Would a better-late-than-never Black Widow movie be able to succeed?


Marvel has just named a writer for a potential Black Widow movie. Does that mean the movie is finally going to happen? And if it does, will it be good?

Five years ago, I would have given literally anything for a Black Widow standalone film. It was like the Holy Grail, just after having a female Doctor (check) and a version of Supernatural with 100% more women (check and check, because Wynonna Earp totally counts).

And I wasn’t alone; for years fans have organized everything from Twitter campaigns to flash mobs in the name of getting a Black Widow solo movie. Now, eight years after Natasha Romanoff was introduced in Iron Man 2, Marvel has given word that Jac Schaeffer will be writing the script for everyone’s favorite assassin-turned-Avenger, if the movie happens at all. It hasn’t been greenlit, which means there’s still a chance that Marvel will back down from making the film a reality.

For years the MCU has been largely a boys’ club, dominated by male superheroes, male writers, and male directors. So it’s promising to see that Marvel has selected a female screenwriter to pursue the script for what would be their first female-lead superhero movie.

Following the formula of the other Avengers solo-films, it seems likely that a Black Widow movie would delve into Natasha’s backstory: her history as an assassin, and how she was trained in the Red Room.

Depicting Natasha’s time in the Red Room will be sensitive at best. Showing a woman being repeatedly tortured and psychologically manipulated into becoming the perfect assassin could, in the wrong hands, easily come off as misogynistic torture porn. But having a female writer is a good start to avoiding that; at the very least, Schaeffer will be bringing a female perspective to the writing table, and handling Natasha’s trauma through that lens.

For comparison, when Age of Ultron’s writer/director Joss Whedon touched on Natasha’s experiences in the Red Room, it was mainly to compare how being forcibly sterilized made her a “monster”. Perhaps someone with a more personal understanding of the expectations placed on women around childbirth could take a more nuanced approach.

Whatever direction it takes, a Black Widow movie has a ton of potential. Marvel is interested in taking superheroes into entirely new genres and experimenting; a Black Widow movie could be the perfect in to a historical spy-thriller with elements of psychological horror. It could really stand out from the other more action-oriented Marvel movies to date, and carve out its own place in the canon.

One thing that might influence Marvel’s decision to move forward is the success of the movie Red Sparrow, whose trailers certainly give it the impression of a thinly veiled Black Widow rip-off. If Red Sparrow does well, it might give Marvel executives the confidence to back a Black Widow movie in full; if it does badly, it could be a sign to Marvel that a similar movie would also be doomed to fail.

But in a way, Red Sparrow is the direct answer to the years fans have gone practically begging for a Black Widow movie. It is filling a void that has existed ever since Natasha Romanoff appeared in Iron Man 2, and could capitalize on the demand for a movie Marvel has simply refused to make.

Five years ago, all I wanted was to see the media I loved embrace more female characters. But after all this time, having more female protagonists (especially when those protagonists are still overwhelmingly white, straight, and cisgendered) no longer feels like a huge step forward. Instead of being excited for the Black Widow movie, I find myself asking why this didn’t happen so much sooner.

Next: A Kitty Pryde solo film?

Despite how long it’s taken, a Black Widow movie could be amazing. I only hope that Marvel finally decides to pull its head out of the sand and make all that potential a reality.