Your Complete Guide To Black Widow In The MCU
Most of us agree that a solo Black Widow film for Marvel has taken a little bit too long. She is a core Avenger with one of the highest on-screen appearances throughout the MCU, while also being one of the only ones who did not get a solo film during the first phases. What gives? While we’ll explore that later on, we are more than thrilled and filled with anticipation about the upcoming Black Widow, releasing in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9th, 2021. While we wait patiently, let’s go through a complete guide to the character of Black Widow during her time in the MCU.
We think that this goes without saying, but this guide to Black Widow in the MCU will spoil pretty much everything that goes down before the hero’s solo film.
Bringing In The Black Widow We All Know And Love
What comes to mind when you hear the name Black Widow? Maybe it’s your favorite Marvel scene or a comic book with the character, whose first appearance was back in 1964 with Tales of Suspense #52. But for most of us, Scarlett Johansson enters our thoughts. The actress, also known for roles like Charlotte in Lost in Translation and in an intoxicating voice role of Samantha in Her, is responsible for bringing the character to life in the MCU.
Though it’s tough to picture anybody else in the role, the character was almost played by Emily Blunt. While we could picture the actress playing Black Widow if we try to forget Johansson for a moment, she ultimately lost out on the role due to contractual obligations. Fortunately for her, she has gone on to do more than a few hits, including A Quiet Place.
Johansson eventually fell into the part, and we’re sure that the studio has never looked back. She went from making a reported $400,000 in her debut MCU film to an impressive estimate of $20 million for Black Widow. Not bad for over a decade of work, huh?
Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr.
A Guide to Black Widow in the MCU: Humble Beginnings
The character of Black Widow, officially known as Natasha Romanoff, made her first appearance in Iron Man 2 in 2010. She begins as the assistant to Robert Downey Jr.’s beloved Tony Stark, introducing herself as Natalie Rushman. She is immediately seen as an impressive (and over-sexualized) woman, and certainly one not to be messed with after a powerful display of her combat skills.
Nick Fury eventually steps in, filling in Stark on Rushman’s real identity: Agent Natasha Romanoff. She helps Stark defeat Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko while also revealing just her many important powers. This includes master manipulation, skilled use with firearms, and everything else that could possibly come along with the title of skilled assassin.
Meeting Some Friends in High Places
Natasha’s second appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is with a group of other mighty and powerful pals. 2012’s The Avengers re-introduces the character to audiences who may have skipped over the Iron Man flicks. She is first seen in a revealing outfit, tied to a chair, and interrogating some bad guys. Though, she is forced out of the situation after Fury brings back the Avengers Initiative.
Her smooth-talking skills are impressive throughout the film. She uses her charm and ability to gather information to do everything from recruiting Mark Ruffalo’s Dr. Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk, to join the initiative and get key information from Loki.
This film gives Natasha a chance to let some of her personality shine. Her close friendship with Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton grows after she must help him out of some powerful mind control (at the hand of our favorite villain, Loki, played by one of our favorite MCU actors, Tom Hiddleston). There are also pieces of a budding friendship between her and Banner. Hints of a tragic past also form, with her insistence to get some red out of her ledger. This raises questions of her overall morality, showing that she’s more than ready to make sacrifices for the good of the worlds.
The Avengers is an exciting film with lots of re-watch potential, but the massive cast list and other setups make Black Widow fall into the background at any moment where she isn’t front and center.
Image via Marvel Studios.
The Not-Winter Soldier
Our next look at Black Widow is in one of the most acclaimed MCU films to date, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Romanoff works closely with Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans.) Though, she isn’t just there to hang out with America’s Ass. She works towards extracting important data related to Project Insight, a project designed to identify more threats to the planet. The duo moves past Natasha’s alternative motives and joins forces with Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson.
Black Widow makes for a fun addition to the crew in The Winter Soldier and is much more fun to watch when amongst characters whose powers don’t come from extraterrestrial sources like Thor. It feels much more human in nature, which is perfect for Natasha’s more lowkey powers. The stark differences between her and Rogers’ personalities and ways of approaching situations are also exciting to watch.
With all that said, how easy is it to be memorable when you’re playing against a character like Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier himself?
Image via Marvel Studios.
How Many Friends Do You Have In An Age of Ultron?
Natasha finally gets more of a chance to shine in the spotlight with Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. The Joss Whedon-directed film manages to juggle multiple villains (or suspected ones) while also digging into the past of Romanoff. We learn of the Red Room, a place where Romanoff was both trained as an assassin and forcibly sterilized, leading to her belief that she is a monster. While many viewers may disagree with how this backstory is discussed, it becomes clear that this is a character who struggles deeply with her past.
Age of Ultron also welcomes us to a bit of a romantic angle for Natasha. While the MCU is only slowly learning how to make a killer romance, they certainly tried to push something that may or may not have actually been there with Bruce Banner and Natasha. While she may not come away with a partner, she does come away with a family. And that seems to be all that she wants.
