Everything that Marvel has planned past the release of Avengers: Endgame is currently shrouded in a veil of secrecy and intense mystery – but that hasn’t stopped us from getting a few casting announcements for some of their upcoming films.
Currently, they’ve actually got quite a few movies going into production – The Eternals, a perplexing addition to the roster; Shang-Chi, set to be the first Marvel film headed by an Asian lead; and Black Widow, an origin film for a character who debuted in the MCU back in 2010.
That sounds unusual, and that’s because it is. Black Widow, or Natasha Romanoff, had her popularity peak just after the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in 2014. That would have been the best time to release a film for her, since she was one of only two original Avengers who didn’t get an origin film to begin with (the other being Hawkeye: I mean, you could say that technically the Hulk didn’t get an origin film, but technically he did). Since The Winter Soldier, Black Widow has been playing a more secondary role in the MCU, with only a few minutes of screentime in Avengers: Infinity War. That does seem to be changing with Avengers: Endgame, the trailers for which have highlighted Black Widow as one of the leading opponents of the Titan, Thanos. But that’s the thing: Endgame is…well, the end. After Endgame, where most of the other Avengers will presumably be retired or even die, what purpose does Black Widow have going forward? And why does she suddenly need an origin film, eight years after she originated?
We don’t know. But the origin film is definitely going forward, has a director (Cate Shortland) attached, has a release date of sometime in 2020, and has now begun casting. We first had preliminary reports that Beauty & The Beast star Emma Watson would be joining the cast, which actually didn’t come to pass – Fighting With My Family‘s Florence Pugh instead nabbed the role Watson was up for: the role of a spy, similar in strength to Black Widow herself. It would be hard to imagine Watson in such a role – Pugh seems like a perfectly good fit. Personally, I’m still hoping Watson gets to be Spider-Woman someday.
Then we got word that Andre Holland would be playing the movie’s villain, though those reports are still unconfirmed. There is still no word on who the villain is, either. That same report also mentioned the possibility of Alec Baldwin joining the cast.
So yeah, this thing is definitely on the move. We still don’t have any details on the plot, aside from the fact that this film is supposedly a prequel – as in, set before the events of Iron Man 2, where Black Widow first debuted onscreen, played by Scarlett Johansson (who, by the way, will continue to play the Russian spy). What is the need for an origin story now, when we don’t even know if Black Widow will survive the events of Avengers: Endgame? And what purpose could Black Widow serve in the future MCU, where the scope will be growing increasingly cosmic in scale? Is she going to fight off vast intergalactic entities like Galactus or the Silver Surfer with just her glow-stick batons and fists?
There is one link I can think of, though, and it could explain why a Black Widow movie is called for at this time, and not years ago. Crucially, Black Widow will be released next year, before The Eternals, which is set to come out in November, 2020.
You see, The Eternals itself has an interesting lineup of characters, and one of them is the villainous Druig. He is an immortal being, able to fly and teleport and do all the sorts of things that other Eternals can do – but he has one interesting thing about him. In the comics, Druig took the alias “Ivan Druig” and became a KGB officer in the Soviet Union. He even became the Prime Minister of the (fictional) country of Vorozheika. Now that may or may not be relevant, but Black Widow is also a KGB agent who operated out of the Soviet Union, and her movie should come out only a few months before The Eternals. Perhaps Natasha could have a connection to the greater cosmic beings that will inhabit the next phase of the MCU – perhaps, in the past, she had a connection to this country of Vorozheika, and even became entangled in the plots of “Ivan Druig”. It would be a brilliant link between the two films, and a great way of bridging the gap between the previous phase and the new one. It’s even possible that Andre Holland could be playing Druig, since The Eternals is currently shaping up to have a very diverse cast. Florence Pugh is rumored to be playing the “moral opposite” of Black Widow – in other words, she’ll most likely be playing Yelena Belova. I could easily imagine a scenario in which Druig recruits Belova, who trained alongside Natasha in the Red Room Program, to take out the Black Widow.
This is definitely looking like it will be a very interesting thriller. I’m sure there will be more updates on casting, plot details, etc, once Avengers: Endgame is released and Black Widow’s fate becomes known.