First Black Widow reactions are polarizing: is this movie great or terrible?

First Black Widow reactions
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Weeks before Disney and Marvel Studios release Black Widow, critics and industry folks have seen the movie. And their first reactions are about as volatile as the explosions seen in the trailer, though it seems like there are more positive reactions than negative ones.

One critic's complaints suggest he wishes he could get these hours of his life back, while others rave about Florence Pugh's performance. Let's get the bad out of the way before we dive into the good. Oh, and a note for those (like us) who are going to the movies or buying it on Disney Plus Premier Access: stay through the credits for the bonus scenes.

Interestingly enough, none of the posts we've found compare Black Widow to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. We note this because director Cate Shorthand said that some of the first audiences were comparing them.

The negative Black Widow reactions

Jeremiah Monaghan from DiscussingFilm gave us the most concerning (albeit predictable) warning, saying that Black Widow "feels very much like MCU films of the past with its Marvel-patented tone and lackluster villain." He's not all barbs, though, writing that Black Widow is "bolstered by well-directed action and great leading performances from Johansson and Pugh, whose chemistry is the highlight"

The biggest naysayer of the film is Scott Menzel, founder of the Hollywood Critics association, who posted "Black Widow is so disappointing. Scarlett Johansson tries, but the script, pacing, & poor character development sink the film. Starts off promising but by the second act becomes a disjointed & uneven mess. Generic, uninspired, & ultimately lacking the Marvel Magic."

Later in that same thread, Menzel lamented that Black Widow's "jokes, as a whole, felt lazy, dated, and out of place. Some were actually cringeworthy." Which is the exactly the kind of sentiment we don't want to hear. He ends his thread frustratedly, noting "Johansson and Black Widow both deserved better."

The positive Black Widow reactions

So, let's move onto the positive notes. Hector Navarro of Nerdist had the exact opposite reaction, stating "as someone who has been waiting since 2010 to see Natasha Romanoff get her own movie, it was well worth the wait."

Another gushing rave comes from Erik Davis of Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, who says Black Widow "truly completes Natasha’s story in a visceral & emotional way. He even broke out the all caps when saying the film is "like the MCU's Bond movie w/ shades of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE & THELMA & LOUISE." We're guessing his use of all-caps titles is meant to emphasize the film's range.

And the big news about the reactions is all about Florence Pugh, as it seems a star is born (again) in Black Widow. Jacob Fisher (also from Discussing Film) tweeted  Pugh is "brilliant as Yelena." Agreeing with him was critic Lando, who tweeted  "Florence Pugh is fantastic as Yelena Belova, who is definitely here to stay," which makes us wonder if she'll be one of the new Avengers. 

It also seems like Pugh elevates Johansson's performance. Brandon Davis of the Phase Zero podcast tweeted "Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh are brilliant as Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova (especially when they are together!)"

Another overall positive reaction came from writer/director Ben Mekler, who claims "It’s low-key one of Marvel’s finest - an emotional story with great performance" and that its "high-stakes chase through a 'Russian JCPenney'" may be "one of the zaniest and most badass action scenes in MCU history."

As for the rest of the cast, Davis notes that Stranger Things' David Harbour is "hilarious & a major scene stealer," while also writing as if this could be Johansson's final turn as Natasha. If so, he says, "it's a great way to go out."

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.