A 'Black Widow' Movie Is Overdue

Fans have been waiting years for a solo project starring the 'Avengers' character.
Courtesy of Photofest
Scarlett Johansson in 'Captain America: Civil War' (2016)

The news that Marvel Studios has hired Jac Schaeffer to write a screenplay for a potential Black Widow solo project is something that should, in theory, be exciting to those who have waited almost a decade for a Black Widow movie. (Scarlett Johansson first played the character onscreen in 2010’s Iron Man 2.) In reality, however, it’s merely a reminder that the pic is long overdue — and raises questions about what it could be if and when it happens.

It’s easy to see why some fans of the character feel cynical about the idea of a Black Widow movie actually happening. Even if it turned out to be the very first Marvel movie post-Avengers 4 project (it would have to bump both Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 out of the way do so), there would still have been no less than 19 Marvel movies between the character’s big-screen debut and her solo project.

That slow going, despite Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige noting that it's been a priority, doesn’t seem to have been lost on Johansson herself, who has spent that time anchoring two different action movies that looked as much as anything as Black Widow stand-ins, with added sci-fi elements. (And, in the case of last year's Ghost in the Shell, added problematic elements; 2014's Lucy, on the whole, was more fun.)

In the meantime, the space that a Black Widow film could have occupied in the pop culture landscape has been claimed by a couple of other projects. Last year’s Atomic Blonde may have been a Cold War period piece, but Charlize Theron’s Lorraine Broughton was every inch the unstoppable bad-ass Marvel fans believe Natasha Romanoff to be (it was also based on a comic — Antony Johnson and Sam Hart’s The Coldest City — which may help its argument), while the first trailer for this year’s Red Sparrow makes it look as if that pic’s creative team literally got impatient waiting for a Black Widow movie and decided to make one for themselves.

Add to this the fact that Johansson is apparently nearing the end of her current contract with Marvel, at least according to Vanity Fair, which reported last year that her contract runs out with 2019’s Avengers 4. That will be the actress’ seventh appearance as the character (following Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War). 

While it seems Marvel is hoping to sign Johansson to a new contract (see Robert Downey Jr.’s contract extension in 2014, which led to his appearing in Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming and the upcoming two Avengers movies), it's not impossible to think the famously cost-saving Marvel could balk at the idea of spending whatever it takes to keep Johansson onside, especially when it’s already juggling a number of up-and-coming series and characters intended as the new guard of the studio’s output.

That raises the question: What if the Black Widow movie isn’t actually a Johansson vehicle? There are two routes that could take that would require at least a cameo from the actress: a flashback story that tells her origin, portraying the Red Room references the character has alluded to in Avengers movies, or a story in which Natasha is replaced as Black Widow by a new character, as happened in a 1999 comic book series. 

As it stands, the hiring of a writer may mean that Marvel has taken a step closer to making a Black Widow feature a reality, but there are many, many more steps to go before it actually happens. Still, Marvel has said it has years of future films plotted out, and it is waiting for the right time to share more of its plans. Perhaps after the dust settles on Infinity War, we'll know more about Black Widow's big-screen future?