Although she died during Avengers: Endgame, we’re not done with Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff just yet. The Black Widow movie is winding the clock back to show what she was up to between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, and during this story that gave Johansson “closure,” we’ll meet Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, who, like her comic book counterpart, also carries the Black Widow moniker.
However, just because this Yelena Belova is a Black Widow doesn’t mean that she’s being set up to become the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s primary Black Widow. When recently asked if the Black Widow movie felt like a “passing of the torch” given what happens to Natasha Romanoff in Avengers: Endgame, Florence Pugh responded:
No, I actually will say when we were making it, it wasn’t anything like that at all. And I am saying it very honestly, it certainly didn’t feel like a passing of the torch kind of film when we were making it. And I think the direction and the feeling and the vibe behind it was genuinely just trying to make this complicated and painful story. And do it justice because a lot of fans have been waiting for her film. And also a lot of people I think will appreciate this story.
It’s understandable that some fans might wonder if Yelena Belova is becoming the Black Widow. With Natasha Romanoff’s journey having an end date, unless Marvel wanted to delve further back into her past or explore what she was up to between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, then the only way Black Widow could evolve into a film series is for someone else to take over the mantle. And Yelena Belova would make for a suitable replacement not just because of her comic book history, but because Florence Pugh is a rising star in Hollywood.
However, as the actress told Uproxx, apparently the Black Widow mantle is not being passed to her character, or at least it didn’t feel that way. It’s possible there’s some misdirection at work here (it wouldn’t be the first time that’s been done ahead of a comic book movie’s release), but if we’re taking Florence Pugh at her word, then it’s not like Natasha will name Yelena as her successor. After all, from an MCU timeline perspective, Natasha still has over half a decade more time as Black Widow by the time her movie is over.
Still, just because Yelena Belova might not become the Black Widow in this movie doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in the future. Even if Marvel uncharacteristically decides to keep Black Widow a one-and-done tale (keeping it in company with The Incredible Hulk), we could still see Florence Pugh’s character pop up elsewhere in the MCU, whether it’s another movie or a Disney+ show. By that point, maybe she is operating as the Black Widow.
For now though, we’re still five months away from officially meeting Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova. Along with her and Natasha Romanoff, there’s a third Black Widow that’s being thrown into the mix: Rachel Weisz’s Melina. All three have history with one another, as well as David Harbour’s Red Guardian, who is the Russian super-soldier counterpart to Captain America.
Specific plot details for Black Widow are being kept under wraps, but the movie’s cast also includes O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason, William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark (through deleted Captain America: Civil War footage) and a yet-to-be-revealed actor as Taskmaster, along with Ray Winstone and Olivier Richters in undisclosed roles. Cate Shortland directed Black Widow, and Jac Schaffer and Ned Benson wrote the script.
Black Widow hits theaters on May 1. For now, look through our Marvel movies guide to learn what else is coming in Phase 4 and beyond.