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.

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

“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.


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I'm wondering how much of that's going to be retconned into being her "official" origin in the comics now. There were a lot of ways they could have gone. Make Hawkeye a security guard at Stark Industries and she vamps him into letting her in and looking the other way for instance.

Marvel said they had plans for films through 2028. A lot of people are saying they don't want to see Iron Man unless he's Robert Downey, but that's like saying I won't watch James Bond unless he's Sean Connery. It's entirely possible the next Iron Man will be better. Whether he's accepted or not, that's another question. I thought George Lazenby was great but look how that worked out.

Heck, I thought David Niven's parts in Casino Royale proved he could have been a good legit Bond, and I wish he'd had the chance.

As I noted in my column, Richard, Marvel has indeed scheduled all its movies through 2019, without a Black Widow on the list. Which is what prompted my column! If there were a couple of TBAs on the list, I could at least hope, but the list showed that there would be no Widow movie for at least five years -- and I really don't think we can count on any of the big name actors in the Marvel movies hanging around that long, including Johansson.

And Dave, I don't want to pile on, but I don't see any of your points -- many of which are quite true -- as preventing a Black Widow movie. No, she doesn't have much of a supporting cast outside of SHIELD. But in the movies, neither does Captain America. In fact, SHIELD is sort-of the canvas on which ALL of these movies are being painted. As I said somewhere above, Captain America: The Winter Soldier could have been Black Widow: The Red Room without too much re-writing. Cap and Widow were essentially co-stars in a SHIELD movie, so just flip the script so that the chick is the star and the boy is the co-star, instead of the other way around.

As for the Red Room, I actually see that as a plus. Yes, we've lost all the comics back story, but most of it was nonsense and contradictory anyway. Avengers: Age of Ultron didn't just show WIdow growing up in the Red Room, it implied that she was a lot older than she looked -- probably Cap's age. The implication I got was that she might be the USSR's effort at a Super-Soldier, and there might be a LOOOONNNGGGG back story to her character. Plus, she wouldn't be altogether "normal" -- drugs and whatnot used to give her that longevity might make her more, and less, than human. As she implied when talking to Banner. An old evil arising from Widow's past would make for a really good movie -- possibly as much a horror movie as an espionage one.

Hey, maybe we could have Stalin's brain in a jar. It always works for Hitler!

Actually, I don't see where any of my points would prohibit a Black Widow movie either, I just thought somebody should make a case, however thin, for a different point of view, so I took a shot at it (and several shots at how the comic book companies disregard their female heroes).  Captain America is actually one of the few "name" male super-heroes who suffers from the same kind of shifting background as most of the females--Steve Rogers hasn't had a steady job or a stable supporting cast since WW2, and once you get past the leftover Nazis, his rogues' gallery seems to consist of folks like Batroc & Flag-Smasher!  None the less, his movies were great, and a Black Widow one could be just as good!

If Russia's super soldier is still young because of drugs and whatnot, then it's no longer necessary to say Cap was frozen to explain why he isn't old. Was Natasha being part of such a program used in the comics or did the movie make that up, sort of merging her with her husband, who actually was Russia's super soldier?

Ron M. said:

If Russia's super soldier is still young because of drugs and whatnot, then it's no longer necessary to say Cap was frozen to explain why he isn't old. Was Natasha being part of such a program used in the comics or did the movie make that up, sort of merging her with her husband, who actually was Russia's super soldier?

Natasha as a super-soldier or an almost-super-soldier sounds good.

I think Stan was as much trying to explain Cap's absence from the scene, like he did with Namor, as his not aging. If he hadn't frozen him he could have been the Cap from the 50s also. He's not aging because of the super-soldier process and took a decade off from the hero biz. And no dead Bucky. Too late now.

Understood, and thanks for your thoughtful posts! It would be dull indeed if we all just sat around nodding in agreement with each other. A spirited discussion is always welcome, and you prompted one. Thanks, Legionnaire!

Dave Elyea said:

Actually, I don't see where any of my points would prohibit a Black Widow movie either, I just thought somebody should make a case, however thin, for a different point of view, so I took a shot at it (and several shots at how the comic book companies disregard their female heroes).

The suspended animation origin allowed Captain America to be the embodiment of American idealism brought from the WWII era into the present. It's possible that was a happy accident, but it's an important part of character's appeal.

Stan said he couldn't figure out how to put Captain America in the present. So the "lost out of time" idea was to help him get a handle on writing the character. Considering his infamous bad memory, he probably forgot Cap had appeared as late as ten years before he turned up in the Avengers.

Ronda Rousey has superhero hopes. The UFC champ wants to play Ms. Marvel in the upcoming "Captain Marvel" film.

Did Katee Sackoff also express interest, or was that fan-driven?

BTW, Ike Perlmutter has been driven from his position atop Marvel Films. Kevin Feige is now unchallenged king of that domain, so perhaps a BW movie is now possible.

I hadn't heard about Perlmutter. Here's an article about it.

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