I wasn’t planning on writing tonight. But two things changed my mind. First, this was my first day back to work after Thanksgiving break and that means my body still isn’t back to its “work sleep schedule.” Last night I tried to go to bed early which translated into me laying in bed staring at the ceiling wishing I could fall asleep for like two hours. Second, and faaaaaaaar more influential here, WE GOT OUR FIRST TEASER TRAILER FOR BLACK WIDOW TODAY!!!!!!! That’s right, after eleven looooong years of Marvel cinematic magic, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff is finally, finally, finally, FINALLY getting her own solo movie AND WE GOT OUT FIRST LOOK AT IT TODAY!! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!! So yeah, if I’m not going to bed on time anyway, I might as well talk about how excited I am for this.
Okay, so, let’s start with what’s most important. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet or if you’d just like to watch it a bunch more times, here it is.
The first time I watched it all I could think of (outside of AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS!!) was Evangeline Lily’s line at the end of Ant-Man – It’s about damn time!
I’ve written often of what a crime it is that Scarlett Johansson hasn’t had her own solo movie before this. Honestly, I’m of the mind that at the latest this should have happened after The Avengers and kicked off Marvel’s Phase Two as opposed to Iron Man 3. If you look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s story so far, Black Widow is at its heart. Practically, she’s been in more MCU films than any other character save Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. (Counting cameos, Tony’s been in ten films while Steve’s been in nine and Natasha’s been in eight.) Narratively, she’s more central to the MCU than any other character save Tony and Steve. I also think it’s safe to say she’s as central to the narrative as Tony and Steve. They are the trinity at the heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tony is the brain, guiding it all since day one. Steve is the heart. Natasha is its soul.
Natasha first appeared in Iron Man 2, the first SUPERHERO TEAM-UP the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever executed. She’s the one who recruits Bruce Banner for the Avengers, getting them another big brain and an even bigger Hulk. She helps Steve get reacclimated with the world in the 21st Century, fighting alongside him as a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative and, when it turns out S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually a front for Hydra, it’s Natasha who helps Steve burn it all to the ground. Then when someone has to face Congress and the media to explain what happened with Hydra and justify the Avengers continued activity in light of the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. it’s Natasha alone who goes before Congress. There’s no Cap, no Tony. There’s no one but Natasha there to face the public scrutiny, own it, and begin to chart their new path forward.
Then, when Tony decides to “retire” from the Avengers after Ultron, she’s the one who stays with Steve to lead the new version of the team. When the Civil War comes, she has the strength to try and work with the U.N. on the Accords and, when it’s clear Steve and Bucky are in the right, she has the courage to admit she was wrong and help them anyway, consequences be damned. She’s even the very first character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to talk to T’Challa! Then when Thanos comes, Natasha’s right there alongside T’Challa and Steve to walk out and try to negotiate with the Black Order before the Battle of Wakanda begins. And when everything goes to hell, it’s Natasha who stays to lead. Yes, Steve’s around but it’s obvious from Avengers: Endgame it’s Natasha who’s coordinating their forces between Nebula and Rocket, Captain Marvel, War Machine, and Okoye and her Dora Milaje.
All this is to say BLACK WIDOW IS WIDLY IMPORTANT TO THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE. I still can’t wrap my mind around why it’s taken Marvel Studios nine years since she was introduced in Iron Man 2 to give us Black Widow. BUT WE HAVE THIS FILM NOW!!!! So let’s talk the trailer, huh?
The film is reportedly set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War which is a fertile ground to explore. First, I often wonder about what Nat, Cap, and everyone else did during their time off the grid before Thanos arrived. Essentially Civil War ends with all of Team Cap as fugitives, something Secretary Ross’ reaction when they arrive at the Avengers compound in Infinity War underscores. Second, given that Natasha is a fugitive during this time period, it puts her on the run and outside her usual connections with the U.S. government in this film. With her skill set and background, this should be a fascinating place for her character to play.
It looks like the premise of the film sees Natasha returning to Russia for a final showdown with the Red Room, the covert black ops group that made her, reuniting with other Black Widows to bring the whole thing down. Granted, I can’t say that for certain. But she calls Florence Pugh’s character Yelena Belova “sister” in the trailer. And in the comics, Yelena became the Black Widow after Natasha left Russia.
I’m particularly interested in how they will use David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian. In the comics, he was Natasha’s first husband but it seems as though there’s a greater age difference between them in the movie then they had in the comics. It also looks as though it’s a more fraternal/familial vibe between Natasha and Alexei here too. On the Red Guardian note, it’s important to acknowledge after the trailer dropped Marvel received some criticism online for fat-shaming Red Guardian’s character in the trailer. Given Marvel’s already problematicly similar treatment of Thor in Avengers: Endgame this can point to a disturbing trend. (I grant Thor’s power wasn’t at all diminished by his appearance in the film and we did see him suit up without any sort of inexplicable transformation before the final battle and that can have an empowering message – but Thor’s weight was also something that was clearly and intentionally played for laughs in the film and that is a real problem.) I’d hope Marvel chooses to take these criticisms sincerely and modifies their approach. It’s the type of joke that is long past having a place in our culture, especially in a superhero movie. Our superheroes are meant to inspire us, not reinforce already problematic cultural behaviors.
This one admittedly significant qualm aside, I am very excited by what I see in this trailer. Going back to around the time Avengers: Infinity War came out, I began doing some deep reading into Natasha’s history. I’ve been finding Black Widow comics anywhere I can – from purchasing trades, to taking some out of the library, to reading some of the classic stories on Marvel Unlimited. I’ve gone all the way back to her very first appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 in 1964 and have read up through her most recent series The Web of Black Widow (2019-20). You can expect future posts on all that Black Widow brilliance too :). Anyway, I love how they seem to be drawing so many iconic characters and relationships from Natasha’s past and bringing them into this film.
I’m also always excited when the MCU does something different. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was so incredible, in part, because it was new. It was this taut, political thriller and we hadn’t seen anything like that in the MCU before. Obviously Guardians Of The Galaxy was wildly unlike anything that had come before it and that became one of Marvel’s defining films. This sort of gritty, spy thriller – with Natasha operating off the grid and looking to settle old scores – also has the potential to be something brand new. AND Marvel has finally given a female director a chance to helm one of their films in Cate Shortland! Yes, Anna Boden was a director on Captain Marvel but she was working with her regular cinematic partner Ryan Fleck. So this will be the first time Marvel’s let a woman direct one of their superhero films. Patty Jenkins’ vision was an undeniable part of what made Wonder Woman such a redefining film for the superhero genre. I can’t wait to see what Cate Shortland does with Black Widow.
There’s just SO MUCH to be excited about here! And I haven’t even mentioned Taskmaster as the villain or my intrigue at Rachel Weisz playing Melina Vostokoff! To the best of my knowledge, Melina and Natasha were always enemies in the comics but they seem to have the same sort of familial bond she shares with Yelena and Alexei in the trailer. What’s going to happen?!? I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!
I’m just…AAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! I AM SO DARN EXCITED!!! After years and years and years and years we are finally getting a Black Widow solo movie. It’s about damn time!
 Jamie Lovett, “The Internet Thinks Marvel Is Fat Shaming Red Guardian in the New Black Widow Trailer,” ComicBook.com, Published December 3, 2019. Accessed December 3, 2019. https://comicbook.com/marvel/2019/12/03/black-widow-movie-red-guardian-fat-shaming-marvel/