THOUGH only delayed 14 months, technically, Black Widow’s arrival in cinemas is around five years overdue. Let it never be forgotten that it took Marvel 24films, 15 television series and well over a decade to produce their first solo feature about a female hero. Indeed, it has taken the studio so long that the hero in question has actually died waiting.

So it was in Avengers Endgame. Forced into reverse, Black Widow takes place not in the present but in the wake of 2016’s Captain America. Those only casually versed in the lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may need a refresher. This was the film that saw the Avengers divided by suggestion that their actions ought to be overseen by a United Nations task force. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson) sided with Robert Downey Jr’s law abiding Tony Stark.

In Black Widow, Natasha is on the run. Cut off from the Avengers, the film sees her reunite with faces from a long lost past. Mere breadcrumbs of Natasha’s dark upbringing have been offered in the franchise to date. Black Widow has answers to the questions you never knew you needed answering. It’s inessential but fun and almost thoughtful as a character piece.

We open to a fire lit 1995. Along with a makeshift nuclear family, Natasha was raised as a Soviet sleeper cell. All ends in disaster, however. In the present, Natasha must face up to her past and the evil puppet-master - Ray Winstone’s Dreykov - who continues to hate her with a passion.

The details of the plot are neither here nor there, involving red vials and brainwashed warrior women. Dodgy Russian accents erupt left, right and centre and the climax does little to break the comic book formula. What works here is the dynamic shared by a core cast united in charisma.

Threatening to steal the whole film, Florence Pugh is a joy as Natasha’s sardonic would-be sister Yelena. David Harbour too is strong as the girl’s delusional father figure Alexei, with Rachel Weisz picking up the rear as their ‘mother’ Melinda. Director Cate Shortland does well to utilise the trio, whilst never forgetting the vitality of a focus on Natasha.

At the end of a long drought, Black Widow should just about hit the spot for those missing Marvel’s particular brand of super sized entertainment.