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AVENGERS: ENDGAME may have put a cap on the existing 20-plus movie saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but things aren't over yet. Sure, ENDGAME laid several characters to rest, but it also expanded the MCU, opening the door to new characters and different adventures.
Now, even though her fate was sealed in ENDGAME, one character who has never quite gotten her due in the MCU is finally getting her own standalone film. Natasha Romanoff, played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson, is the focus of an at-long-last solo BLACK WIDOW movie. The character, initially introduced as a foil for Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark in IRON MAN 2, is now front and center, leading the charge in the next phase of MCU blockbusters. Make way, she's coming through.
BLACK WIDOW was originally set to open the summer movie season in 2020, with a release date of May 1. At that point it would have been almost a year since the last Marvel movie, SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME, released on July 2, 2019. That's one of the longest wait times in the series so far.
Now BLACK WIDOW is set to open on July 9, 2021 — which makes for the longest break in the MCU since the original IRON MAN movie. The movie still stands as the first film in Marvel's new "Phase Four" storyline, with movies like SHANG-CHI and ETERNALS set for release later in 2021.
[Image credit: Marvel Studios]
Yes! Check it out above, and read our detailed breakdown here.
As is evidenced in the trailer, this action in this film is smaller than the global cataclysms of the AVENGERS films or even something like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Instead, it's a relatively intimate affair, more akin to something like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE or THE BOURNE IDENTITY. In other words: a global spy film with high stakes and tons of action that just so happens to star one of the Avengers.
Both the trailer and the footage that was previewed at last year's San Diego Comic-Con (and later D23 Expo) promise a story of Black Widow going it alone and "having to confront her past," according to the official synopsis. She also gets a cool white suit at some point, which we are very into. This is the movie that fans have been clamoring for for years and it looks like it won't disappoint.
Well, that's the thing. If you saw AVENGERS: ENDGAME (and considering it's the biggest movie of all time, you did), then you know that Natasha took a fateful leap in order to secure the soul stone and bring back half of the universe's population. This was a selfless, beautiful act, and she played off of her costar Jeremy Renner beautifully. But still, at the end of the sequence, she was very much dead. Hulk was so upset he threw a bench across a lake. So when BLACK WIDOW takes place is a big deal.
According to the studio, BLACK WIDOW is set directly after the events of 2016's CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, when Natasha broke ranks with Iron Man to let her buddy Captain America go free. It is a time when superheroes are being prosecuted, so it makes sense that she would slip out of the mainstream to handle some business.
That's a good and important question! Unfortunately, no, Natasha will not be resurrected. Dead is dead. This story just takes place prior to ENDGAME and other current MCU movies.
The BLACK WIDOW cast is amazing. Florence Pugh may have had a better 2019 than any other actor, having appeared in FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY, MIDSOMMAR, and LITTLE WOMEN. She plays Yelena Belova, a sister figure of sorts to Natasha, who was similarly trained for violent espionage.
Rachel Weisz is Melina, another assassin who serves as a surrogate mother to the two girls. And David Harbour, from "Stranger Things," is Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian, the Soviet equivalent to Captain America. In this strange surrogate nuclear family, he's the father figure.
Additionally, OT Fagbenle plays a former S.H.I.E.L.D. ally of Natasha's; he's a possible romantic interest for Natasha. The great Ray Winstone has been cast in an undisclosed role, and William Hurt will return as a central figure from CIVIL WAR, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross. Finally, rumors persist that Robert Downey, Jr. will make an appearance, via archival footage, as Tony Stark.
First off, there's a good chance that BLACK WIDOW features a villain we don't really know about yet — or that one of the characters we have already seen will be one of the movie's main baddies. As far as we know right now, however, there's one primary evil player. The movie's big bad is only seen in the trailers in a couple of quick shots but was present in the footage screened at Comic-Con and D23. It's Taskmaster, known for his (or her) ability to expertly mimic the fighting style of whoever he (or she) is facing off against.
The identity of the actor playing this character has yet to be revealed. The footage we saw at Comic-Con, of Natasha fighting someone against whom she is perfectly matched, was very cool. We're curious to see if the studio will eventually reveal who was cast — prior to the film's release — or if the character's identity is a big secret that will be revealed during the course of the movie. If anybody knows how to keep a secret, it's Black Widow.
BLACK WIDOW is directed by Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland, who won the job after Marvel considered a long list of potential directors. Shortland is probably best known for the 2012 movie LORE, which is set in Germany in the aftermath of World War II, and for the psychological thriller BERLIN SYNDROME, released in 2017.
While BLACK WIDOW will certainly look and feel like a Marvel movie, Shortland has a realistic, dark-edged filmmaking style and an excellent way with actors. We know that the core ensemble of BLACK WIDOW had to create the illusion of being part of a makeshift family, and Shortland should add a great dose of believability to those character relationships. Natasha's story is already an emotional one, and this movie is primed to make the most of potential while giving us a lot of new drama and action.
All images courtesy of Marvel Studios.
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