***WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR BLACK WIDOW***
Black Widow has been a film that took a decade to get to the big screen as there had been a previous incarnation at Lionsgate with David Hayter (X-Men, Watchmen) attached to write and direct, but because of various superhero films flopping including the other Lionsgate/Marvel collaboration, the R-rated Punisher: War Zone from 2008.
Ultimately, Marvel Studios circled-back with Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland taking the director’s chair, someone that had to be convinced to take the gig and other contenders such as Eternals’ Chloe Zhao being considered. The film launched on Disney+ and theaters yesterday, as with previous Marvel films it seems like it’ll be extremely successful.
The film is sort of a closed loop for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff since she dies in Avengers: Endgame and will likely stay dead, although, the studio could develop a run of reversing character deaths when it suits them via The Multiverse, but this could increasingly dull post-Loki and resurrection of Gamora in Avengers: Endgame.
However, Black Widow does introduce us to two characters that will likely have a bigger role to play moving forward. That would be Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova (already confirmed for the Hawkeye series) and the mysterious MCU version of Marvel Comics villain Taskmaster.
While it started to become obvious that Taskmaster was indeed going to be woman (Mason being a red herring from the jump) within the suit/mask because promotional materials (Taskmaster’s lack of crotch bulge on posters was a dead give away), however, it seemed like it was still a surprise that it turned out to be Dreykov’s (Ray Winstone) adult daughter Antonia surviving a bomb and altered with technology to become a perfect mimic. She’s revealed to be played by Quantum of Solace actress Olga Kurylenko.
Gender-swapping Anthony Masters from the comics, isn’t the real problem I have with this casting choice or the big screen version of the character.
I’m personally confused about going with Antonia, mainly, because she was supposed to be a child when Natasha assassinated her and father. However, my biggest problem is that actress Olga Kurylenko is clearly not younger than Scarlett Johansson and is actually almost five years older than her, turning 42 later in the year. Making the the reveal more puzzling for people like myself who understand the age difference between the two actresses goes in the wrong direction.
Retconning both their deaths undercuts Natasha Romanoff’s history as a ruthless deadly assassin, softening her image which sort of does a disservice to that hardened backstory. It’s also unnecessary since the character is dead and had redeemed herself multiple times in previous films.
We’ll likely see Taskmaster return at some point, likely part of the Thunderbolts team that is slowly being assembled. Hopefully, future projects will give us better action scenes with her because Black Widow didn’t do a great job there and felt a bit generic.
Speaking of Thunderbolts, the end credit scene features Julia-Louis Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina Allegra de La Fontaine meeting up with Yelena to give her a new mission, to take out Clint Barton. This likely explains her involvement with the Hawkeye series and would suggest she won’t start out as a friend.
We previously saw Val recruit John Walker’s U.S. Agent at the end of The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, it’ll be curious if Thunderbolts are getting their own project or being assembled to be unleashed as future antagonists like in upcoming movies like Captain American 4.
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova was the biggest highlight for me in Black Widow and while the solo film wasn’t my favorite because the pre-release hype for the action was a huge let down when the final film didn’t have a lot of memorable action sequences, most felt more cartoony if anything because of the overuse of digital effects for a grounded character like Romanoff. It’ll be nice to have some real stakes with future Black Widow sequels led by Yelena’s incarnation of the character.
We’ll have to wait and see how Marvel will use these characters.