The reporting that Marvel has hired Jac Schaeffer to write a Black Widow film definitely comes as a shock. After years of audiences clamoring for Scarlett Johansson's scissor-kicking assassin with a dark past to get a standalone movie, it finally seems to be happening just as the entire cinematic universe is entering a major state of change. Avengers 4 has been dubbed a "finale" to the MCU as we know it, with the films following in Phase 4 a mystery (the only confirmed projects are Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) and it looking like many of the key heroes won't make it out alive.
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Admittedly, Nat hasn't typically entered the discussion of Avenger deaths - the favorites of the originating heroes to bite the bullet are Tony Stark and/or Steve Rogers, depending on their actors' contract re-negotiations - but this latest development would seem to resolutely save her. However, that takes some major assumptions about the story of her film: namely, that it'll be set after Avengers 4.
The Black Widow Film Will Most Likely Be A Prequel
After all, while Black Widow definitely could be following on from the team-up, that wouldn't be the most interesting direction to go in. If you're making a Black Widow movie, it's surely going to focus on her checkered past: the Red Sparrow origins, the unspoken history with the Winter Soldier, the long-standing professional relationship with Hawkeye, and whatever other red is on her ledger. Black Widow surely has to be, at least in part, a prequel. And even if those plot points will only be explored in flashback to a framing story, the "modern day" elements could be set at any point in the timeline.
The upcoming MCU slate would attest to this. While Black Panther comes in the lead up to Infinity War and Spider-Man 2 in its aftermath, the settings of the movies in between the two Avengers are unclear; the press releases for Ant-Man and the Wasp have only mentioned Civil War in terms of timeline, while Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s. Evidently, chronology isn't the biggest deal in the MCU right now, so a Widow film could slot into any release slate and be set at any point.
Could Black Widow Die in Avengers 4?
But to get to that point, we must first think Widow will actually die in Avengers 3 or 4. That's a little out of left field, although not as infeasible as the initial suggestion would seem like. She's a founding Avenger and her death has the potential to cause a major emotional rift in the group considering the intertwined personal relationship she has with many team members.
Crucially, though, Scar-Jo's deal with Marvel isn't like the other actors. Whereas the likes of Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. signed multi-picture deals when they joined up, with later appearances requiring negotiation, Johansson seems to have worked on a more case-by-case basis; she initially only signed on for Iron Man 2, and while details behind later appearances are unclear, it's never been reported she agreed to a massive deal. Presumably, Avengers 4 has for a long while been the end of her current contract, making her an easy option to kill. That would, of course, assume this mooted solo return came about independent of that, or at least after the decision was made (remember that the plot of these films has been known for years).
So, while who lives and who dies in Avengers 4 is still very much a mystery, one thing we can say with some certainty is that the announcement of a Black Widow standalone doesn't actually save Natasha Romanoff from Thanos' wrath.
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019