Movies & TV

Everything We Know About Marvel's Black Widow

We haven't got long to wait for Scarlett Johansson's oft-delayed superhero epic.
IMAGE Marvel
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If superheroes really existed, then 2020 might have been a good point to make themselves known. The year was just begging for a lycra-suited being with extra-special powers to swoop in and save us from a humanitarian disaster - Corona even sounds like the name of an evil comic-book villain, ffs.

Still, as our real-life heroes were proven to be key workers and NHS staff (and not the powers that be in government) the truth is many of us are still invested in the fantasy of superheroes from the comic book realm. Escapism? Most definitely. And as Marvel’s The Avengers franchise continues to smash every record in cinematic history - biggest opening weekend, highest grossing film of the year, highest grossing superhero film ever, etc - fans are now waiting to be caught in the web of the first standalone film to feature Black Widow.

But even the Black Widow herself - aka Natasha Romanoff, aka Scarlett Johansson - couldn’t kung-fu kick her way out of the events of 2020, and the film, which was due to be released in May was postponed twice. It’s now set for a release date of May 2021, giving us just enough time to cross-reference the stories from the character’s appearances in the other Marvel films. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about the film so far:

Black Widow Trailer

When Is Black Widow Released?

Has the film been S.H.I.E.L.Ded from us for too long? Or has the Widow lost her bite? We’ll finally find out when Black Widow is released on May 7, 2021.

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Photo by Marvel.

What's the plot of Black Widow?

Described in the official Disney synopsis as “the Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises”, it looks like we’ll finally get the true back-story of the Widow, and her Russian former-KGB assassin training. As she says in the film: “I’ve lived a lot of lives, but I’m done running from my past”.

Johansson pondered the storyline for the potential film back in 2016: “You can bring it back to Russia. You could explore the Widow program,” she said to Variety. “There's all kinds of stuff that you could do with it. You could really uncover the identity of who this person is, where she comes from, and where she’s part of.”

If it sounds like it has shades of Villanelle, the Russian girl trained up to be a killer in Killing Eve, then yes, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, and all. In the film, Natasha reunites with her other ‘sisters’ from the highly-unusual training program; Yelena (played by Florence Pugh) and Melina (played by Rachel Weisz). Also along for the ride is their father figure, the Red Guardian - played by Mr Lily Allen, David Harbour - who can be seen struggling to fit into his body-con gear in the trailer.

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Harbour described the Red Guardian as a bit of a comedy figure, and that the years haven’t been too kind to the man who was once the great hope of mother Russia: “He has tons of cracks all over him,” he told The Wrap.” And he’s not the heroic, noble man that [people] want him to be. He both comically and tragically has a lot of flaws"

Essentially, expect a lot of shady Russian accents.

Photo by Marvel.

Who’s the villain that Natasha will be fighting?

The baddie of Black Widow is called Taskmaster, who can instinctively mimic the abilities and skills of their dueling partners. Effectively, Natasha will be fighting herself. Very meta.

Also appearing in the film are Ray Winstone as Dreykov, William Hunt as Thaddeus Ross, and hench bodybuilder Olivier Richters as “a muscular gulag inmate”. Not that he’s being typecast, or anything.

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Why does Black Widow differ from the other Avengers?

Because she’s not blessed with a natural superpower, Natasha’s skills and strengths are all from years of harsh training, according to director Cate Shortland. She told Total Film: “She’s the only character that doesn’t have superpowers. We saw that as a strength because she always has to dig really deep to get out of shit situations. And we just put her in a lot of hard situations. I thought about women walking to the train station being attacked, and what happens."

She even compared her to another female big-screen icon: “Natasha’s like [Jodie Foster’s Clarice] from The Silence Of The Lambs. It’s great, because when she holds her gun, it shakes. But she’s still really tough inside, and resilient. And I wanted to bring that to the character. So you’re not just watching her fly through situations, knowing she’ll get out of it. You want to see her grit and determination. And that’s what we got.”

Why has it taken so long for a Black Widow film to finally happen?

Well, it’s not through want of trying. Back in 2004, David Hayter was announced as the writer and director of the Lionsgate production, but two years later, Lionsgate dropped the film and it went back to Marvel.

By 2009, there was chat about Emily Blunt playing the Widow, but it was Scarlett Johansson who ended up with the role, and she made her debut in Iron Man 2, then The Avengers. In 2016, director Joss Whedon threw his hat in the ring and offered to make a "spy thriller. Like really do a good, paranoid, 'John le Carré on crack' sort of thing”. Which sounded excellent, to be fair.

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Eventually, the baton was passed to the writer Jac Schaeffer in 2017, then her script was re-written by Ned Benson (very Hollywood - see what happened to Mank). The director Cate Shortland came on board and quicker than you can say ‘this was a long and convoluted process’ in Russian [??? ??? ?????? ? ?????????? ???????, Google Translate informs me], the film was finally on.

Where was the movie filmed?

Filming took place in a number of locations across the world, with a good deal of the scenes shot in Pinewood studios. But the production got in trouble in the summer of 2019, when they were filming in Hankley Common in Surrey - using it to double up as a Russian farm location, complete with helicopter and plane crashes - and the crew didn’t clear it with the local council first. Surrey Live reported that local parish councilors accused Marvel of breaching planning regulations, noting: “Marvel has not yet received planning permission to use the Ministry of Defence land for filming, prompting objections from Thursley Parish Council calling the planning process "redundant" and "irrelevant".”

But the parishioners failed to bring down the blockbuster, and scenes were reshot later in the year, as well as venturing out to Norway, Atlanta, Budapest, and Morocco.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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