There is so much about Black Widow that feels so wrong. This keeps getting pitched as both an origin story and a sendoff for the Black Widow character, but it doesn't really do either. First issue is that this movie feel like it was meant to be released right after Civil War and not just because that's when it takes place. This film should have been released four or five years ago, where the stories were smaller and this movie had more wiggle room to do important things without having to worry about continuity issues or having the tension undercut because we know hoe certain things have to shake out because we've had eight films between here and Endgame. If we pretend it's 2016 and we're a few months removed from Civil War, Black Widow is a cute little side quest that introduces some new characters but is very small in the scope of the MCU, has no consequences on anything outside the film, and is totally skipable. Age of Ultron already gave us most of Natasha Romanoff's backstory and we don't get anything groundbreaking here. We get a quick little episode from when she was a preteen(?) and then jump to post-Civil War. I don't think the preteen stuff felt like it was out Black Widow and I was kind of beginning to fear that something went wrong and Disney+ was showing me the wrong movie because it was was too cutesy. The main story is about dealing with a figure from Natasha's past. We don't really explore much untouched ground as far as an origin story goes and she kind to takes a back seat too often to feel this was any kind of goodbye. I liked Florence Pugh's character and of course Rachel Weisz is a great actress, but we spend a lot of time establishing Pugh instead of savoring our last two hours with Natasha. As a story with virtually no stakes for the MCU as a whole, it's fine although sappy and David Harbour is terrible (his scenes have the worst attempts at humor and his "acting" has always been awful). It feels like when an anime series has an OVA that you could just plug in anywhere in the middle of the story an be okay because it's self-contained and inessential. Pugh has some solid jokes and easily has the best Russian accent. Really, Pugh is the best part of Black Widow and the only thing worth praise; everything else was average, vanilla. Their take on Taskmaster is boring and really strips away what makes that character interesting. They mention that Taskmaster can replicate/mimic other people's fighting styles to the point that it's like fighting a mirror, but beyond one quick scene where they tease that Taskmaster is going to use Black Panther's move set, they never touch it. I was ready to see Taskmaster grabbing a shield and hurling it like Captain America or maybe a little Hawkeye action, but they do nothing with it. Taskmaster is just another boring suit with no personality, nothing to make them special, much like the entire movie. There are all of the usual movie logic moments we'd expect along with the uninspired cinematography and fight choreography. Black Widow ends up painfully average. It really doesn't even feel like a Marvel film. Sure, I watched it in my living room and not in an Imax, but I've seen most of the MCU movies on my couch and they still had the gravitas and that epic feeling. I saw Infinity War in both and it feels grandiose either way. Even smaller scale movies like Dr. Strange or movies I don't even like like Captain Marvel or Antman still feel like big Marvel Movies. Black Widow feels like it is to the MCU what Luca was to Pixar; it's just something we plopped on Disney+ for free, except I paid $30 to be mildly entertained by Black Widow and I got to be disappointed at Luca for no more than my monthly subscription fee. Unless you are one of us who feels obligated to see every MCU movie or Natasha is one of your top five superheroes, I'd wait until after October when it's free on Disney+; there isn't anything here that's going to be a water-cooler moment or something your friends are going to be talking about for weeks. We get a great performance from Pugh and a shit one from Harbour, those are the big notes, the rest is just there. After all this time talking about how Black Widow was going to be our big send off for Natasha, I can't help but be disappointed. We don't get any of the callbacks that they gave Iron Man or Captain America, we don't get to see a new side or deeper side of her, and it could be debated that she's not even the main character of her own film. Had this been just another Phase 2 film in in the 2010's, it would have been a neat little film about what Natasha was doing while the Avengers were dissembled, but in 2021, hearing them talk about the Sokovia Accords and Thaddeus Ross again makes it feel dated and most of the people I was with couldn't even remember what/who those are. This either needed to be a true origin story with either Natasha in the KGB or how she got out or it needed to be a true sendoff with all of the fanfare an fan service the character deserves. What we got is like a bonus chapter that is in the back of the Target exclusive hardcover that covers an event that was originally cut because it wasn't important enough to keep in the real book. Natasha deserved better, Scarlett Johansson deserved better, and for this being the first MCU movie in two years, we deserved better.