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[Image Credit: Marvel Studios]
Fans have been clamoring for a BLACK WIDOW movie ever since Scarlett Johansson made her Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debut as Natasha Romanoff, in 2010’s IRON MAN 2. Now the film is finally on the way, despite the character’s surprising turn in AVENGERS: ENDGAME. So, how does the upcoming BLACK WIDOW movie fit into the continuity of the MCU? The answer is simple, but it has some interesting potential ramifications.
Natasha Romanoff has been on the big screen for a decade, always played by Scarlett Johansson, but we don't know that much about the character. She's the most mysterious of the original Avengers. Romanoff was trained in the "Red Room," a Soviet training program for assassins. She spent time working for the KGB before being recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. by Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner. As an Avenger, Black Widow has saved the world multiple times, but shadows from her past still linger. "I've got red on my ledger," she said in THE AVENGERS, suggesting a violent history. The film BLACK WIDOW will likely see Natasha reckoning with that past.
Most of the MCU takes place largely in chronological order, but there are a few flashback stories. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER took place mostly during World War II. CAPTAIN MARVEL was set in 1995, while GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 was set in 2014, a few years earlier than other Marvel films released around the same time. In the upcoming Phase Four, Marvel will feature at least one more flashback. BLACK WIDOW is a prequel of sorts, as it is set between the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. That means this film will see Black Widow on the run as one of the world’s most wanted figures.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR ended with Black Widow on her own. She’d originally sided with Iron Man as the Avengers split up, but walked away from Team Stark during the Airport Battle. Tony gave her fair warning that Thunderbolt Ross was coming for her, and Black Widow fled. So Natasha Romanoff spent some time operating solo, before eventually tracking down Steve Rogers and his Secret Avengers team. She then helped them to hide, encouraging the members to lose some of their most distinctive traits. Black Widow dyed her hair blonde, Steve Rogers grew out his beard, and Scarlet Witch was trained to lose her accent.
Between footage shown at San Diego Comic Con in July 2019, and statements made by Kevin Feige, BLACK WIDOW seems to be set before Natasha found the Secret Avengers. Photos, concept art, and footage show that Natasha is still a redhead. What’s more, there’s no evidence that any of the Secret Avengers will play a major role in the film.
[Image Credit: A24]
So BLACK WIDOW takes place shortly after CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Something happens in Budapest that draws Black Widow out into the open, and leads her into conflict with two important figures. One is Yelena Belova, Natasha’s successor in the Red Room assassin program. Florence Pugh (seen above in MIDSOMMAR) plays Yelena Belova in BLACK WIDOW, and that may hint at the franchise’s future.
In the comics, Yelena Belova was originally focused on proving herself to be better than Natasha. Black Widow, for her part, used her ruthless cunning to manipulate Yelena and prove she couldn’t trust her masters in the Red Room. In the end, Natasha was successful, and Yelena Belove abandoned the Red Room and became a mercenary. She adopted the Black Widow identity as a hero after Natasha Romanoff was believed dead.
Marvel may be setting up something similar here. Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova could potentially succeed Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha, with Yelena becoming the new Black Widow after Natasha’s death in AVENGERS: ENDGAME. That’s a potential post-credits scene!
[Image Credit: Marvel Comics]
The other big figure in the movie is Taskmaster, a Marvel Comics character whose “photographic memory” allows him to instantly learn the combat moves of any opponent. Footage shown at Comic Con revealed a fight between this mercenary and ScarJo’s Black Widow. That said, we don’t know precisely how Taskmaster fits into the story.
For example, while the comic book Taskmaster is a man, that might not be the case in BLACK WIDOW. Rachel Weisz appears in the film, supposedly as a character called Melina, who may have also been trained as a super-spy to match Black Widow and Yelena Belova. The secretive nature of her role, however, has led to some supposition that she’s behind Taskmaster’s mask.
The film will also introduce a couple other new characters to the MCU. David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) plays Alexei Shostakov, aka Red Guardian, who is essentially Russia's answer to Captain America. And O-T Fagbenle appears as Mason, a man. Natasha knew while working for S.H.I.E.L.D. He may also be under the Taskmaster costume. All of which is to say that many secrets remain about Marvel’s BLACK WIDOW, but we wouldn’t expect anything else when it comes what we hope will be the first of many Black Widow movies.
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