Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow has been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since nearly the beginning, having debuted in Iron Man 2, and a solo film for the Avenger has been wished for and rumored for almost as long. Now, finally, a Black Widow solo film is on the way from director Cate Shortland.
Like most of the MCU's movies that will follow Avengers: Endgame, there are rumors about what the story of Black Widow (if that's the title) will be, but no official plot details have been released. However, perhaps more interesting than any potential story info is the rumor that cropped up this past weekend about the film's rating. According to the rumor, at least at one point, Marvel Studios was considering aiming for the Black Widow movie to be rated R.
There have been R-rated superhero and comic book movies before, but never from Marvel Studios, as all of the MCU films so far have received the traditional market-friendly blockbuster rating of PG-13. For a movie from Marvel Studios, which falls under the Disney corporate umbrella, to be rated R would be a huge deal, not only for Black Widow, but also for the future of the brand.
It should be stressed that this is just a rumor at the moment, and even if an R-rated Black Widow movie was discussed, that is no guarantee that will be what we ultimately get. Admittedly, chances aren't too strong that the Black Widow movie will be R-rated, and we shouldn't expect it to be because Marvel simply has no need to do that. Black Widow can succeed, as all previous MCU films have, with a PG-13. That being said, just because Marvel doesn't need the Black Widow movie to be R-rated doesn't mean it shouldn't be. It may be just a rumor, but the Black Widow movie should be R-rated.
Natalia Romanova, a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow, was a KGB officer, trained in the Red Room to be a weapon. While working for the KGB, she became a master spy and one of the deadliest assassins in the world before she defected from Russia and joined S.H.I.E.L.D. Because she's never been the lead in her MCU outings, we've only seen glimpses of this past and only some of these skills.
Although we don't know what the Black Widow movie will be about, we can guess that it will follow her doing what she does best: spycraft. Whether this movie is set in the past as rumors have suggested or not, a Black Widow movie provides an opportunity to finally show what Natasha is capable of when she's not fighting robots and aliens. Black Widow isn't a brightly colored hero like many of her teammates; she's a spy and an assassin who works in the shadows and shoots people. To show that properly will push the bounds of an R rating.
There's a reason that Red Sparrow was likened to a Black Widow movie and there's a reason that Red Sparrow was rated R. That rating allowed for director Francis Lawrence to tell the brutal spy story he wanted to tell. Although Marvel will undoubtedly have a very different story for Black Widow, it should have that level of intensity and not feel like it is holding back and shrinking away from what it could/should be because of a PG-13 rating. An R rating would allow director Cate Shortland to tell a Black Widow story with fewer restrictions.
I imagine a film that resembles Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but with more close quarters violence and fewer Helicarriers.
A Black Widow movie will finally put the focus all on Scarlett Johansson's character, to not only learn more about her, but to display her skills and show why she's named after a deadly spider. In order to realize that to the fullest, the movie should be rated R.
While an R rating would be advantageous to the Black Widow movie by itself, it should also happen because of what it would mean for the future of Marvel Studios. We have long wondered if Marvel would ever do an R-rated movie and for the most part the answer seemed to be no. However, things could change with the impending completion of Disney-Fox deal, at which point Deadpool will fall under Disney's purview.
Disney knows that the Deadpool movies have been incredibly successful, and at the end of the day, the studio is a for-profit business. So there is obvious value in keeping Deadpool R-rated, and Disney CEO Bob Iger has indicated that there may be an opportunity for a Marvel-R Brand for something like Deadpool. If Disney were to do a Marvel Max-esque brand of films, one presumes that Deadpool wouldn't be the only one under that label, and the studio could tap other characters and stories too adult for PG-13.
A Marvel-R brand would further diversify Marvel's offerings and give audiences something different, reducing any potential fatigue and increasing excitement. An R-rated Black Widow movie could break the seal on that rating in the MCU with a character that has a built-in audience, guaranteeing some level of success and thus setting up some interesting opportunities for future R-rated Marvel movies.
Speaking of other characters, Daredevil, whose brutal Netflix show was recently lamentably cancelled, has a long history with Black Widow in the comics. If we want to dive into the realm of pipe dreams, who wouldn't want to see Charlie Cox's very violent character show up in this Black Widow movie or a sequel? It's extremely unlikely, but if it were to happen, it would have to be under an R rating to do the character justice.
The arguments against an R-rated Black Widow movie are obvious. She has already been established as working within the PG-13 realm and that could create confusion among audiences. Black Widow also wouldn't fit on Disney+ if that service eschews R ratings entirely. And perhaps above all, Black Widow doesn't need to be R-rated to tell a great story and be successful.
All of that is true. Black Widow isn't the Punisher or Deadpool, and she doesn't demand an R-rating in quite the same way. In spite of that, the more mature rating is a natural and beneficial fit for the material and it breaks new ground for the studio to make future forays into R-rated territory.
An R rating is risky and unnecessary. That's why it's a good bet the Black Widow movie won't be R-rated, but it still should be.