News about Marvel’s female led “Black Widow” film are starting to stir, with the project now taking major steps forward in development. Since Scarlett Johansson captivated audiences as the first female Avenger in the MCU, they’ve waited years for her to get her own spin-off film and with the recent success and oncoming hype of Captain Marvel, the stage is set perfectly for their wished to be granted. With the inevitable hurricane of social media attention, rumors, fan speculation, and perhaps confirmation from Marvel themselves, I can’t help but wonder… should this have happened years ago already? Which leads to some bigger questions: is it too late for a Black Widow film? Do we even need one?
Before You Freak Out, Hear Me Out:
Before people light their torches or grab their pitchforks, I’d like to preface this editorial with a few things. I think this is a problem to be looked at from narrative perspective over a social one. We do in fact need many more films with female leads, particularly in the superhero genre (where that She-Hulk movie at?), but I’d like to ask if it is necessary for Black Widow to receive a film given how much of her story has been told so far and whether there is more of her character that needs to be seen. Black Widow has appeared in 5 films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, and due to some well balanced writing given her usual status as a secondary character, she’s had a character arc or moment of character growth in almost every single one. Her two most important arcs being in the blockbuster Avengers films, with the first having her guilt ridden by the amount of blood she’s spilled in her career as a spy. The film saw her making up for her sins by fighting alongside the world’s mightiest heroes and saving millions of lives. Avengers: Age of Ultron featured Black Widow and her romance with Bruce Banner rather heavily, showing us that she’s desperate to find normalcy and companionship in a world of assassins and superheroes. When Bruce Banner left her, she made up her mind that a normal life was not meant for her and that she has to accept her status as one of the most extraordinary people on Earth. After those as well as a few minor arcs throughout Iron Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Captain America: Civil War– what else is left for Natasha Romanov?
With her conscience cleared and her fantasies of a simpler life left behind, Black Widow’s growth as a character can’t exactly be a dramatic one in her own film. We’ve seen her at her best and worst, and we’ve followed her through these 5 films as she’s put her demons to rest and become fully realized in her own badass way. A solo film for Black Widow would have to retread, undo, or simply ignore these examples of character progression if is set in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe time period. Of course, one could argue that she doesn’t need a character arc in her solo film since the others have covered that groundwork, but a film doesn’t work if it’s characters don’t grow or change. A static character who doesn’t gain new perceptions or experiences is a very boring thing, and simply throwing opposition at them isn’t enough to make us route for them. It’s hard to imagine Black Widow carrying a film on her own without any self discovery or questioning her station in life.
But What If It Was a Prequel?
With Wonder Woman as a major success, it’s fair to say we can look to it for inspiration in this case. That film showed us a younger and more naive version of Princess Diana as she came to understand the world of man and accepted that humanity can be cruel without influence of an evil higher power. Diana grew up before our eyes and we saw her become the woman we would meet briefly later in Batman v. Superman. Part of what worked for Wonder Woman was that we saw so little of her prior to her own outing, so there was still major amounts of ground to cover for her character building. Black Widow has been in the public conscious for nearly 8 years, having done and seen so much over her time in theaters. It doesn’t seem like her character has much left to worry about internally since she has found acceptance of herself as well as the admiration of her Avenging peers.
The argument can be made that the best direction for Black Widow is a prequel, showing how she became one of the world’s greatest assassins and a top spy for SHIELD. The problem with this premise is that we’d only be seeing Natasha’s coming of age as an assassin with guilt for her actions or desire to become normal again, and these conflicts would lead her to no resolution that she couldn’t have found in the Avengers films already. Black Widow’s problem as a character is that over the course of her numerous appearances, her character has become complete. Much like Iron Man at the end of his trilogy or Captain America near the end of Civil War, she has completed her arc and continuing with her will be regressive to her character.
How Does This Relate to the Rest of the MCU?
Miss Romanov is in danger of facing the problem Tony Stark faced due to the longevity of the MCU, where he overcomes his emotional trauma and renounces his status as Iron Man in Iron Man 3… only to come back for Age of Ultron to act like it never happened and still struggle with the trauma he’s faced. The MCU finds itself in a unique scenario as it ages, where these characters find resolution and acceptance, but the rabid fan base and the stellar box office returns require them to come back for more. While it’s always a treat to see these beloved characters return to interact in new ways and fight bigger threats, they aren’t narratively future proof and often retread the same character arcs to meet demand for such numerous outings. As long as the fans are willing to buy tickets, and the characters are as loved as they are; can they ever truly find peace? Will they just solve the same problems over and over in every new film? An unfortunate reality is that Natasha Romanov, much like her super friends, will continue the cycle for a long time to come.
It’s worth noting that Black Widow fans have been asking for a film as early as 2012, possibly earlier then that, and still haven’t received it. One has to wonder if they’re still as interested as they were back then, and if the noise made online about a film is a very vocal minority. Another factor to take into account from recent history is the low selling comics starring the character that have failed to meet numbers worthy of continuing. While the Marvel label on the film will undoubtedly bring in excited audiences, it may not be the perfect time for this film that a year like 2013 was. Thankfully though, many other female characters are slated to get standalone superhero films in the future. While Black Widow’s golden opportunity may have passed, we can still look forward to cinematic experiences with Captain Marvel, Gotham City Sirens, Batgirl and many others that are above the quality level of that Catwoman movie…