Whether you’ve been avidly following every pandemic-delay update or you’ve been clamoring for a solo pic since Scarlett Johansson first appeared in Iron Man 2, the time has finally come. The Black Widow solo flick premieres July 9.

In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

Black Widow Review

Fans have waited a long time to return to theaters for new Marvel content. And they’ve waited even longer for Black Widow specifically. So, does the film live up to expectations?

Family Ties 

Black Widow introduces us to three new characters: Natasha’s family—or what passes for family when you’re all part of the same secret spy organization. Yelena (Florence Pugh), a Black Widow and Natasha’s sister; the Red Guardian (David Harbour), Natasha’s super soldier father; and Melina (Rachel Weisz), a Black Widow from another generation and Natasha’s mother.

The movie walks the line of their complicated dynamic well, leaning into both the humor and the real emotion behind their situation. Harbour definitely brings the laughs as the Red Guardian. And Pugh’s Yelena really captures the younger sibling vibe perfectly. She has great chemistry with Johansson, and the way Yelena and Natasha tease one another and intentionally get on each other’s nerves will definitely remind viewers of their own relationship with siblings. (Though you’re probably not doing such impressive hand-to-hand combat with your own sister.)

Overall, Natasha’s family members prove to be great additions to the overall MCU family. Really, the only issue here is there was a little too much emphasis on them sometimes. For a Black Widow solo flick, the movie occasionally felt more like a traditional ensemble film. That’s not bad necessarily, but it can be frustrating for fans who wanted to really keep the spotlight on Johansson. At times you can’t help but feel that Marvel is working a little too hard to establish the others (presumably so they can appear in future projects.)

Black Widow - Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh

Still, the overall family dynamic really adds to the emotional complexity of the movie. It also does a great job of showing us another side of Natasha. Underneath the Avengers gear and killer spy training, who is she, really? You definitely learn a lot about her in Black Widow.

It’s a backstory, but not exactly an origin story

Fans—especially those who’ve really been waiting on this movie—should also make sure they properly adjust their expectations heading into the film. While the movie does dive into Natasha’s past a bit to introduce her family, it is NOT a full-on Black Widow origin story. 

Personally, I was a little disappointed we didn’t see more of Natasha’s time in the Red Room and her training growing up. Still, that’s not strictly necessary for this film. After all, although Black Widow spends some time in Natasha’s past, it’s really just done to add context for her present. (Er…the “present” in this case being post Civil War Natasha. Thanks to the events of Avengers: Endgame, some backtracking is necessary.)

So, just know that while you’re definitely going to learn a lot more about Natasha Romanoff, you’re not getting a step-by-step transformation of Natasha into Black Widow.

Ok, but what about the action?

So we’ve got backstory and family and character development. But I know you wanna know…does Black Widow bring the action?

Are you kidding? OF COURSE IT DOES! Yes, Johansson kicks major ass in this film. The stunt coordination and hand-to-hand combat choreography is great. Black Widow has a very distinctive fighting style, given that unlike most of the other Avengers, she’s not a demigod, metahuman, or equipped with an armored suit. 

Villain-wise, I’ll admit things do get a little murky. Natasha’s out to confront her past and the Red Room… but since that’s more of a “spy” goal, the movie throws in Taskmaster so there’s also a baddie to fight. Including Taskmaster does give the movie more opportunities for solid action scenes (and ultimately, a sort of emotional resolution for Natasha). But Taskmaster’s basically an armored puppet figure—not the most compelling of villains.

Black Widow

Still, what’s really cool is how the movie uses action to explore how a lot of these conflicts are different for Natasha; she spends most of the film going up against people who’ve had the same incredible training as she has. That means she has to be a lot more adaptable and creative while fighting, since her opponents already know her best moves. 

Plus, with Natasha, it’s not just about kicking ass. She’s a spy, which means a big part of her approach includes weaving a master plan that leads her opponents right where she wants them. That means dramatic reveals for the audience, who only get to learn about these plans after they’re showing results. Black Widow will definitely keep you on your toes.

Overall, Marvel gives Black Widow a feature with humor, heart, and plenty of action. If this has to be Johansson’s send-off (and that’s unclear, since death isn’t always definitive in the MCU), it’s certainly a strong one.

Black Widow hits theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 9.