Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ Film -- The Critical Questions

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In Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) /Marvel's Cinematic Universe, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow is frequently cited as a top candidate for her own solo film. Fans might be getting their wish -- Marvel's studio president Kevin Feige recently confirmed in a Total Film interview that a Black Widow film is in the early development stages.


While these plans might never reach fruition, there would be plenty of demand for Scarlett Johansson, one of Hollywood's most bankable actresses, to reprise her role. Moreover, based on the pent-up demand for "girl power" films like Lionsgate's (NYSE: LGF  ) The Hunger Games and Divergent, Black Widow could win over female fans as the first female Marvel character with her own solo film in Disney's Marvel universe.

Therefore, let's take a look at the top questions Marvel fans are likely asking about the Black Widow film.

Will it be a sequel or prequel?
There have actually been three Black Widows in Marvel history -- Claire Voyant (Golden Age), Natalia Romanova (Silver Age), and Yelena Belova (Modern Age). Of these three characters, Natalia Romanova, who first appeared as an antagonist in 1964, is the most widely recognized version of the character.

Scarlett Johansson plays Natalia Romanova, although she is referred to as "Natasha Romanoff" in the films. Her origin, which is alluded to in the films, is roughly the same as the comics -- she starts out as a villainous spy partnered with Hawkeye, whom she falls in love with, but eventually has a change of heart (after being gunned down by her employers) and starts working with the Avengers and SHIELD.

(Source: Marvel)

According to Feige, the new film would focus on "her past" and teach audiences "more about where she came from" -- clearly suggesting that a solo film would be a prequel, and not a sequel, to the events in The Avengers.

In my opinion, that would be a great move -- there are five decades of comics to draw inspiration from. Black Widow's relationship with Hawkeye, her battles against Iron Man, her attempted defection from Russia, and her romance with Daredevil (who was recently returned to Disney) would be enough to fill out an entire trilogy or more.

On the other hand, focusing on the events following The Avengers or her next two appearances -- Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers: Age of Ultron -- simply wouldn't be as interesting.

Will Scarlett Johannson return?
Getting Scarlett Johansson to play Black Widow again in an extra film or new franchise, however, could be tougher than it seems.

Scarlett Johansson is one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, reportedly earning $20 million to reprise her role as Black Widow in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. That big paycheck put her in the middle of a widely publicized pay dispute with Marvel, where several supporting actors in the first film threatened to quit over their "lower pay."

In response to those complaints, Johansson reportedly stated that she wouldn't "cut her quote" for the sequel. Johansson's pay, however, comes nowhere close to the $50 million that was paid to secure Robert Downey, Jr.'s role in The Avengers.

Hawkeye and Black Widow. (Source: Marvel)

Johansson is also fairly selective with her roles -- since 2005, she hasn't starred in more than three films per year. Her Avengers co-star Samuel L. Jackson, by comparison, will appear in a whopping seven films in 2014.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye, should ideally be cast in a Black Widow prequel or sequel, since he plays a key part in her origin. Renner, along with Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, and Chris Hemsworth, were paid roughly $2 million to $3 million for the first Avengers film. However, Renner is now a rising star in Hollywood, and recruiting him for a new Black Widow film could cost Marvel a lot more than it did for the first film.

Yet in my opinion, Marvel doesn't actually need Johansson or Renner to return if the film is a prequel. While their presence would certainly boost box office sales, hiring those two A-list stars would raise costs substantially. If the story takes place over a decade ago, Marvel could hire a younger actress and actor to respectively portray Black Widow and Hawkeye.

Can Black Widow form the core of a new quadrant of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
In a previous article, I mentioned that Disney had reacquired the film rights to Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Blade, and the Punisher.

Although Daredevil is getting his own new TV show on Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) , I believe that a Black Widow film could also serve as a core of new Marvel films that focus on the darker characters of the Marvel universe. Daredevil, as I mentioned earlier, is already part of Black Widow's comic book origin.

Meanwhile, the Punisher and Blade could be introduced into her corner of the universe, and eventually form a second team, more grounded in reality, to complement the super-powered members of the Avengers. Blade, of course, is half-vampire, but his powers come nowhere close to matching Thor, Hulk, Captain America, or Tony Stark in his suit.

