As the sole female member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Avengers for three years, and a character with an undeniable screen presence, many fans understandably have long clamored for a Black Widow solo film. But since Scarlett Johannson’s debut as Natasha Romanoff nearly eight years ago, in Iron Man 2, she’s been relegated to the role of a supporting player. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has been cagey about the possibility of a Black Widow film for some years now, but on Wednesday we learned it now actually has a writer.
Although a writer is just the first step in a long process, the news naturally has fans all in a tizzy. For many, this can be taken as concrete evidence that Natasha will be among the survivors of the bloody battles against Thanos and his Black Order in Avengers: Infinity War. In turn, to them, the mere existence of Black Widow on Marvel’s slate is a spoiler for Infinity War. As reposterous as that sounds, there’s a degree of reasonable logic at play: After all, none of the MCU films and television series has starred someone who’s dead in the current timeline rather than simply believed to be dead to all but a select few, as is the case with Daredevil or Thor: Ragnarok. And the thing about that is … no, the announcement of a Black Widow movie doesn’t really mean a thing about the character’s future in this cinematic universe.
One of the conundrums about the MCU’s solo films is that we know everything will turn out relatively fine, because the heroes’ stories will continue in the team movies. In no way does that diminish the impact of their solitary adventures, but it does lead to this sense of realization that even if a trailer shows you that Spider-Man is in danger of being sucked into a jet turbine, he’s more than likely not going to bite the dust in his own movie. Even when Captain America: Civil War was promising an all-out schism that would more than likely be fatal for a few of its members, there was the niggling doubt that any of the players would actually be killed rather than simply, and temporarily, taken off the board. The inverse of that can be true with Black Widow’s solo film: Just because it exists in no way means she’ll come out of the Infinity War or its sequel unscathed.
Scarlett Johansson reportedly has already met with Marvel Studios executives about what she wants from a Black Widow film, and one of her requests could be that it’s a prequel rather than an extension of Natasha’s character post-Infinity War. Something that doesn’t really get attention is that, in the movies, Natasha is a bit of a drifter. Once she uploads all of the secrets of Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. to the internet in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, her first instinct is to go off the grid. In Captain America: Civil War, after allowing Steve and Bucky escape to Siberia, she leaves Iron Man’s team and goes into hiding. Both of those periods where she disappeared would provide ample story material.
Another likelihood that we could be facing is that the film instead focuses on another Black Widow, with Natasha in the role of reluctant mentor, similar to what we saw in Logan. It’s been established and unremarked on for quite some time that the MCU is theoretically filled with Black Widows, due to the Red Room, a Soviet program that’s only really been fleshed out on Agent Carter. The program was shut down in the 1990s, but if Hydra and the Hand’s repeated returns have shown us anything, it’s that these type of organizations aren’t fully dead as long as one member still breathes. There’s more than enough fertile ground for Natasha to deal with what remains of the Red Room program and meet other Black Widows, be they Yelena Belova, or Monica Chang and Nadia Pym. And come to think of it, we never did wrap up Dottie Underwood’s story from Agent Carter, did we?
We all know that the existence of a Black Widow movie is annoyingly late, so her movie will have to stand out. Legacy is built into Natasha’s history, and there’s been enough hinted at in ancillary material to build a solid story around. Even if she doesn’t end up surviving Infinity War, there’s still plenty to learn about her, and if there’s one thing Natasha needs to do, it’s provide the whole truth.
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