Over the years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has perfected the art of the cameo. Long gone are the days when characters were shoehorned into movies with no apparent rhyme or reason, not to mention any Jeremy Renner in Thor in particular, but Black Widow made a conscious effort to shy away from overt connective tissue.
Of course, the film is bookended by brief appearances from William Hurt’s General Ross and the post-credits scene teases Yelena Belova’s return in upcoming Disney Plus series Hawkeye, not to mention the countless references to the Avengers peppered throughout the script, but there’s nothing particularly ham-fisted.
During the long road to Black Widow finally landing in theaters and on Disney Plus Premier Access last Friday, countless MCU favorites had been rumored for guest spots, with Hawkeye and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark typically at the top of the list, which obviously didn’t happen. In a new interview, director Cate Shortland explained why the decision was made to move away from the wider universe and narrow the focus to Natasha Romanoff and her surrogate family.
“Initially, there was discussions about everything, about all of the different characters. What we decided was, and I think Kevin was really great, he said, ‘She doesn’t need the boys’. We didn’t want it to feel like she needs the support. We want her to stand alone. And she does.”
You understand where Shortland is coming from, even if the presence of Yelena, Alexei Shostakov and Melina Vostokoff means that Natasha hardly accomplishes all of her goals single-handed. A prequel set in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War provided almost limitless cameo possibilities, but it was arguably the smartest move to keep the nods and winks to a minimum.
That way, Scarlett Johansson remains the focus, which is the least the actress deserves after spending eleven years as one of the franchise’s most popular recurring heroes, and Black Widow has introduced several new faces that could yet have major roles to play in the future.