‘Black Widow’ Is the Only Marvel Phase 4 Project Affected By the Pandemic

It might have taken 11 years for Scarlett Johansson to headline a Marvel movie. But Black Widow is finally here. The movie’s release was, of course, affected by external factors as well. Yet, despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t suffered much from the delays. In fact, Black Widow is the only Marvel project that bears any significant changes to the initial MCU Phase 4 plan.

Florence Pugh wears black and stands in front of ‘Black Widow’ poster art
Florence Pugh | Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures UK

Marvel initially planned to release ‘Black Widow’ in 2020

Black Widow — directed by Cate Shortland — was originally set for theatrical release in May 2020. This release would have put it less than a year after Spider-Man: Far From Home closed the book on Phase 3 and “the Infinity Saga.” Of course, the world had other things in mind. The pandemic led to the closure of movie theaters and the delay of countless theatrical releases. Luckily, the MCU had other plans already in the works.

Marvel was already working on several new MCU shows for Disney+. So despite the inability to release Black Widow in theaters, the company still launched Phase 4 during the pandemic. WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki all debuted in the first half of 2021. This shift left fans wondering how Black Widow‘s delay would shake up the big-picture story Marvel hoped to tell throughout its extensive Phase 4 slate.

RELATED: Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow Had a Strong Connection to Every Original Avenger, Except One

The delay only changed 1 element of the MCU’s Phase 4

According to Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, the scheduling changes that resulted from the pandemic have a very minimal effect. Perhaps a large part of this is due to Marvel’s refusal to release any of its movies directly to Disney+ or video-on-demand services. Disney took this approach with several big 2020 movies, including its Pixar films Soul and Luca. But apparently, the MCU Disney+ shows didn’t spoil much of Marvel’s plans.

“There’s an Easter egg that originally was going to appear first in Black Widow and then showed up in Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Feige told On the Red Carpet at the Black Widow premiere. “And because [of] the pandemic, [it’s] the only thing in our Phase 4 that’s twisted a little bit. So for fans that watched Falcon and the Winter Soldier, there’s an Easter egg waiting for them in this film.”

RELATED: ‘Black Widow’: Scarlett Johansson Once Revealed the 1 Marvel Movie that Informed Her Spinoff (and It’s Not in the MCU)

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ beat ‘Black Widow’ to this reveal

The “Easter egg” in question is, of course, the casting of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. The Seinfeld and Veep alum appeared as the mysterious character on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where she recruited John Walker (Wyatt Russell). However, her true motives remain unknown.

Rumor has it de Fontaine could be forming a team of less-than-reputable super-powered people. The comics feature villainous teams such as the Dark Avengers and the Thunderbolts. And though nothing has been confirmed, it’s possible Louis-Dreyfus will be a less virtuous version of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.