We've got three tent-pole releases based on Marvel Comics titles coming between now and the end of May, starting with Marvel Studios' next Phase Two entry, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which hits U.S. theaters in less than two weeks. The advance word has so far been sensational, with critics of different stripes lauding the film for its accessibility to non-comic book fans, its political intrigue plot line and the high-octane action set pieces.The marketing push for The Winter Soldier is comparable to that of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but unlike the slight Spider-fatigue some fans might be feeling in the wake of Sony's PR storm, much of what we've seen of the Marvel Studios offering just leaves us wanting more.
From the international trailer to that terrific 4-minute preview - not to mention the myriad TV spots and featurettes - the Cap 2 push has kept the moral core of Steve Rogers (the returning Chris Evans) at the forefront, while providing generous time to co-stars Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie).
So what would the final run-up to the film's release be without another TV spot? This one hits the same beats as many previous spots, but gives us a fun tag at the end, with Falcon escaping a crumbling building by leaping wingless through a window, hoping that Black Widow will be there with a helicopter to save him.
Watch the spot above and check out some new stills of Scarlett Johansson in character below.
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As for Widow and Falcon, it's becoming clear that these two are being treated as real partners and equals to Captain America, rather than relegating them to mere sidekick roles. The Black Widow in particular appears to be more of a co-lead, with The Winter Soldier continuing Natasha Romanoff's character arc, which began with Iron Man 2 and evolved considerably over the course of The Avengers.
Still, Marvel evidently has no solid plans for a standalone Black Widow movie - or any female-centered superhero movie in general - any time soon. This doesn't mean that Marvel won't continue to add strong female characters to their movie universe, however.
While speaking to The Showbiz 411 (via CBM) alongside Chris Evans in advance of Cap 2's wide release, Scarlett Johansson commented on the amount of female cosplayers in attendance at the movie's premiere and the upcoming kick-ass ladies Marvel will introduce.
ScarJo specifically name-checked certain prominent female comic book characters, saying:
"There were all kinds of characters [at the premiere]. There was a Ms. Marvel, there was a Wasp and a lot of Black Widows out there...one thing I got from all of them is that there is space - they're excited to see [a] female represented in these movies. I think Marvel's kind of heard that note and you'll see some pretty strong female characters in 'Avengers 2' coming up."
Aside from the returning Cobie Smulders reprising her role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, the other major female character appearing in The Avengers: Age of Ultron (that we know of) is newcomer Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen.
We've been firmly told that Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) won't be Inhumans, so we're supposed to forget about any female Inhuman character (such as Medusa, Crystal or Avia) appearing at this point.
Then what about Ms. Marvel? That superhero's namesake studio may have soundly outpaced Warner Bros./DC in establishing an interconnected, multi-platform universe, which is now charging ahead on all cylinders, but Warner Bros. will probably be the first to release a standalone superhero film with a female lead in the form of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman.
If The Winter Soldier performs as well as expected, Black Widow will move further to the foreground among Marvel's roster of heroes, becoming even more integral in The Avengers 2. The studio might not be able to waffle about a solo ScarJo movie for too much longer.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in U.S. theaters on April 4th, 2014. Guardians of the Galaxy reaches U.S. theaters on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron opens on May 1st, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17th, 2015 and Captain America 3 will be in theaters on May 6, 2016.