Scarlett Johansson has demonstrated in movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron that she has the chops for a solo movie. By Jay Maidment. ©Marvel 2015

Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon used the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) for several emotional story beats. By Jay Maidment. ©Marvel 2015

Looking at this concept art for Avengers: Age of Ultron, it’s not hard to imagine a Black Widow movie. ©Marvel 2015

Can you imagine some or all of these Avengers: Age of Ultron heroes  as supporting characters in a Black Widow film? They are (from left) Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Film Frame. ©Marvel 2015

 

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

 

Let us now speak in praise of Black Widow.

I submit that the sultry super-spy, played by Scarlett Johannson in Marvel movies, deserves her own film. Four of the six founding Avengers in the movies – Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man and Thor – have had multiple solo films. Dr. Strange, Black Panther and even Ant-Man are scheduled to have their own Marvel movies. But apparently Natasha Romanoff (nee Natalia Romanova) is not in line to get one.

In the words of Daffy Duck, “Thith meanth war!”

One possible clue as to why the Widow has been slighted comes from the infamous Sony hack, where an email from Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter to Sony CEO Michael Lynton was posted by Wikileaks. This email continues a conversation where Perlmutter apparently expressed an opinion about superheroine movies, which we can guess was not a positive one:

 

“As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples.  There are more.

 “1. Elektra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad.

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=elektra.htm

“2. Catwoman (WB/DC) - Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batman franchise. This film was a disaster.

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=catwoman.htm

“3. Supergirl – (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female superhero in Superman franchise. This movie came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million.  Again, another disaster.”

 

Actually, despite Perlmutter’s assertion, there really aren’t any more examples of superheroine movies that did poorly at the box office. (Mainly because there aren’t many superheroine movies.) Further, the three movies he names didn’t fail because they had female leads – they tanked because they were awful movies. And he’s ignoring successful female-led action films, like the “Resident Evil” franchise (starring Milla Jovovich) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (starring Angelina Jolie).

But more to the point is the recent Lucy, starring a familiar face: Scarlett Johansson. That film, which cost about $40 million to make, topped that at the box office on its opening weekend, and tripled that in movie theaters alone. No, it’s not a superhero movie. But it’s awfully darn close, and it proves beyond a doubt that Johansson is an A-list actress who can successfully “open” a movie. 

Now, there are some who argue that a Black Widow movie would be too small. That, unlike movies starring thunder gods, narcissistic inventors, super-soldiers or giant, green rage machines, an espionage movie requires a lead who blends into the background and elides threats on the QT.

Really? Ask any of the actors who played James Bond or Jason Bourne how often they were asked to blend into the background. Or how “small” their movies were. The latest Bond Film, Skyfall, was a $200 million effort, which made $300 million at the box office.

And that’s ignoring one of the biggest and best espionage films ever made: Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. Sure, it’s technically a superhero movie. But while the Star-Spangled Avenger was clearly the star, Cap 2 was essentially a S.H.I.E.L.D. movie, using the the overarching Marvel Cinematic Universe as its playground. And it was boffo.

And, hello, what’s this? One of the essential supporting characters was a kick-butt heroine named Black Widow.

Which makes another compelling argument for a Black Widow movie. Flip the script, where Nat’s the lead and Cap’s the supporting character, and you’ve got another big-budget espionage blockbuster. Only this time it stars a gal who happens to be one of the premier actresses of our time.

And if you have any doubts about Johansson’s acting ability, especially as the Widow, go back and watch Marvel's The Avengers again. In her scene on the helicarrier with the Hulk, Johansson exhibits (in quick succession) sheer terror, a panic attack and then gritty resolve to return to the fray. It’s easy to be heroic when you’ve got a magic hammer or an armored suit, but if you’re just a gal in a cat-suit fighting the incredible Hulk, you’ve got to have a lot of guts. That’s what Johansson showed, in both her character and as an actress. It might have been the acting highlight of the movie.

