Since the 2018 announcement of Black Widow, a question has loomed over the movie: why now? Natasha Romanoff, as played by Scarlett Johansson, was the third Avenger to grace the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and an immediate fan favorite for her electric action scenes and general badassery. In the early phases of the MCU, when origin stories ran the show, it seemed only natural to make way for a two-hour action/thriller about the life of an international secret agent. Instead, Natasha jumped from ensemble movie to sequel and back again, always a side character despite stealing every scene.
Eventually, hope of Natasha’s solo movie faded, especially given the lack of female-led movies in the MCU. As if to confirm our fears, Avengers: Endgame slapped us with the finality of her death. Yet here we are, weeks away from the Black Widow’s debut in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access.
And so the question lingers: why is this the timing of Natasha’s solo movie? And what does it mean that it comes after her onscreen death? Johansson herself has some answers.
At a press conference promoting the film, Johansson responded to this question, discussing the way Natasha’s fate informs the shape of the film:
“We started talking about this film, as a more serious possibility when we shot Infinity War and then Endgame, back to back. And so we already knew what the endgame was for Natasha. And we wanted to make sure that that was a choice that she made actively, that she felt like she had resolved then… Knowing that, we then had to kind of work backwards so that she could get to a place where that was possible.”
Black Widow takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Since we’ve already seen her death, it bears the weight of giving us resolution in the past. In her final moments of life, Natasha is bursting with resolve, determined to sacrifice herself for Hawkeye. Rather than justify her death, this movie gets to defend her decision. On this, Johansson added:
“We knew that in this film, she had to evolve into a place where she was moving forward in her life and had resolved the trauma from her past, that she felt that she felt like a different person moving forward.”
Natasha’s Chance to Finally Be the Star
If this is our official Black Widow send-off, here’s hoping she actually gets some time to shine. Natasha has a history of being sidelined as a sidekick in someone else’s adventure (or a damsel in distress in someone’s weird cage subplot), so hopefully those mistakes won’t be repeated. With critics already raving about Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, a sister-figure from Natasha’s days in the Red Room, there is speculation that Johansson may end up in the backseat once again. It wouldn’t be the first MCU incident of future set-up distracting from the present story, but it would be a shame to pit the performers or characters against each other. If this story is set to focus on Natasha’s trauma and personal growth, their shared history means Yelena will provide necessary insight (and amazing banter).
Black Widow arrives in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access starting on July 9, 2021.
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