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Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow

During Scarlett Johansson’s time as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ve learned bits and pieces of Natasha Romanoff’s life as a spy and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. So naturally in the discussion surrounding the Black Widow movie, it was suspected that it could be a prequel, and once Natasha sacrificed her life in Avengers: Endgame, that became a necessity.

However, rather than simply turn the clock back to Natasha Romanoff’s pre-Iron Man 2 years to deliver her origin story, Black Widow is instead chronicling a chapter of Natasha’s life in the middle of her time as a superhero. In Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige’s mind, going a more traditional prequel route with this movie just wasn’t an interesting approach. saying:

A prequel that simply filled in the blanks of things you already know is not very exciting. How does she get her Widow stingers for the first time? How did she learn to do a flip? That doesn’t matter.

Perhaps there was a time when a Black Widow origin story was in the cards, as Kevin Feige and Scarlett Johansson first discussed the prospect of Natasha Romanoff getting her own movie during The Avengers press tour in 2012. However, it was ultimately decided to go in a different direction for the reasons Feige laid out to EW.

No doubt a lot of MCU fans would have been content watching a movie about Natasha Romanoff’s time being trained in the Red Room and carrying out espionage missions KGB before being recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. by Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, and going on a mission to Budapest with the archer. That’s not the movie we’re getting, although you can be sure that Black Widow will peel back more layers of Natasha’s past.

Set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow follows Natasha Romanoff on the run and confronting a dangerous conspiracy connected to her old life. Since she can’t turn to her superhero allies for assistance, Natasha must instead reunite with a trio of Russian spies who she went undercover with as a child: Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Rachel Weisz’s Melina Vostokoff (both of whom also go by Black Widow) and David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov, a.k.a. Red Guardian.

Since we already know how Natasha Romanoff’s MCU journey ends, Black Widow provides the opportunity to explore the character at a time when, although the world considers her a superhero, she has to rely on her old spy skills to get out of this particular jam. Along with the previously mentioned actors, Black Widow’s cast includes O.T. Fagbenle as Rick Mason and William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross, along with a unidentified actor playing Taskmaster.

Directed by Cate Shortland and written by Eric Pearson (based off a story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson), Black Widow hits theaters on May 1. Look through our Marvel movies guide to find out what else is being released in Phase 4 and beyond, or keep track of this year’s movies with our 2020 release schedule.

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