Of course, that's a long-term shot that probably couldn't even start happening until after The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it could provide Disney's film version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with some better fundamental scaffolding if key actors like Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Mark Ruffalo decide to leave.

How much bigger will Marvel's Cinematic Universe get?
Marvel's Cinematic Universe has grown substantially since the first Iron Man film in 2008. After Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, the film rights gradually reverted back to Disney.

So far, three films have been directly distributed by Disney: The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and Thor: The Dark World. All three films have been critical and commercial successes:


Production cost

Global box office

Rotten Tomatoes

The Avengers (2012)

$220 million

$1.52 billion


Iron Man 3 (2013)

$200 million

$1.22 billion


Thor: The Dark World (2013)

$170 million

$639 million


Source: Boxofficemojo, Rotten Tomatoes.

"Phase 1" of Disney and Marvel's grand plan started with Iron Man and ended with The Avengers. We are currently in "Phase 2", which includes the upcoming films Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, and will conclude with The Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015.

"Phase 3" will kick off with Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd in the titular role, in the summer of 2015. Looking past Ant-Man, only four films have been confirmed -- Captain America 3, Thor 3, The Avengers 3, and Doctor Strange, which could possibly star Johnny Depp.

Just how Black Widow will fit into the grand scheme of things is a mystery, but I honestly believe that a solo Black Widow film could be a better launching point for Phase 3 than Ant-Man, since it could bring back Daredevil, the Punisher, and Blade back into Disney's Marvel universe.

The bottom line
What do you think, fellow Marvel film fans? Do you think that a Black Widow film will be a box office bomb or a blockbuster? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Read/Post Comments (24) | Recommend This Article (11)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 10:54 AM, buddydave wrote:

    Until ScarJo, Black Widow had always been a third-tier character. While not a perfect fit for the character as historically depicted, she's more or less made the character her own and was an important part of The Avenger's success. Marvel shouldn't make a BW solo film without her. But I also think they should make a modest, lean & mean spy thriller if they do go forward with this.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 11:16 AM, rsealecscs wrote:

    Great article, yet Black Widow is not the first to get a solo film for the Marvel Universe women. Electra would be the first starring Jennifer Garner.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 11:23 AM, TMFSunLion wrote:


    No, Elektra was not part of the "Disney Marvel" universe, as I mentioned in the article. Elektra was in of the "Fox Marvel" Universe.

    Horrible movie, by the way. :)

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 11:24 AM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    "in of" = "part of" :)

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 11:55 AM, saymekian wrote:

    Blade could definitely fight Cap and probably come out on top. Cap is the pinnacle of human athleticism. Blade is a superhuman.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 12:00 PM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    Well, Captain America's shield vs. Blade's sword would be a pretty awesome fight....

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 12:39 PM, robnotbob wrote:

    Why has Marvel decided to skip other original Avengers (that were part of the team prior to the Black Widow)? for example; Quicksilver, Hercules and the Black Panther were all Avengers before the Black Widow (unlike the Widow they actually had super powers). I believe a intro of the Black Panther would be interesting and meet an obvious GAP re diversity in the Marvel/ Disney universe of super heroes. The Panther was added to the Avengers in 1968, Black Widow wasn't added till 1973.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 12:46 PM, excelsior07 wrote:

    Currently she is a big-costar in the Winter soldier comic and was trained by the WS and is dating him.

    The Winter Soldier is Marvel's best written comic currently in my book.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 12:51 PM, BartMcNeill wrote:

    To answer the question: a Black Widow solo film will mostly flop. The only positive spin would be the (re)introduction of other characters; if vehicles for those characters subsequently proved successful. I do enjoy seeing Johansson on the screen, but the Black Widow character had little to do with the success of Avengers (a similar statement could be made for Iron Man 2). It's easy to put attractive young women in skin-tight outfits in these movies, and it doesn't need to cost that much.

