The Marvel Cinematic Universe has come a long way since the first tease of "The Avengers Initiative" back in 2008 - during the post-credits scene of Iron Man. Two short years later, and director Jon Favreau returned with Iron Man 2 - which officially introduced several shared universe story elements and characters, most notably: Agent Coulson and Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow). Despite years of fan-favorite comic book stories, the packed plot and Phase 1 movie set-up of Iron Man 2 prevented Scarlett Johansson from placing Black Widow front and center in the MCU spotlight. As solo outings for the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America all came and went, it wasn't until Joss Whedon's 2012 Avengers team-up that Black Widow became the scene-stealing fan-favorite, both in action and character, that she is today.
In the years since, the heroine has been instrumental in several Marvel Cinematic Universe installments, especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier; yet, Natasha Romanoff fans don't appear any closer to seeing a film focused on the ruthless Russian Spy-turned-revered S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. As it turns out, moviegoers aren't the only ones who have been left scratching their heads over the lack of a Black Widow-centric movie, as Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo also believe there's a lot that could be done with a Natasha Romanoff film.
During a Chinese press junked for Civil War, the Russo brothers were asked whether they'd be interested in a Black Widow solo movie, to which Joe Russo stated:
Oh yeah, we love that character. We find that the character is one of the richest, if not the richest, character in the Marvel universe. She’s a very complex character. She’s haunted by demons and her understanding of the world is fascinating. I think there is a lot that can be done with that character.
Anthony Russo also made sure to point out that the Captain America 3 directors "love Scarlett” too.
You can check out the full exchange below:
If the filmmakers had been talking about other supporting characters in the MCU, the response could easily have been brushed off as hollow praise; however, the pair are right: Black Widow has become one of the richest characters in the film series and, as a result, there's a lot that could be done with her in a solo movie (especially given the numerous quality Black Widow stories that have been printed over the years).
After past female-lead superhero movie failures, due in no part to lack of quality in their respective source materials, studios have been reluctant to bankroll superwomen but that tide has already begun to turn. Now that Jessica Jones, Supergirl, and Agent Carter are cemented as beloved TV properties (for fans and casual viewers), while Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel solo movies are making their way through the production pipeline, it's becoming increasingly hard to understand why Marvel hasn't given one of their most nuanced, exciting, and downright fun characters her own film.
Some will argue that Marvel is too busy to produce a Black Widow movie or that the character helps bolster ticket sales in other Avengers series movies - and that a solo project might risk harming the character (if it underperformed at the box office or otherwise disappointed fans). The most obvious solution would be to invest in a solid script and filmmaker for the Black Widow-centric film - and, turning the tables, pepper that movie with high-profile appearances from Avengers cast members that Johansson had previously helped with their solo projects (Captain America and Iron Man) or characters that have become intertwined with Romanoff over the course of Phase 2 (the Incredible Hulk). After all, since The Avengers roster is going to see major changes in the coming years (thanks to contracts coming to an end), why not put Black Widow in the center ring to help ease the transition?
That all said, the idea of a solo movie, centered on a previously introduced character, in the MCU is likely a thing of the past - since audiences expect a lot of cross-pollination within the Marvel film line now. Yes, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel (not to mention Spider-Man) will be getting solo movies in the coming years; however, while a few of those characters will debut in Civil War prior to their titular installments, Black Widow will have appeared in over five Marvel films by the time Civil War arrives. For that reason, it's unlikely that we'll ever get a true "solo" Black Widow movie at this point, though, a Black Widow-centric film (or Netflix TV show) could be even better.
Previously, we've suggested a number of Black Widow stories that would make for great live-action adaptation - and there's always the possibility of going back in time to see the infamous "Budapest" mission that Romanoff and Hawkeye reminisce about in The Avengers. Still, given all the work that Johansson has put-in to the character, there's no reason to partner her up or go back in time to find enough material for a worthwhile movie installment. No doubt, adding appearances by other fan-favorite characters would be a no-brainer (and a near-necessity at this point in the MCU) but we've come a long way from the days of trying to get a Black Widow movie off the ground via a S.H.I.E.L.D. team film.
Between Joss Whedon's kick-ass portrayal of the female Avenger and Marvel's go-to director pair suggesting Romanoff is one of the richest characters in the franchise, not to mention the success of female-led Star Wars movie (also owned by Disney), what else needs to happen to get this Black Widow-centric story that everyone wants to make and see greenlit?
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange– November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.