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Natasha in her three point stand in Black Widow

Cate Shortland’s Black Widow is a majorly important film for the Marvel Cinematic Universe given that it is the movie that will be kicking off the post-Infinity Saga era – but it’s also a story that sits in kind of an odd place. After all, it is a prequel of sorts, set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, and notably centers on a hero who is now deceased. A side effect of this is that some fans aren’t quite sure how the blockbuster will be moving the franchise forward into Phase 4 and beyond, but when you really think about it, there are key elements of the release that could wind up being influential for years to come.

Without a functional crystal ball or precognitive powers, we can’t say for certain how Black Widow will impact the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but knowing what we know about the project, there are certainly elements of the production that suggest how it could. That in mind, here are four big ways the solo film might wind up leaving a major stamp on the comic book franchise going forward:

Yelena Belova in Black Widow

Yelena may become the new Black Widow

A hero passing on their mantle has long been a key plot point used in superhero storytelling, and we’ve even already seen it happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Hank Pym training Scott Lang to become the new Ant-Man. This in mind, now that Natasha Romanoff has died in canon it makes all the sense in the world that the franchise would have a second generation hero take up the Black Widow name going forward – and it definitely looks like that’s something that is being set up with Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova.

In the comics, the character is literally trained to take Black Widow’s title, and it certainly seems like the movie version of the story is taking similar narrative paths as the source material. Yelena went through the same Red Room assassin program as Natasha, with the two women raised as sisters, so she would be an obvious fit for the job. One big question mark is that we don’t know what the younger of the “siblings” was doing during the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but Black Widow could perhaps find time to explain that, and eventually have her resurface to become a new member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Thunderbolt Ross in Black Widow

Flashback sequences will reveal secret histories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Since being introduced in Iron Man 2, Natasha Romanoff has been consistently maintained as one of the more enigmatic heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with her backstory only provided in dribs and drabs through her various supporting roles. Black Widow will obviously change that in a big way, as we learn all about her life before becoming an Avenger, and while that’s exciting by itself, one also has to wonder what else we may learn about from the history digging and flashback sequences.

Thanks to the trailers for and interviews about the upcoming blockbuster, we already know that Natasha Romanoff will be revealed to have a history with Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross prior to the whole Sokovia Accords kerfuffle, and that Ray Winstone will be playing General Dreykov – a character first referenced in The Avengers. If that information has landed even before the film comes out, you have to wonder what other kind of bombshells Black Widow may be packing that wind up influencing Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and beyond.

Taskmaster in Black Widow

Taskmaster may not just be a one-off villain

To be blunt, Taskmaster is an excessively cool character with an excessively cool ability. Possessing what is called photographic reflexes, he can perfectly mimic the movements/style of any person he observes, and as an extension of that he is one of the most elite fighters in the Marvel Universe. The fact that he’s included in Black Widow is one of the most exciting things about the project, and one can hope that it moves to set him up as a significant character going into the future of the big screen franchise.

Given Marvel Studios’ track record, it is admittedly possible that Taskmaster is simply being established as a one-off villain that won’t make it out of Black Widow alive… but we can keep our fingers crossed that won’t be the case. One of the more underwhelming aspects of the Infinity Saga was the fact that the movies incorporated a number of disposable villains that didn’t really add to the big picture plans, but that’s something that the franchise may wind up focusing on in Phase 4 simply as a way of mixing things up. At this stage in the game there’s a lot about Tasky that we don’t know, including the identity of the actor under the mask, but perhaps those mysteries can remain unsolved and incorporated into future MCU features.

Hawkeye in The Avengers

The door is open to learn more about Hawkeye

When The Avengers first joined together, they were a disparate group of heroes united by crisis – but they weren’t all strangers to one another. While it’s true that Iron Man, Captain America, and Hulk all met one another shortly after Loki stole the Tesseract, it was unveiled in the story that Black Widow and Hawkeye were associates with a long history together. Going back to an earlier point, this isn’t a relationship that we’ve seen explored a hell of a lot in Marvel movies, with only bits and pieces coming to light, but the Black Widow film could change that, and impact Phase 4 at the same time.

Not only is there hope that the Natasha Romanoff solo movie will shed some light on the Budapest mission discussed between Black Widow and Hawkeye in both The Avengers and Avengers: Endgame (which is on the table given that the European country is one of the blockbuster’s settings), but there is a chance that it could teach us some stuff about the archer we may not know about. This is particularly significant given that Hawkeye has his own Disney+ show in the works that should have its own impact on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We can’t say for certain that this will happen, as we notably have no idea if Jeremy Renner is involved in Black Widow at all, but we can keep our fingers crossed that the history between two of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is explored.

Do you think we’ll see Black Widow have any of the impacts on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe listed above? Can you think of other ways the movie may be reflected in the post-Avengers: Endgame franchise? Hit the comments with your thoughts, and stay tuned for more updates about the blockbuster as we get ever closer to its November 6th release date.