While the upcoming (and long-awaited) Black Widow movie will give a proper sendoff to Scarlett Johansson’s MCU character, the film will also be teeing up a potential new franchise inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Given that Johansson’s character Natasha Romanoff dies in 2019’s epic Avengers: Endgame, this spinoff is a prequel that fills in some gaps from her backstory. Namely, it finds Natasha returning to Russia to her “found family” in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
That found family includes David Harbour’s Red Guardian, Russia’s counterpart to Captain America, and Rachel Weiss’ Melina Vostokoff, a seasoned spy who was trained in the Red Room before Natasha and preceded her as a Black Widow. It also includes Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, a sister-figure to Natasha who appears to be the heir apparent to the Black Widow title.
We assumed, when it was announced that Pugh was playing Belova, that the Midsommar actress might be teeing up a larger role in the MCU – taking over the Black Widow mantle just like Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson is taking over the Captain America mantle. And now Black Widow director Cate Shortland confirms in the new issue of Empire that this standalone MCU movie is meant to be a baton-pass of sorts between Natasha and Yelena:
“[Kevin Feige] realized that the audience would expect an origin story so, of course, we went in the opposite direction. And we didn’t know how great Florence Pugh would be. We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great. Scarlett is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton.’ So it’s going to propel another female storyline.”
Many wondered what the MCU would look like after Avengers: Endgame, and while Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Johansson have seemingly hung up their respective weapons of choice, there’s now room for other MCU players like Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to step into leadership roles, while folks like Pugh’s Yelena Belova will provide a fresh perspective a la Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, who made his debut in Civil War.
And this is great news. Anyone who’s seen Midsommar or Lady Macbeth or Little Women or Fighting with My Family knows that Pugh is a tremendously talented actress, so I’m incredibly eager to see what she brings to the MCU going forward.
As for Natasha Romanoff, Shortland says in the same Empire interview that Black Widow will serve as the proper sendoff for the character after some fans found her death in Endgame was overshadowed:
“In Endgame, the fans were upset that Natasha did not have a funeral. Whereas Scarlett, when I spoke to her about it, said Natasha wouldn’t have wanted a funeral. She’s too private, and anyway, people don’t really know who she is. So what we did in this film was allow the ending to be the grief the individuals felt, rather than a big public outpouring. I think that’s a fitting ending for her.”
Black Widow is currently scheduled to open in theaters on November 6th.