‘Black Widow’: How Yelena Belova Could Replace Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has — at last — been granted a standalone installment in the MCU, with a premiere date set for May 1, 2020. At San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios revealed details concerning the prequel: it will take place sometime between Civil War and Infinity War in Budapest (a location previously referenced in a conversation between Clint and Natasha during the first Avengers film). 

Black Widow SDCC
‘Black Widow’ San Diego Comic-Con | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Natasha Romanoff went on the run between Civil War and Infinity War, and her actions during that period remain unknown, opening up unexplored territory for the upcoming movie. Romanoff will also confront unresolved issues from her past, which will serve as a platform to introduce the comic books’ iconic red room, as well as the Red Guardian, and Marvel’s other Black Widow: Yelena Belova. This brings us to the question at the heart of this article: will Yelena Belova become the next Black Widow? If so, how?

How will the MCU manage to use a prequel to introduce a new character — Yelena — who would bear influence on the current timeline, on the post-Endgame universe? Let’s consider what we know.

What we know about Yelena Belova and Natasha Romanoff, as well as their futures in the MCU 

One of the largest questions circling the Black Widow movie pertains to Natasha’s relinquishing of the mantle. How could she do so, in the past, in a way that won’t violate the timeline, but will simultaneously influence it? How could Natasha’s actions in the past concurrently sculpt a pre-determined future, in which she is not alive?

It’s likely that those over at Marvel Studios have a few tricks up their sleeve, and, for all we know, Natasha has endured some necessary conversations, or has made some vital agreements that we have yet to be made aware of (when she went back to Budapest).

She did disappear for quite some time. While going into the past, and presenting a concurrent timeline — one that aligns with the one seen on the silver screen through Civil War and Infinity War — is a possibility, Marvel may have another option. 

Recently leaked photos revealing Black Widow donning the hairstyle akin to Endgame suggest that we may see “missing” Endgame moments from Natasha’s point of view

Presenting fans with presumed “footage” from Endgame, could — with great finagling — create a connection between the standalone installment and the mash-up that works Yelena Belova into the picture (literally and metaphorically). This would also, theoretically, work to compensate for Black Widow’s utter lack of screen time and absence from the epic battle, which disappointed many fans.

Marvel may be aiming to kill two birds with one stone: introduce the next Black Widow and satisfy Natasha enthusiasts who felt she was robbed in Endgame. However, why Yelena? 

Who is Yelena in ‘Black Widow’ and should she take Natasha’s place? 

In the comic book, Yelena was another trainee of the Red Room Academy whose relationship with Natasha could best be described as a heated alliance. Sometimes they found themselves allied; other times, they found themselves in opposition. In the comics, Yelena spends her life working against the heroes; however, the movie may have a different plan in store.

With a complicated history — one that involves becoming a stripper and having her face swapped with Natasha’s — it’s unclear what the MCU will plan to capitalize on concerning Yelena. However, they could present her as an anti-hero of sorts, making her a character who wavers between good and evil, which could prove interesting down the line. 

Considering Scarlett Johansson will have played Black Widow for a decade come this next film, she is likely prepping to bid the character farewell. Thus, fans should expect Marvel studios to pen a narrative that says goodbye adequately — fitting within the MCU’s timeline and paying homage to its first major heroine. Is Florence Pugh — the actress behind Yelena — ready to fill ScarJo’s shoes?