Marvel’s Black Widow Movie Could Only Have Happened Now
Marvel fans have been clamoring for a Black Widow movie from the moment Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff first appeared on screen in 2010. Iron Man 2. I know, because I spent a lot of time covering that pressure and the various ways that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has responded when asked about it.
I have also spent Black widowThe pre-release period lengthened by COVID shaking my head at how much this movie would have been received with much more enthusiasm if Marvel had released it in 2013 or ’14, right after the Avengers‘billion dollar hit. Before we started talking about MCU fatigue. Before the character Endgame death. Before then, Johansson became a Twitter meme for saying she should be able to play in a tree.
But now that I’ve seen it, I can’t help but think that Black widow Really I could not have been out so far (or, at least, until spring 2020). The reasons why Marvel is still a wildly clear own goal.
Don’t forget that superheroines used to be complicated
We live in a flourish of female-led action blockbusters, particularly in the realm of comics. We don’t have one but two Wonder Woman movies, a Captain Marvel sequel on the way, TV shows for Jessica Jones, Supergirl, Stargirl, Scarlet Witch, and soon Ms. Marvel, Ironheart, and She-Hulk. We could have finally eclipsed that era of the 1990s when, on a single rerun day, you might see an episode of Xena, Star Trek: Voyager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Y Cleopatra 2525.
It’s almost enough to make you forget how constantly nervous and vocally nervous top executives at Warner Bros. and Marvel were about the idea of a female-led superhero movie for the entire 2010s. Catwoman Y Elektra was apparently dark enough to represent the smashing success of franchises like The Hunger Games, and independent films like Gravity or Pernicious, invisible.
In 2010, Warner Bros. announced that it was developing a Wonder Woman movie. The same year, Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel) wrote a treatment for a Black Widow movie that never took off (he doesn’t get credit for the 2021 movie). In 2013, with no Wonder Woman movie in sight, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson said the character was “hard. “At the same time, Kevin Feige admitted that Marvel Studios had no plans to produce a solo movie for a female superhero. In contrast to logic, the play directed by Jennifer Lawrence The hunger games on fire it was the fifth highest grossing film of the year.
In 2014, Variety reported that there were to Black widow film in development, but work on it had been delayed to focus on bringing Captain Marvel to screens first in 2018. Months later, Captain Marvel in turn, it was delayed so Marvel could focus on a sequel to Ant Man. In 2015, Patty Jenkins finally signed for Wonder Woman, and when she broke the box office in 2017, Warner Bros. was quick to renegotiate her initial contract, which had not included any language that would shut her down or Gal Gadot for a sequel. Almost as if those involved assumed there would be no audience for one.
That year, Marvel began his first serious search for a director for a solo Black Widow movie. Captain Marvel It hit theaters in 2019 and grossed more than $ 1 billion, and Hollywood’s fear of female superheroes seemed to subside. Finally, it was Black widowIts the turn.
But this is the thing about Black Widow
The easiest way to get someone to accept what you think is a great risk is to reduce the amount of risks that surround you. Imagine sculpting a superhero movie starring a woman in the most pleasing way possible for a nervous movie executive; a tiny jar of spandex-lined baby food.
Imagine a movie that is restricted to a safely proven standard superhero origin story: the hero gains powers, finds out how they work, gets a brightly colored costume, overthrows the blatantly evil baddie, saves the day with bravery and kindness. The lead actress is at a point in her career where she doesn’t yet have the clout to choose the lead action roles she wants and doesn’t have the clout to get paid as such. Preferably, the story is set at least two decades in the past, so any example of sexism the main character faces won’t make the modern men they’re watching squirm. And the movie overall will have the least complicated and most obvious message a Hollywood executive would come up with for a female-led superhero movie: Peace, with a Girl Power sub-order.
This is exactly what Wonder Woman Y Captain Marvel It seems. They are two of the most superhero superhero films to exist since the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they are packed with Girl Power moments. This is not a bad thing, for Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel: both characters were designed from the jump to carry the weight of being an overtly feminist superhero, not just a superhero who happens to be a woman.
But Black Widow will never be a pink Girl Power character – her fist raised in a We can do it! curl – because no one should do what she has done. Rather than heroism and power fantasy, her character’s hook is atonement, hard-won agency, and unflappable competition. And it is atoning for objectively horrible things! Murder, murder and a series of [thinking face emoji] other actions for which you feel deep contrition.
This is not bad for Black Widow. It’s not her fault she wasn’t confident enough to feed a Hollywood executive. It is Marvel’s fault, for deciding that the symbolic woman of the Avengers would be a reformed supervillain.
Red on a ledger
I can’t say exactly what Marvel promoters and agitators were thinking when they made Black Widow the symbolic girl of the Avengers. Among other things, it’s pretty obvious that Natasha Romanoff is a favorite character archetype of screenwriter / director Joss Whedon; Like Buffy, River Song or Echo, she is a traumatized girl who has been turned into a killing machine by men.
But it’s easy to see what they weren’t thinking – they weren’t thinking about how Black Widow, a character with a dark history and no superpowers, wasn’t suitable for the standard superhero origin arc that the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been built on. They weren’t thinking about the possibility of paying Scarlett Johansson the salary of a leading actress, rather than a supporting one. They weren’t planning on using their most highly anticipated film to feature another female superhero, which would have expanded the range of options for an established MCU superhero to develop in her own franchise. They weren’t choosing a character based on whether or not she was viable to lead a first superhero movie.
Before Black widow could move forward needed 2017 Wonder Woman. Just four months after hitting screens, Marvel finally recruited a new screenwriter to Black widow. Wonder Woman had made female-directed superhero movies seem viable, and within a year, Black widow finally had a director. But Marvel was still prioritizing the unreleased Captain Marvel over a character fans had known for nine years. Her story was a standard superhero origin, explosive of energy, and she fits the lite-feminist mold in which Hollywood is most comfortable. Now, and only now, Marvel could fit a darkly funny, female-centric spy movie into its superhero universe.
It’s easy to imagine Marvel executives breathing in relief over Black Widow’s death in Avengers Endgame. Now they would have the perfect excuse not to have to negotiate with Scarlett Johansson, the highest paid actress in Hollywood in 2018 and 2019, for a solo franchise, just the solo movie that is already on the release schedule.
Marvel never built Black Widow to be a franchise character. And thanks to that, it never will be.