Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Black Widow: trailers, release date delay, cast and everything we know

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has been a key part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the movies began. Still, while the movies' male heroes piled up solo movies, Natasha Romanoff was left to co-star in other characters' movies – until now. Well, after the coronavirus-induced delay is over, anyway.

When the movie gets here, it will put the spotlight firmly on Natasha Romanoff, and her mysterious past life as an assassin trained by the Russian government. As the dust settles on the universe-changing events of Avengers: Endgame, this is the first film to emerge from the MCU’s Phase 4. Returning us to the aftermath of Civil War, the Black Widow movie is seeing in the dawn of a new era alongside Doctor Strange and Black Panther sequels, and new properties like The Eternals and Shang Chi.

Here's what you need to know about the Black Widow movie release date, trailer, cast, and how it fits into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. Spoilers for older MCU films follow.

The Black Widow release date will be a week earlier in the UK

The Black Widow movie was originally set for release in the UK and US on May 1, 2020, but then the worldwide spread of coronavirus led to the shuttering of theaters, so Disney and Marvel have pushed the film back to November 6, 2020. However, Disney confirmed to Digital Spy that the UK release date would be a week earlier, on October 28.

The House of Mouse had already delayed Mulan, The New Mutants, and Antlers, but initially paused before holding back on a big-budget Black Widow movie. It wasn't long before the confirmation of the Black Widow delay followed, but it's encouraging that we now have a firm new date to look forward to.

Black Widow trailer: all five featurettes

Above, you can watch the final Black Widow trailer, which shows us more of the Taskmaster's plan: he's using the Red Room where Natasha was trained to control agents. 

The first Black Widow movie teaser debuted in early December 2019. It opens with a montage of Romanoff staring into a mirror and scenes from previous MCU movies. “I used to have nothing. But then I got this job. This family. But nothing lasts forever,” she says in a voiceover. Those lines encapsulate the main themes of the trailer, which focuses on the character’s origins, and the notion of family. 

We see Romanoff meeting a returning William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross – could this be where the Russian agent is persuaded to defect to the United States? – and also Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, an operative with similar skills to Black Widow, who Romanoff describes as “sis”. Biological sisters, or spiritual? We’ll have to wait and see…

“We have unfinished business,” Black Widow continues. “We have to go back to where it all started.” Cue assaults on military bases (apparently from her past), scenes of bonding with former colleagues Red Guardian (Stranger Things’ David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz), and Romanoff in a new-look white suit. We also get a first glimpse at Taskmaster, widely believed to be a major villain in the movie.

We get to see a little more in the Black Widow 'Special Look' trailer above. Building on what we saw from the original trailer, we can see that Black Widows must face up to her past by tackling a new breed of assassin, a "new world of Widows". In the original trailer Widow hints at the "mistakes" she made before joining S.H.I.E.L.D and this army of assassins appears to be those made manifest.

This is seemingly part of the "arc" Widow undertakes, as Scarlett Johansson mentions in the making-of featurette below. In it you can get a sneak peek at some behind-the-scenes action and see short interviews with director, Cate Shortland and producer, Kevin Fiege.

In this Super Bowl 2020 Big Game Spot we see more of Romanoff's pre-Avengers family, all suited, booted, and ready for action.

Black Widow cast explained

Marvel always secures A-list acting talent, and the Black Widow movie is no exception. Alongside the returning ScarJo, Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz plays Melina, a Russian spy who goes under the alias Iron Maiden, and is a villain in the comics. Speaking to Harper's Bazaar, Weisz explained the physical demands of playing a Marvel role soon after giving birth. "I think all women would recognise that as daunting. I didn’t have my core," she said. "I was really weak and quite flabby. It was a good incentive to do some Pilates and dance cardio."

