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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Hear hear! 

Let's see if the Captain Marvel movie is a hit first. If not they're not going to take a chance on Black Widow.

What about Hawkeye? Where's his movie? Why he should be, as Curly Howard put it, "Low man again"?

Jeremy Renner's Bourne Legacy lost money. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters broke even, and that's only if you don't count marketing costs. Ask me again about Hawkeye when a Jeremy Renner movie makes Lucy numbers.

Wait on Captain Marvel?  Really?  The evidence that this character and this actress can carry a movie isn't just abundant, it's overwhelming.  And the audience is here and now and scratching their heads wondering why not, already. 

If Marvel's plan is to wait another 3 years, to see the box office of a movie with a different actress, playing a different character, to decide whether to greenlight a Black Widow movie, that's just ... bananapants.

Wasn't Barbwire a flop too?

How many hits did the guys playing Thor and Captain America have? Only thing I've seen Cap in was Fantastic Four.

Note that we don't have a Nick Fury movie coming up either.

Are we sure Captain Marvel will be Carol Danvers? If they don't think superheroines will sell tickets it might turn out to be Mar-Vell.

If they make a Black Widow movie, you just know Hollywood will screw it up by forcing an unneeded "love interest" into the script.

That's why Guillermo del Toro gave up on making At the Mountains of Madness. No love interest or happy endings in Lovecraft. The two survivors barely escape and one goes crazy. The story is a letter written by the sane one trying to stop a new team of scientists from going to the same place, where he knows the monsters will be waiting for them. While it's not said he says his warning will probably be dismissed as insane raving. Universal got him to agree to direct a new Frankenstein movie then said Mountains is too negative, and make it an action/adventure, not horror. They've announced they're planning new films of their classic Universal Monsters, and apparently they want all of them to be action/adventure. Perhaps they're going to try to disguise Frankenstein and Dracula as superhero movies to jump on the bandwagon? Van Helsing goes around kung fuing monsters?  

Ron M. said:

Are we sure Captain Marvel will be Carol Danvers? If they don't think superheroines will sell tickets it might turn out to be Mar-Vell.

If you think people are upset about no Black Widow movie, people would be in the streets with torches and nooses if they backed away from their commitment to a female Captain Marvel movie using Carol Danvers character.

As for Perlmutter, he does have a lot of stockholders. I would think someone (Disney?) would question his leaving so much money on the table by not making the Black Widow movie. Has Scarlett Johannson expressed interest in continuing as the character? She's apparently a prominent character in Captain America: Civil War. Is she really going to want to play the same character forever?



Doctor Hmmm? said:

Wait on Captain Marvel?  Really?  The evidence that this character and this actress can carry a movie isn't just abundant, it's overwhelming.  And the audience is here and now and scratching their heads wondering why not, already. 

If Marvel's plan is to wait another 3 years, to see the box office of a movie with a different actress, playing a different character, to decide whether to greenlight a Black Widow movie, that's just ... bananapants.


This, exactly.

Richard Willis said:

As for Perlmutter, he does have a lot of stockholders. I would think someone (Disney?) would question his leaving so much money on the table by not making the Black Widow movie. 

Hollywood is a famously risk-averse place, where the greater fear is in taking a gamble that doesn't pay off. That's why they keep pointing to Elektra, Catwoman and Supergirl as reasons not to do female-led superhero movies, even though those were made ten, eleven and 21 years ago.

They also care more about one person picketing a show than a lot of fans saying they love it.

The fact Captain Marvel is popular among comics readers doesn't necessarily mean she'll be a hit with the regular public, most of whom, if they've heard of the name at all, would probably be thinking Shazam.

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