    Regarding the potential success of 'darker' Marvel characters, no movie with DareDevil or [God forbid] AntMan will be successful. Blade and GhostRider, who both have genuine darkness built into their characters, already have trouble drawing an audience. Part of the success of the core Avengers ensemble is the fun and humor that they include. That attitude is an honest extension of their comic books roots and big reason for their popularity - and for Marvel's terrific film successes the past few years.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 1:37 PM, jbship628 wrote:

    Any real good Black Widow movie would be far more of a spy/espionage thriller, which would be fine, but hasn't exactly been the strength of the Marvel movie brand thus far.

    If not done perfectly, it would lead to a never-ending series of complaints and could actually hurt Widow as a side character.

    IMO, Black Widow is far better suited to being second banana in other heroes' movies as a way to keep tying them all together. She was in Iron Man 2, now Cap 2. If you can get SJ to take more reasonable salaries for smaller parts, keep having her pop-up in Phase 3, like the Ant-Man movie or Thor 3.

    Having Widow do these kinds of spots is actually what makes the Avengers and Marvel Movie universe so relatively unique. They are all taking place in the same world, so characters do come and go in them. She should stay in that place.

    If you are looking for a female superhero lead movie, introduce Ms. Marvel Carol Danvers. (Since her origin in comics has to do with the Kree, you could even tie it Marvel Movie Universe style into Guardians of the Galaxy somehow)

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 4:44 PM, nowandthenreader wrote:


    too many marvel films as it is.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 6:00 PM, Cliffhanger77 wrote:

    What's popular about the Black Widow movie character is that ScarJo plays her, adding depth and dimension. (Watch "Iron Man 2" and her performance there sometime - even though that film has major flaws, it's still enjoyable for RDJ's and ScarJo's performances.) I would only watch a Black Widow movie, though, if they retained the casting and put ScarJo in the role. $20 or $25M when you can potentially make many times that seems like a bargain. It's time for a female Marvel franchise, and the Widow is the best choice!

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 6:01 PM, vollbarry wrote:

    Outstanding article! My vote is Black Widow is another billion dollar blockbuster.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 10:47 PM, IheartLoki wrote:

    I personally would LOVE to see a Black Widow movie, but only if 1. The make it a prequel to the avengers 2 Hawkeye was a major character and 3 if both S.J. and J.R. were in it. I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia after seeing The Avengers catching up on what 'red' Loki/BW were talking about.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2014, at 11:59 PM, jimenzo wrote:

    How about they do another hulk movie before they do this one

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 10:13 AM, SeanKirkwood wrote:

    @Rob - Scarlet Witch was a member in May 1965. Hercules was a member in Oct 1967. I believe that Hercules was a guest of the Avengers before that, as he was banished from Olympus, but was not an actual member.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 10:16 AM, SeanKirkwood wrote:

    Need to take that back - Hercules was a member before BlackWidow... I was looking at info for the Scarelt Witch... sheesh!

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 11:07 AM, HerbieJPilato wrote:

    Too bad ScaJo is all wrong for the part. She's too short...and hair's not long enough.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 12:41 PM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    I think ScarJo did well with the part.

    Emily Blunt (the original choice for the role) looks more like the comic book version, as does Gemma Arterton -- but that would be hilarious since Arterton was already in that awful Hansel and Gretel film with Renner...

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 12:42 PM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    @jimenzo -- The Hulk film has been repeatedly debated, but I think Marvel doesn't want to move forward with it because the first two films weren't that well received.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 2:49 PM, Smurfkillersquee wrote:

    I'd go see Scarlet Johansan parading around in a tight outfight for 2 hours.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 6:25 PM, WarriorDL wrote:

    A Black Widow script would need to be written by someone familiar with James Bond style of writing. That's basically what the film would need to be, a female version of a James Bond film.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 8:33 PM, Allend406 wrote:

    How does blade not match up with captain america I think blAde would handle that fight easily.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2014, at 11:04 PM, Ekkis25 wrote:

    When you mention Black Widows story line you include Hawkeye, iron Man and others-a film with just Black Widow will only be mildly successful just because she has always been a "Robin" if you will and not the main reason for the attention. I do agree however that SJ can draw men to watch her!

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