Florence Pugh is Yelena, who assumed the Black Widow mantle after Natasha Romanoff in print. The Midsommar and Little Women actress revealed to Elle UK that she's concerned about the reaction to her Russian accent: not only is being as part of the MCU "daunting" she said "I was scared because my Russian accent was going to be out there and I didn't know what it sounded like." Pugh also recalled her nerves as the cast was unveiled at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, but we don't think she has any reason to worry.

And then there's Stranger Things/Hellboy star David Harbour plays Alexie Shostakov, otherwise known as Red Guardian. He’s Russia’s supersoldier answer to Captain America, though in the movie, he appears to be out of shape. 

The principal cast is rounded out by the aforementioned William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross, and Ray Winstone in an as-yet-unrevealed roles. OT Fagbenle plays a character called Mason, but there’s speculation that Fagbenle is playing the aforementioned Taskmaster, a masked, bow-wielding vigilante. Marvel is playing that particular card close to its chest. 

There are also reports that Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark/Iron Man will make an appearance – he may have been killed in Avengers: Endgame, but as with Romanoff, the Black Widow movie’s position in the timeline makes a comeback feasible.

Black Widow poster: check out the latest design

Marvel has released the newest Black Widow poster, showing the movie's ensemble cast in the background. Excited yet?

How does Black Widow fit into the MCU? 

Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed the inconvenient fact that (spoiler alert for the two or three people who haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame) Black Widow was one of the high-profile casualties of the final Avengers movie. The new film isn’t messing around with continuity, however, because it’s set some time in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, when Natasha Romanoff is living as a fugitive after helping Captain America and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) escape the authorities. 

"There are ways to do prequels that are less informative or answer questions you didn’t necessarily have, and then there are ways to do prequels where you learn all sorts of things you never knew before,” MCU overlord Kevin Feige teased io9 back in June. “I look at Better Call Saul as a wonderful example of a prequel that almost completely stands on its own apart from Breaking Bad because it informs you about so many things you didn’t know about before."

It also seems likely that the movie will feature plenty of flashbacks – the scene with Ross in the trailer features a significantly de-aged William Hurt, suggesting the meeting takes place much earlier in Romanoff’s history. We also see hints of the brutal “Red Room” facility seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Black Widow was trained. In other words, expect this to be the MCU movie from the other side of the Iron Curtain.

What other Black Widow story details do we know about?

Beyond what’s in the trailers? Not a lot. This is Marvel, after all, a studio well known for not giving away unnecessary plot details. With Black Widow being such a popular character, however – along with the fact MCU movies tend to get sequels – we can’t help wondering if this will be an excuse to bring the deceased Natasha Romanoff back into the wider Marvel continuity, much as Avengers: Endgame provided a way back for Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.

However, in an interview with Total Film, Johansson made clear that "One of the themes of the film is family. What is family? How does it define us? How does our past define us? How does our family – however we define it – make up who we are, for better or worse?” It looks like revelations from Widow's past will change plenty about how we perceive the character in her previous MCU outings. It also suggest the film will lurch from typically action-packed superhero fare to family drama, which sounds promising.

Black Widow director: Cate Shortland is making this Marvel movie

The Black Widow movie’s director is Cate Shortland, the Australian helmer of Somersault, Lore and TV series The Secret Life of Us. It’s another admirably leftfield choice for Marvel who, after Taika Waititi on Thor: Ragnarok, and Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck on Captain Marvel – are making a habit of taking a chance on interesting filmmakers.

The screenplay, meanwhile, is from Jac Schaeffer (who’s showrunning upcoming Scarlet Witch/The Vision Disney+ show WandaVision), and Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby).

Can Black Widow continue the MCU's form?

A Black Widow movie is the right move for Marvel after Avengers: Endgame. The stakes of the MCU need to dial back a bit before they can escalate to that level again, and a movie that at last explores Natasha's origins feels like a dead cert. The quality of the ensemble cast, too, speaks to how well Marvel Studios is regarded right now – everyone wants to be part of it. 

It's just a shame we have to wait for it, but that's just the way things are right now in cinema.

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