotic soldier chases them, blasting cars out of the way. The soldier fires a flaming arrow at them. Their car explodes and falls down a shaft to a subway platform. The soldier chases them on foot and tries to kill them with a shield.
- We’re told that only 1 in 20 girls will survive the black widow training.
- Alexei breaks a man’s wrist while arm-wrestling in prison.
- The sisters free their father, Alexei, from prison. Guards chase him as he beats and punches his way through prisoners. Guards taser people, and Alexei kicks some off a bridge. He’s nearly hit by a plane.
- Guards shoot missiles at the plane, and Yelena blows up the guard tower. The explosion triggers an avalanche, which descends on the prison.
- Natasha is told how her real mother was executed as a punishment for searching for her.
- Alexei is shot with numerous darts, and Melina seems to attack her daughters.
- When Yelena regains consciousness, she’s strapped to a table with markings on her forehead. She’s told that doctors are going to cut out her brain.
- Yelena cuts through her bonds with a knife and stabs the doctor.
- Natasha and a robotic soldier fight each other.
- Dreykov punches Natasha in the face repeatedly. Natasha then smashes her own face into a table, deliberately breaking her own nose.
- Natasha fights an army of black widows, who have all been instructed to kill her. Natasha and the widows punch, hit, kick, stab, flip, throw and choke each other.
- Natasha jumps out of a window as fire rips through the building. The building explodes behind her.
- A soldier’s body hits the plane Melina is flying, and part of the tail breaks off.
- Yelena explodes the plane that Dreykov is in. The explosion blasts her into the air and she falls through the sky towards her death. Natasha leaps after her with a parachute.
- The robotic soldier follows Natasha through the air, continuing to attack her.
Black Widow has some sexual references. For example:
- When Yelena is moody, Alexei asks her if it is her ‘time of the month’. She says, ‘I don’t have a uterus. Or ovaries. They chopped them out’.
- Alexi says to Melina, ‘You are still beautiful and supple’. He looks at her suggestively and says, ‘I have a lot of energy after all that time I spent in prison’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Black Widow shows some use of substances. For example:
- Dreykov’s mind control drug can be deactivated by releasing vials of a red substance over a person’s face. The person must inhale the substance.
- A couple of characters drink alcoholic beverages.
Nudity and sexual activity
Black Widow has some nudity and sexual activity. For example, Alexi tries to squeeze himself into his old superhero costume and is briefly shown in his underwear. His bare, tattooed chest is exposed as he struggles to get dressed.
The following products are displayed or used in Black Widow: Natasha watches a scene from a James Bond movie, Moonraker.
Black Widow has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Black Widow is the latest action adventure movie in the Marvel franchise. Focusing on sisterly love and featuring numerous female roles, it’s very well cast. Its big budget scenes and special effects are expertly directed too.
Despite the strength of the female characters, Black Widow sends a dangerous message via its villain, Dreykov. He says that he can ‘start and end wars using the only natural resource the world has too much of’ – girls. Because of this and its frequent violence and scary scenes, Black Widow is not a family movie. It’s best suited to older teenagers and adults.
These are the main messages from Black Widow:
- Families come in all forms.
- Some bonds are unbreakable.
- No matter what happens, you should never let anyone destroy your heart.
Values in Black Widow that you could reinforce with your children include teamwork, forgiveness, solidarity, courage, determination and resilience.
Black Widow could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the real-life consequences of things like:
- using violence as a means to solve conflict
- devaluing women and girls and thinking of them as expendable – for example, Dreykov refers to the girls as trash and says, ‘I simply recycle the trash’
- trafficking in humans
- training and rehabilitating child soldiers
- abandoning your family.