Then there’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which just topped $1 billion at the box office worldwide. Once again Johansson’s character had a major dramatic story arc, hinting at her origins, connecting with TV’s Agent Carter and suggesting that her character might be more than just an orphan brutalized into being a spy by the Soviet Union – she might be the U.S.S.R.’s version of Captain America.

But with all that going for her, Black Widow doesn’t have a movie in the pipeline. Marvel has released its movie schedule through 2019, and Natasha’s not on it. Instead, we have:

 

  • July 17, 2015: Ant-Man
  • May 6, 2016: Captain America: Civil War
  • Nov 4, 2016: Doctor Strange
  • May 5, 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  • July 28, 2017: Spectacular Spider-Man (in conjunction with Sony)
  • Nov. 3, 2017: Thor: Ragnarok
  • May 4, 2018, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1
  • July 6, 2018, Black Panther
  • Nov. 2, 2018: Captain Marvel
  • May 3, 2019: Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2
  • July 12, 2019: Inhumans

 

Sharp-eyed Marvel fans might notice there is a solo superheroine movie on the list: Captain Marvel. And I’m glad to see it. For one thing it will be co-written by Nicole Perlman, who made a space tree and a talking raccoon entertaining as co-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy.

But don’t pin any hopes on Perlman. On Aug. 4 she tweeted (as @UncannyGirl), “Hey folks, before rumors get out of hand: I wrote a treatment for Black Widow in 2010/2011, but I am not actively developing it right now.”

Which is a crime. Marvel has all the pieces it needs to make a terrific Black Widow movie, and all the evidence it needs to practically guarantee success. But, no: Perlmutter doesn’t think girls can carry big-budget movies.

He’s wrong. And once Captain Marvel shatters the glass ceiling – and it will – maybe we’ll get the Black Widow movie we deserve.

 

Reach Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), the Internet (comicsroundtable.com), Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or Twitter (@CaptainComics).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From the trailer, Guardians of the Galaxy looked pretty stupid, especially the Blue Swede music. I expected it to be the film that Marvel wished they hadn't made. After that sold you'd think they'd be willing to try anything, like, say, Patsy Walker or Forbush Man.

Luke Blanchard said:

It seems obvious to me that The Lone Ranger was a bad bet: the hero is dated, Westerns are no longer really popular, and recent comparable films (Wild Wild West, Jonah Hex) didn't do well. But perhaps whoever gave it the go-ahead believed it would be a hit.

The information on the films at Wikipedia indicates he was cast in The Lone Ranger before Dark Shadows came out, and in Transcendence before The Lone Ranger came out. Mortdecai began principal photography later in 2013, so he was probably cast in it before The Lone Ranger came out too.

He was cast as Tonto in The Lone Ranger early because his desire to play Tonto drove the whole movie to be made. If it more-or-less broke even then it was a good bet just to keep him happy enough to do another Pirates movie, which is already filming for a 2017 release. The second Alice in Wonderland movie is already completed and in post-production for a 2016 release, so I guess that one did well also.

As I wrote above, I can't tell about Dark Shadows. Into the Woods was apparently very successful, but I don't think he had a central role there.

In Into the Woods he was part of a high-profile ensemble cast. His Big Bad Wolf character is not the lead, only having a few scenes, if it followed the play closely, which I think it did. Haven't seen it yet but I will eventually.

ClarkKent_DC said:

One example is Why Do Fools Fall in Love? a biopic about a forgotten teen idol from the '50s, Frankie Lymon. The title song was his biggest hit, and the movie told the story through the eyes of Lymon's three wives -- he was kind of careless about making sure his divorces were final. They sued each other over royalties after Diana Ross put the song back on the charts with a cover version back in the '80s.

That movie starred Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon, and Larenz Tate as Frankie Lymon. It was a flop, as I recall -- but it was a setback for Dreamgirls.

Without researching it, I have a feeling this movie was made because they wanted to make Halle Berry happy. Otherwise, why make a movie about a low-profile performer from the 50s who is only remembered by people older than present company? I’m pretty sure they made Catwoman because Halle Berry wanted to play the character. I think Dreamgirls, being a screen version of a Broadway show, wouldn't have been as affected by the flop you mention.

