Marvel has been secretly setting up their Black Widow movie ever since 2012's The Avengers. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow was introduced in 2010's Iron Man, and she was a hit, with fans immediately beginning to ask for a solo film. Although Marvel initially seemed receptive, for years there was no real news, until January 2018 when the studio hired Blacklist screenwriter Jac Schaeffer to work on a script. Filming is due to start in June, and it's believed Black Widow will be part of Marvel's 2020 slate.
This delay means that Black Widow will be quite an unusual movie. Most Marvel franchises launch with an origin story, introducing a brand new superhero into the MCU. In a select few cases, such as Black Panther or Spider-Man: Homecoming, the hero has first appeared in an "event" movie as a secondary character in advance of their solo blockbuster debut. But Black Widow is different, because the starring character is already an established part of the MCU. Her backstory has already been explored, most prominently in The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, and as such Black Widow is something of a known commodity.
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This has led to a lot of curiosity over just how Marvel intend to handle Black Widow. There have been frequent rumors that the film will be an origin story for Marvel's premiere super-spy, exploring how she came to join S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place. That's a major reason many fans got hyped about the idea of Black Widow being R-rated; they felt the story of a teenage assassin needed to be handled in a far more mature way than the standard Marvel fare. Alternatively, the film could well be set in the mysterious post-Avengers: Endgame MCU, given Black Widow seems to be playing a prominent role in that film. Whatever the truth may be, though, the seeds for Black Widow will most certainly already have been sown in the MCU. That makes now the perfect time to revisit everything the MCU has revealed about "Natasha" Romanoff, which could serve as setup.
- This Page: Black Widow's MCU Origin Story
- Page 2: Black Widow's Time With S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Avengers
Black Widow's MCU Origin
According to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natalia Alianovna Romanoff (later known simply as Natasha Romanoff) was born in Stalingrad in 1984. At a young age, she was enrolled in the Red Room, a Soviet brainwashing and spy-training program that sought to turn young girls into skilled agents and assassins. Fragments of Black Widow's training are shown in Avengers: Age of Ultron, in flashback sequences triggered by Scarlet Witch's telepathic manipulations. Natasha saw herself in a lavish school, being trained in ballet alongside other students, watched over by KGB agents. The visions became increasingly disturbing, moving from the innocent idea of ballet lessons to marksmanship practice and, finally, killing a defenseless prisoner. Black Widow's training was overseen by a character credited as Madame B., a harsh taskmaster who would break the students who were unworthy, and turn those who survived her training into lethal killers.
According to Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Red Room has a final graduation ceremony in which their students are sterilized. "It's efficient," Black Widow recalled when revealing this to Bruce Banner. "One less thing to worry about. The one thing that might matter more than a mission. It makes everything easier. Even killing." As shown in the visions, Natasha didn't entirely submit to the program, deliberately choosing to start failing her assignments in order to postpone her graduation. Madame B. saw through the deception, and had Natasha sterilized against her will.
Once she'd graduated, Black Widow became one of the KGB's most lethal agents and assassins. She made a name for herself, and one line of dialogue in The Avengers implies that she willingly traded her skills to anyone who would pay for them. In the end, Natasha wound up on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s radar, and they sent in Hawkeye to kill her. Fortunately, he made a different call, and offered Black Widow a chance to join S.H.I.E.L.D. instead. A recent official MCU timeline has confirmed that this happened in 1998, when Black Widow was just 14 years old, which may well add important context to Clint's decision (he presumably objected to killing a child).
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019