Before I go any further, a warning: I don’t completely get why we have a Black Widow movie. I understand that the Marvel gods, AKA Kevin Feige, want to introduce Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) replacement and give color to her mysterious background. Also, this is an opportunity to make money off of the already established intellectual property. This feels like an afterthought, though: the character is dead in the continuity, but finally gets a solo film that was intended to introduce the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fourth phase? Ok?
Now, I saw Avengers: Endgame; I know Scarlett Johansson is done with the role, after BW. The movie’s basic plot doesn’t undo that—it’s a story of how Romanoff repairs old relationships while being “pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down.” Sounds like your basic superhero/action movie, set after Captain America: Civil War and bound to premiere two years after the character’s death.
Yes, I read that too, but that’s not a huge issue. The idea of continuity within the MCU isn’t a linear experience. The movies (and now TV shows) aren’t necessarily released chronologically. They’re all linked, however, building a universe and extensive timeline, where events in one may directly affect the connected universe later on. That’s what is happening with Widow—it’s a prequel, meant to pass a torch to the new Black Widow, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). My issue is the movie always felt mistimed.
Widow was meant to start the next phase of Marvel content: full of other universes, more out-there characters, and Disney+ content that matched the quality of the movies, for a monthly price. How though? It’s a prequel, so it’s replaying memories from a dead character. It’s giving context and color to someone who we’ll never see again, allegedly. Is the introduction of a successor hero, and those around her, paramount to the rest of the connected universe? Who knows? I haven’t seen the movie, and I didn’t write it, so I can’t say yes or no.
Would this movie be better placed in-between the most recent Avengers movies? Probably, because it would be a little more grounded. It strips away some importance from the movie, sure, but also allows it to exist and tell the story. If this movie came out in winter 2018, for example, we wouldn’t need to know that Black Widow dies before seeing it. She was a supporting character in six Marvel movies before Endgame and her death is a major plot point in a star-studded blockbuster; Widow’s established enough to anchor a movie.
This movie was long asked for, but after giving her a heroic sendoff, coming back to the character feels like it’s undoing that goodbye. Rolling out a prequel-based swansong as the stimulant for a new volume of stories and characters is a daring move, that a pandemic is delaying. Some say, “Do the HBO Max thing,” and I don’t know if it’d work, or if it’d really be profitable. And yes, I did write that Disney should just release New Mutants, but this is apples and pears: similar, but not the same.
What I do know is that as a catalyst of new stories, it has been lapped. Every week that passes, WandaVision is slowly bringing us into the post-Blip Marvel universe and generates a lot of questions. Are we seeing the multiverse? Which demon are we looking at? Are we gradually setting up Young Avengers? The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are up next and Loki after that. Meanwhile, Black Widow sits on a shelf, collecting dust, hoping for its May 7, 2021 release date.