Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame

Waiting So Long for a Black Widow Movie Made Even Less Sense Considering the Story It Told

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Marvel’s Black Widow movie has officially landed on Disney+, meaning those subscribers who didn’t want to pay a whopping $30 to watch from home during its initial run on the streaming platform (or risk going to the theater during a global pandemic) will soon be able to experience the film. Many fans, including this one, have long felt such a movie should’ve been released far earlier, and considering the story Marvel ultimately wound up telling when it finally did so, and how Black Widow has come and gone leaving little lasting impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s difficult to understand the company’s rationale for waiting so long give Natasha her own film.

Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff made her first appearance in Iron Man 2 in 2010. It was an underwhelming debut in perhaps the MCU’s most forgettable entry, but Johansson’s incredible performance in 2012’s Avengers put any doubts to rest. Her character has been a mainstay of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since, at least until she was unceremoniously killed off in Avengers: Endgame. How much more could her sacrifice have meant if Black Widow had been released after Captain America: Civil War, rather than once Natasha was already gone?

I braved the theater to see Black Widow and, for the most part, loved the film. Somehow, the movie managed to be both family drama and spy thriller and, in my opinion, succeeded at both. It was fantastic to see Natasha finally at the center of her own story, rather than on the periphery of someone else’s. The movie wisely kept Nat and her family at the heart of the narrative, which made the film feel less like an MCU affair.

As much as I enjoyed Black Widow, the most overwhelming emotion I felt as the film neared its exciting conclusion was anger. In fact, it was almost as though my enjoyment of the film and my anger towards Marvel increased in equal measure as Black Widow progressed. How dare they finally give Natasha a movie, a really good movie, but wait until after she was dead to do it?

I know Nat’s not the only founding Avenger who hasn’t received the trilogy treatment. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk has yet to star in his own film. (The MCU’s second entry, The Incredible Hulk, starred Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner.) Hawkeye also hasn’t had much chance to shine, but that will no longer be the case now that he has his own Disney+ series, though I’m even more excited for its introduction of Kate Bishop than I am to see the master archer’s return.

Of course, there’s an argument to be made that Black Widow didn’t need a trilogy. These movies take their cues from the comics, and there aren’t a whole lot of truly excellent Black Widow stories from which to draw inspiration. That said, WandaVision was definitely my favorite of the Disney+ shows so far, and Scarlet Witch doesn’t have a ton of great material to pull from, either.

Black Widow comic panels.

Although I liked Captain Marvel, it never really felt earned that Carol Danvers was the first woman to headline an MCU movie, not when Natasha had been so integral to this universe. Black Widow was one of the six original Avengers, and while both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark had fitting ends to their respective arcs, I can’t help but feel like Natasha has gone out with a whimper. Scarlett Johansson dedicated a decade of her career to this character. Both she and Natasha deserved better than a movie placed so haphazardly in Marvel’s release schedule that it was largely forgotten months after it hit theaters.

Natasha’s entire narrative would’ve felt far more cohesive had Black Widow released sometime during Marvel’s Phase Three. Really, any point between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War would’ve worked much better than attempting to launch Phase Four with a flashback movie about a character who was already dead in the main timeline. The story would’ve made a lot more sense if we could’ve seen how these events impacted Natasha going into Infinity War and Endgame. Learning these crucial pieces of her backstory add so much depth to Nat’s sacrifice in the latter that they really shouldn’t have been left for after the fact.

I was frustrated by Marvel’s choice to kill off Natasha rather than Clint, though up until that point, the movies hadn’t done a ton to humanize either of them. I do feel that if Black Widow had preceded the third and forth Avengers films, her death would’ve felt less cheap. It doesn’t help that the pandemic led Black Widow to be delayed even more, further robbing the film of any relevance it may have had—though killing Nat before its release had already done the heavy lifting there.

As frustrated as I still feel about Marvel’s release strategy, I’m really looking forward to revisiting Black Widow now that the film has hit Disney+. I love Johansson’s portrayal, and obviously, I can’t wait to see more of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova. While I do feel Pugh is a worthy successor, I am going to miss seeing Johansson’s Black Widow. The MCU won’t be the same without her.

(images: Marvel Entertainment)

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