In Hollywood, they're less afraid of being known as the nincompoop who let a franchise slip through their fingers than they are of being, and being known as, the nincompoop who greenlighted a flop. That's why they cling to seeming sure things and, yes, are risk-averse. Which is not to say they never take risks. We disagree over how they define what risks they are willing to take and what risks they are not.

I think the guy who green-lights a flop is easier to remember than the guy who simply passes on a potential movie. The one that is passed-on is either never made or made by another company. The name of the one who passed isn't attached to it and their involvement is known by far fewer people.

ClarkKent_DC said:

One example is Why Do Fools Fall in Love? a biopic about a forgotten teen idol from the '50s, Frankie Lymon. The title song was his biggest hit, and the movie told the story through the eyes of Lymon's three wives -- he was kind of careless about making sure his divorces were final. They sued each other over royalties after Diana Ross put the song back on the charts with a cover version back in the '80s.

That movie starred Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon, and Larenz Tate as Frankie Lymon. It was a flop, as I recall -- but it was a setback for Dreamgirls.



Richard Willis said:

Without researching it, I have a feeling this movie was made because they wanted to make Halle Berry happy. Otherwise, why make a movie about a low-profile performer from the 50s who is only remembered by people older than present company? I’m pretty sure they made Catwoman because Halle Berry wanted to play the character. I think Dreamgirls, being a screen version of a Broadway show, wouldn't have been as affected by the flop you mention.

Oh, yes it was, because of the surface similarities between Dreamgirls and Why Do Fools Fall in Love? -- musical, most of the action happening in the '60s, Black people -- each reasons by conventional Hollywood wisdom why the movie wouldn't sell. 

That said, risk-averse Hollywood was interested in Dreamgirls because it was a screen version of a Broadway show, but the movie came out 15 years after the play. The perceived failure of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? didn't help, the assumption being if people didn't go see that one, they won't see this one. And risk-averse Hollywood hedged its bets by casting Beyoncé, the hottest star in the world, and Jennifer Hudson, the most popular of the non-winning American Idol contestants.

Richard Willis said:

Without researching it, I have a feeling this movie was made because they wanted to make Halle Berry happy. Otherwise, why make a movie about a low-profile performer from the 50s who is only remembered by people older than present company? I’m pretty sure they made Catwoman because Halle Berry wanted to play the character. I think Dreamgirls, being a screen version of a Broadway show, wouldn't have been as affected by the flop you mention.

As I recall, the notion of doing a Catwoman originally stemmed from Michelle Pfeiffer's performance in Batman Returns. However, as things happened, the idea fell into development hell as both Tim Burton and Michelle Pfeiffer got busy with other priorities in the succeeding years.

Thanks for reminding me of the Underworld movies, 'Tec -- another female-lead action/adventure franchise that makes money. It's amazing how Hollywood's conventional wisdom is so resistant to facts!



ClarkKent_DC said:


In Hollywood, they're less afraid of being known as the nincompoop who let a franchise slip through their fingers than they are of being, and being known as, the nincompoop who greenlighted a flop.


Right. Especially with the mega-budgets attached to these Marvel movies. I'm guessing your name is mud if you're the prime mover behind an Avengers-level flop.

I think the success of the Netflix Daredevil series might show a path forward for Black Widow though. A TV series kind of feels right to me in regard to more earthbound street level heroes. And Netflix is already developing a Jessica Jones show with Krysten Ritter, so why not Black Widow as well?

I would love to see her at least guest in some of the Netflix shows, but I'm no lawyer, so I have no idea what is up with any rights-thing. And trust me when I say I would welcome a Black Widow Netflix series.

As would I, but is doing TV still considered a step down for movie actors?

That attitude is in the past.

Captain Comics said:

As would I, but is doing TV still considered a step down for movie actors?

Isn't Netflix considered a step down from regular TV?



Ron M. said:

Isn't Netflix considered a step down from regular TV?


No, the television landscape has changed quite a bit in recent years.

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