The first trailer for Black Widow promises fascinating backstory, thrilling action sequences and the trademark humor of the MCU, but it also confirms that a Black Widow solo movie should’ve happened years ago. After the phenomenal success of The Avengers in 2012 took the MCU to previously unseen heights, calls for a Black Widow solo movie began in earnest. After all, Scarlett Johansson was a bona fide A-list leading actress and the likes of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man were beginning to rack up movie credits faster than Quicksilver was exiting the MCU. These calls intensified after DC beat Marvel to the punch with Wonder Woman and dispelled any lingering notion that a female-fronted superhero movie wouldn’t sell tickets; something Marvel discovered for themselves with 2019’s Captain Marvel.
Production on Black Widow began in late 2017, but wasn’t officially announced until this year’s San Diego Comic Con and the full unveiling of Marvel’s Phase 4. By this stage, many details had already been made public, such as the casting of David Harbour as Red Guardian, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova and the addition of Taskmaster in a villainous role. After a script rewrite, Cate Shortland was tapped to direct and filming finally began in mid-2019. There was just one problem – Black Widow was already dead. In the bloodbath of Avengers: Endgame, Johansson’s character sacrificed herself to the Soul Stone, meaning her solo movie would have to take place in the MCU’s past. This created a problem for Marvel; how can Black Widow remain relevant when the fate of the main character has already been sealed?
The first trailer for Black Widow has now been released, and those concerns appear to have been verified, at least for the moment. The narration mentions family, confronting the past and nothing lasting forever, while the footage shows Natasha and her Russian pals going back to “where it all began.” Every single one of these themes would’ve packed a bigger impact if the movie was released in 2016 instead of 2020. Before Natasha’s death in Avengers: Endgame, this trailer might’ve had fans questioning whether Black Widow was leaving the Avengers, if she could potentially be killed or whether she was getting sent back to Russia due to strict immigration policy. Knowing Black Widow eventually winds up right when she began in Avengers HQ before dying on Vormir answers all of these questions and removes any element of mystery the trailer could’ve created under better circumstances.
As things stand, Black Widow is a cinematic universe movie that appears to have no significant bearing on its cinematic universe and, having already killed its main character, the movie needed something fresh to replace that missing element, whether that be an R-rating, a major character debut or a unique framing device that made the historic story relevant to the MCU’s present. One or more of these features may indeed be present in the finished edit of Black Widow but, looking at the trailer, it’s hard to escape the fact that this all would’ve been a lot more exciting 3 years ago.
Black Widow will probably still be a great movie. Plenty of prequels succeed despite fans knowing how the story will eventually play out, and Johansson’s action scenes look particularly impressive. However, a major selling point of the MCU is its interconnected format and the impact one film has upon the next. Black Widow‘s trailer doesn’t offer that right now, and is the first MCU release in recent memory that feels missable; peripheral to the main story rather than integral to it.
There’s plenty of time for that to change, and Black Widow may have plenty of MCU surprises waiting in store, but the real issue is that Black Widow is arriving several years too late. The post Captain America: Civil War era (when Black Widow is set) or even immediately following Avengers: Age of Ultron would’ve been an ideal time to explore Natasha Romanoff’s backstory and give her a debut solo adventure. The stakes would’ve been high and the audience wouldn’t have known what to expect. Instead, Marvel held off on Natasha for too long, and found themselves in a catch-22 where ignoring calls for a Black Widow movie altogether would’ve received backlash, but the heroine herself has already reached the end of her journey.
Key Release Dates
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021) release date: Jul 16, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
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