Image via Marvel Studios.
A War Is Brewing, And Black Widow Finds Her Side In The Middle Of Her MCU Guide
Barely a year can go by without seeing Scarlett Johansson on the big screen, and 2016’s Captain America: Civil War proves it. This film gives viewers a lot of insight into where each character and respective Avenger falls on lines of power, morality, and following orders. Things are split between those following Tony Stark versus Steve Rogers, who debate over the politics that oversee big and powerful groups like the Avengers. Romanoff ends up siding with Stark, which causes a rift in her friendship and allyship with Rogers.
There are a lot of arguments that take place within this film, and not just between Captain America and Iron Man. Despite the differences in opinion, Natasha remains one of the most level-headed throughout. She sees both sides to the argument, thanks to her widespread alliances.
Whatever happens in this film will be the most important for the upcoming Black Widow film, as it picks up where Civil War ends. This ending watches as Romanoff betrays Tony Stark. Despite her allegiance to Stark when it comes to the different sides of things, Romanoff eventually allows Rogers and Barnes to escape, distracting the crew from what comes next. As expected, Stark isn’t too fond of this small act of betrayal and is one of the deciding facts that causes Romanoff to run off.
Image via Marvel Studios.
Black Widow In Infinity War Starts Giving More Time To Shine
A lot goes on in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. We finally start to see Thanos at his most powerful, collecting infinity stones and crushing everybody who gets in his path. But we also get to see more of the Avengers and their Avengers-adjacent pals. Romanoff is a lot more hardened in this film, which is likely due to whatever we end up seeing in Black Widow.
While we have yet to learn the exact circumstances leading up to how Romanoff appears in Infinity War, she has rejoined forces with Steve and Sam, eventually helping out Wanda Maximoff and Vision after their failed lovers hideaway in Edinburgh.
Romanoff’s time to shine in this film is with her appearance fighting in Wakanda. She is on the defense, fighting to keep off Thanos’ army as he tries to take the Mind Stone away from Vision. While the battle may not be the most successful that this fighter has seen, it does give her the chance to flex her fighting skills and work alongside some other powerful female warriors. Eventually, the film ends with Thanos’ snap, stealing half of the world away. Romanoff is left behind, though we would suspect that she wished otherwise.
(Image: Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios)
Avengers: Endgame Creates and Completes The Natasha Arc
Being one of the few surviving superheroes and one of 50% of the world’s population to remain, Natasha is pretty bummed for most of Avengers: Endgame. While it may look like she’s given up hope, she never pauses to stop fighting. She becomes more of a leader within the crew, commanding teams and working from the Avengers headquarters.
A lot goes into play when it comes to how the Avengers are able to defeat Thanos, but one of the greatest sacrifices given is by Black Widow herself. When on the hunt for the Soul Stone during the team’s time heist, she finds herself paired with her best friend on Vormir. Clint Barton and Romanoff fight each other for the chance to sacrifice their lives, but she ends up winning in a heartbreaking and beautiful moment. Is this what finally gets the red out of her ledger? While we don’t think Natasha needed redeeming, it is a great piece of commentary on accepting your fate and working towards a greater goal.
So, in Natasha’s last role before her solo film, we see her meet her fate. She dies at the hand of nobody but herself and is a key to defeating Thanos once and for all. Yeah, it makes for a great story, but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who spent the entire film sobbing.
Image via Marvel Studios.
The Future Is Exciting For Black Widow In Her Guide Within The MCU, But Not Hopeful
Most of the solo films for Avengers characters came before their eventual death. However, we’re entering Black Widow knowing a whole lot more about the titular character than we did with previous solo films. We have seen an entire character arc, with Natasha going from a sexual weapon to a sacrificing badass. Could the film’s placement within the timeline be the best way to see the character?
We have watched Black Widow go from fighter to foe, and eventually to a friend, in this guide to her character in the MCU. But what the upcoming film has in store for us is more in line with what many of our heroes search for: family. Romanoff will have to confront her past while also teaming up with some old friends, running into Florence Pugh’s Yelena, David Harbour’s Alexei, and Rachel Weisz’s Melina.
Now that you’re all caught up on the journey that Black Widow takes in the MCU with this guide let us know how you’re feeling ahead of the film’s release. Is it on your must-watch list, or has it fallen from the top spot after being delayed so many times? If you’re impatient like us, you can read our spoiler-free review of Black Widow to help you decide if it’s worth that Premier Access!
Featured image via Marvel Studios.
Meghan Hale is the kind of movie lover that has a "must watch" that is a mile long... and growing. When she isn't talking about the latest film and television news she is writing one of her many in-process novels, screaming film trivia at anybody who will listen, and working as a mental health care professional. Follow her on Twitter @meghanrhale for some fun theories and live reactions to all things entertainment.