While Marvel Studios’ retrospective super-spy thriller Black Widow is still several months from release, early reactions are already surfacing across the Internet regarding the contents and surprises of the forthcoming film. And though some fans may have entertained concerns that Natasha Romanoff’s posthumous big screen return might feature the kind of feminism that earned Captain Marvel a Rotten Tomatoes review-bombing, a leak that comes to us by way of 4Chan suggests that won’t be the case, with the user saying that there are no “outright ultra-feminist scenes.”
Allegedly, the most that viewers will have to fear from the film is a scene with “some implied themes with all the Black Widows turning on” one of their own during the movie’s culmination. This may come as a relief to fans who recall screenwriter Jac Schaeffer’s interview in which she said: “I’m not interested in adhering to comic canon that is discriminatory in any way or that violates my values system. … I’m not interested in the loud, sour-grapes voices,” by which she was presumably referring to the anonymous detractors railing against the invasion of their classically male-dominated genre by powerful women.
Films viewed as overtly feministic, as a microcosm of Hollywood in general, have experienced an uneven track record lately, with a series of high-profile stumbles that include the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, the 2018 Ocean’s Trilogy spinoff Ocean’s 8 and Elizabeth Banks’ notoriously miscarried attempt to relaunch the Charlie’s Angels franchise last year, the financial failure of which Banks claimed “reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don’t go see women do action movies.”
Co-existing among these ill-fated projects, however, has been a string of excellent, well-received, female-centric narratives, including Charlize Theron’s 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road and her 2017 pic Atomic Blonde, Jennifer Lawrence’s 2018 movie Red Sparrow (itself viewed by many as a sort of proof-of-concept for a potential Black Widow project), and Scarlett Johansson’s own 2014 film Lucy, which verified the actress’ ability to carry a movie when it grossed over $450 million worldwide.
Even Captain Marvel, which bore more than its fair share of criticism for incorporating the systemic sexism of the early 1990s American military and its consequences into its own plot, was popular enough to cross the billion dollar milestone last year. But viewers put off by those story and character elements can be assured that they’ll find nothing of the sort in Black Widow, which bears the distinct advantage of featuring a beloved hero who’s been gradually developed over the course of seven previous films during a ten-year span.
This is not a freshly-invented female character replacing a preexisting male character, after all, or a newly-revealed female relative playing the same role as an established male character, or even the solo live-action debut of an extant character with decades of comic book history. Natasha Romanoff is a fully-realized quantity unto herself, independent of, conflicting with, and working alongside the male and female characters around her for exactly as long as it suits her own enigmatic agendas.
Black Widow is directed by Cate Shortland and written by Eric Pearson from a story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson, and officially launches the fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on May 1st.